Fear is fossilized pain

I’m spending this week with my two wonderful children, a 3-year old boy and a 5-year old girl.

Today we were at the local swimming pool where they this big water slide with several twists and turns.

I’ll usually go with my son, and he used to love it.

About a year ago when he was two, we went tens of times together.

About 2 months ago, we went several times together, but one time I failed to hold him up properly at the landing, and so his head got under water for a few seconds (he generally has no problem getting his head under water whatsoever).

This time, he didn’t want to go at all because he was afraid of getting water in his eyes.

Fear creeps up on us.

Each time we experience pain, that pain becomes fossilized as fear of experiencing the same pain again.

The more this happens, the more fear we have, and the more fenced in and constrained we’re going to be, the more restricted, constrained lives we’re going to live.

Similar thing with the diving boards.

They have diving boards at both 1 meter and 3 meters above the water.

Last year when my son was just 2, he jumped from the 1 meter diving board about 20 times, followed by the 3 meter diving board about 10 or 12 times. All by himself, he’d walk up the stairs, walk down the diving board, jump into the water, swim back to the edge of the pool, climb up, and get in line to walk up the stairs for his next jump.

He was enjoying himself, I was watching to make sure he was okay, he quickly learned to keep his arms down by his side so his arm floats wouldn’t slide off.

About 2 months ago, we went back, and this time he would only jump from the 1-meter board a few times.

Today when we went, he only wanted to jump if I was in the water ready to catch him, but then he changed his mind, and he didn’t want to jump at all.

In this case, it wasn’t any painful experience, it was the growing awareness of all the things that could go wrong. (His sister spurred that on by telling him just how deep the water was before he got on the diving board.)

As parents it’s easy to fall into the trap of making our kids aware of everything that could go wrong at every step, which only results in making this process go even faster.

It’s sad, but it’s a natural progression. The folly of youth gives way to the security and dullness and habituatedness of old age. We die a little bit inside every day, and way before our physical bodies are dead, we’ve all but given up on the wonder of life.

That’s one reason I love the quote “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, which Steve Jobs ended his 2005 Stanford commencement address with.


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