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Have you ever actually stepped in quicksand? I don’t know anyone who has. Up until a few days ago, my only perception of the loosely packed sand which caves in with the added pressure of a person’s step is what I’ve seen in movies. In the movies a person takes a step on what seems like solid ground and then suddenly sinks…sometimes being pulled down and entirely covered in the mud & sand. In the movies, sometimes they die. It seems like a horrific experience. As a metaphor, to “Feel” like you are sinking in quicksand means you feel as though a relationship or situation which you perceived was stable is actually unstable and you are sinking into negative feelings of despair, feeling as though your life is out of control.
Oddly enough, the other day I was thinking about the feeling of being in quicksand and then as I was hiking on the hilly & wet trails with my German Shepherd in the BC rain forests I took a step on what seemed like solid ground and then BOOM I’m suddenly sinking! Before I even know what is happening, my right leg is nearly knee deep in sandy mud. Then as I’m trying to get out it gets worse and my left foot begins sinking too. I’m looking around for something to grab, fearing I’ll keep getting sucked deeper & deeper into this quicksand/mudslide. My dog is going nuts trying to figure out what is wrong with me and how she can help. Finally I lunge off to the side where the ground IS solid and I slip my feet out of the boots. Then once I’m on secure ground I reach over and pull the boots out. Phew! That was scary.
(Side Note: As my dog Chloe approached me to see if I was okay she walked into the quicksand/mud too and also sank in about a foot and then I had to pull her out too! What an adventure!)
So, now I’ve had the experience of literally sinking in quicksand. What I can tell you is that the most frightening part is that you can no longer trust your perceptions. What looks like solid ground is not solid so you don’t know where to reach or where to step to try to regain stability. The other scary unknown is the depth of the thing. How far will I sink down? How long will it take for me to pull myself out?
I suppose those are the kinds of feelings that can come up in a relationship. We move forward with a goal or idea, thinking we’ll be supported by our loved one, only to discover there’s no support. Metaphorically and literally, this is a very uncomfortable state to be in.
Okay – what’s the science behind quicksand? A quick online search shows me that quicksand often occurs in riverbanks and marshy areas (like the one I was walking through that day). Grains of sand, or small stones are usually packed down with very little space between them and this creates the solid ground. “Quicksand” forms when there are pockets of air around the sand and stones caused by water continually washing over the area and jostling the sand around. It’s like in a house of cards where the space around the cards takes up more area than the actual cards themselves. When there is added pressure at the top the whole thing comes crashing down – or sinking down as the case may be. As the air is compressed by the weight of your step, you sink in. I also found out that usually the depth is a foot or two. It sounds pretty rare for the Hollywood version of death-by-quicksand to take many lives.
What’s the lesson in all this? The biggest take away for me is that sometimes what we Imagine is FAR WORSE than what is actually happening. This is especially helpful for people like me who tend to fall into a big of anxiety now and again. When we imagine something really negative happening in the future it causes anxiety. Often times, the real life situation is not or will not be as bad as we imagine. It’s a good idea to recognize when anxious thoughts arise and then go back in time and remember when we successfully handled a situation and then just repeat in the present whatever skills were useful in the past. In this way, we can develop a lot of Confidence and with Confidence a lot of great things can happen!
When life FEELS out of control we can 1) Stop 2) Assess the Situation 3) Recognize how our mind is making us anxious by imagining a negative future 4) Remember past achievements and repeat what we are good at.
When we do this, not only do we build confidence from using our skills, talents and abilities but we also take back control of our minds, of our Selves. We cannot control every aspect of life, of course not, who would want that. But we can seek to understand situations which are causing us stress and we can manage it. We can overcome it. We can transform it.
The key to getting back on solid ground in life when you feel like everything is lost is to remember what you are good at and do it A LOT.
I don’t mean to make this sound simple, because it’s not. It takes time, daily effort, Patience and a bit of Enthusiasm but with effort and perseverance life can feel more stable again. Relationships can strengthen. Victories can be achieved.
Try this now: Write down one thing that comes to mind that you are worried about happening in the near future, maybe tomorrow or next week. See what you imagine when you think of this negative thing happening. Write that down too. Now think back to times when you have delt with similiar situations and they turned out positive. What did you DO that helped make the potentially negative situation get better? Can you do that thing today or this week? In what way can you repeatedly use your current skills, capacities, talents & strengths to make your current situation better. Hold that imagine in your mind until you see it so clearly. See if you can FEEL as though you already solved the problem. If you can see it, and feel it, it means you can achieve it. Generate the determination to do the thing and then get up from your chair. Put your pen & paper or computer down and take action – acting as though it is already solved.
This is a meditation approach that I have practiced for about a decade. I’ll write more about it in time. Even if you are new to meditation or just starting out, that’s okay. Take your time. Try a little bit each day and see if you can gradually get through the steps to find the Determination to work through whatever issue is facing you this week or next. You’ve got this! You CAN do it!
I’d love to read in the comments below any challenges or successes you’ve had with meditations like this. When we can imagine ourselves as being Confident, Determined and Patient we can truly handle ANYTHING that comes our way and life can never make us feel out of control ever again.