Aquaphobia

Many of my adult learners are frightened of the water that and some even describe themselves as aquaphobic. I have taught one lady who had never been in a swimming pool before, another one had never been in water deeper than her waist. A fright in childhood is very common, some have even come close to drowning.

It seemed to me that these experiences are hard wired into us and that no amount of rational thought can release us from a terror that may have been planted years and years earlier. It is only by re-experiencing the water as non-threatening, that the fears begin to float away.

Fear of water is complicated because on the one hand it is sensible. Water can be dangerous on the other hand we see people happily swimming up and down in the pool, chatting to one another, and it doesn’t look dangerous at all. On the whole, a swimming pool, should not be a dangerous place, yet there are life guards there ready to jump in and save us from death by drowning! Quite scary.

The other irony is that in water it is the fear itself that is most likely to kill us. In order to swim you have to relax and surrender yourself to the water. You can not swim with a tense rigid body. In the warm safe environment of a swimmng pool, it is mainly the thrashing around caused by panic and fear that could result in drowning.

I always say to my pupils,

‘You don’t have to hold on to the water, it is holding on to you. ‘

People often say to me

‘I can’t float.’

But this is almost non-sensical. It’s like saying

‘I can’t obey the laws of gravity.’

Floating is not something you do, it is something that happens to you.

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