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Image #2: the wave image. This o ...

Posted Dec 12 2008 1:18pm

Image #2: the wave image. This one came about when someone was telling my her wish that she could  "make life hold still" so she could feel safe.

It seemed to me she was working extremely hard to get everything to be static- as if she were trying to make the ocean stand still. I had her imagine herself standing at the shore, holding out her arms in a (futile) attempt to make the waves abide by her command.

I'm sure you can envision what happens if we try to make the ocean stop. Nothing, basically. It rolls right over us, hardly missing a beat. And, we get pummeled in the process.

So far, she didn't like this image at all! It seemed to her that according to my image all life was about was getting run over and drowned by waves. 

But, that's not the point of the image at all. The point is that, although we can't make the ocean stand still, there are ways for us to be safe and stable in relation to the sea.

I grew up spending summers at the beach in Southern California. I was in the water almost all the time, and I spent a good deal of my childhood negotiating my relationship to the ocean. I learned early on that the ocean is in a state of constant motion- that's just its way. Neither good nor bad, simply its way.

As long as I moved with the ocean, things were ok. I could float, swim, surf, paddle, dive, whatever I felt like. But any minute I attempted to go against the water, I got pummeled- usually a mouthful of sand or water, or both. Once or twice there was seaweed, rocks and a starfish (but that's a long story). 

I could float atop the waves for hours and be truly safe, stable, and at rest. Sometimes, like if there was a sudden current change, I would momentarily panic, feeling I had to make something happen to get the ocean to bend to my will so I could regain my stability. Then I'd remember that as long as I just went with the way of the waves,I'd be ok.

(Did I mention I do know how to swim? 'Cause that helps too...)

The moral of this story is that safety and stability aren't always achieved by producing "static" (unmoving) states. Think of tall bridges and buildings. They are intentionally designed to move. Anyone who has stood on the Golden Gate bridge or the Empire State building knows exactly what I mean. Those darn structures sway back and forth. Far from making them weak, this flexibility gives them strength.

The client who wanted to make the world stand still, struggles with this image some still. Much of the time she's gotten used to the idea that she can have safety without non-movement/rigidity. In those times when life seems to suddenly change current, she momentarily panics, then regroups and gets back to floating in the waves where she belongs.

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