I’ve been floating lately. It wasn’t my idea, but it’s a good one! I’m partway through Dr. Bessel VanDerKolk’s book on healing trauma, and it’s a great read so far. He has studied trauma for a long time and he’s come up with some remarkable research. (The Body Keeps the Score, Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma)
Anyway, one of the things that heals trauma is floating. What? Just floating? Yep. I can tell you from personal experience that it helps. How does it work? I’ll do my best to explain.
Imagine a really bad traumatic situation. Maybe a little girl being assaulted by her father. She imagines herself floating above her body and sees the scene from above. That’s called disassociation. It’s kind of a last ditch effort on the part of the person to preserve themselves. It’s kind of why sometimes people who are being assaulted freeze. They become paralyzed because the situation has completely overwhelmed them. They disassociate.
When you float (and it’s called the dead man float), you are in a situation that might cause you a little bit of anxiety. We aren’t fish, after all! You become completely relaxed, and you can then remember some traumatic thing or other and kind of “digest” it. The reason you “digest” it is because this time, you are in control of the situation. Whenever you want to, you can just stand up in the pool. You’re in control this time, unlike the time the trauma happened to you.
It’s amazing, and pretty simple. I’ve been doing it every day for a few minutes and it really helps me to “digest” things that have happened, and also helps me to imagine things that are going to happen that might get me worried or anxious.
I’ve been able to teach a few people to float, and not only does it cure trauma, it might save someone’s life someday. That’s because if you get in a situation in the water where you can’t swim anymore (you’re caught in a rip current, for example), you have to float until you get to safety. What a joy it’s been! If you have a chance to try it, I’d recommend it highly.
Finally, one of our parishioners, Rachel Dilworth, is a great swim teacher. She really does have a gift. If you’d like to have her help you, please contact me through our parish website, and I’ll arrange for you to get together with Rachel!