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Some Results of Acting Powerfully

I was sitting with a new friend on some rocks jutting out into the sea. The tide was high, we were about four feet above the surface of the water, and the sea was about eight feet deep. Some young people, aged four or five, were playing on the rocks. They went past us out toward the sea and then back again. I was very aware of them because of the gaps between the rocks, the force of the sea crashing against the rocks, and because they were a long way from the beach and the adults they were with.

Just after the young people passed us for a second time, there was a loud splash. I leaped up, raced across the rock, and saw what I expected to see but was hoping I wouldn't: a small body in the water in a deep gap between three rocks, like a kind of chute. I had moved fast and he was still sinking when I got there. I jumped down as low as I could but knew I still couldn't reach him. By now he was coming up again, and as his head came out of the water I said firmly, "Give me your hand." His arm reached up. I hung over the edge and reached down and just managed to grab his hand. As I pulled him out I talked to him, saying it was fine, I'd got him, and he was safe. Then we sat together on the rock holding onto each other, him crying and me shaking. As this point the other people on the rocks and some of those on the beach seemed to notice for the first time that something had happened. Someone told his mother, and she came to get him, seeming quite unconcerned. I don't think she realised that his life had been in danger. I'm pleased that I resisted a pull to client on her (her apparent lack of concern restimulated me!) and just explained calmly what had happened. She went off with her son, and I sat down by my friend, who immediately resumed the story he'd been telling me before. After a couple of minutes I touched his arm and said, "I'm not listening to you well right now; my attention is still on what happened, and I'm just going to laugh and shake a bit." It was good for me to give myself permission to do that without feeling I had to explain.

Acting powerfully in that situation seems to have shifted some distress around an ongoing situation where I've been feeling powerless, alternating between feeling that there's nothing I can do and that everything I try doesn't work. Yesterday evening I caught myself feeling insignificant and up popped a contradiction: I can't be insignificant because today I saved someone's life! I then realised that I know what to do in this other situation but haven't been doing it because it feels too difficult, too painful, too scary, and too contrary to socially acceptable behaviour, and because I feel resentful, unloved, and abandoned. I think one key here is the resentment. Wanting someone else to do or not do something gets in the way of acting powerfully. In contrast, yesterday I knew that I was exactly the right person to take charge. I was aware, I knew what had happened as soon as I heard the splash, and I couldn't afford to wait for someone else to act. Another factor is the question of the right thing to do. In my ongoing situation, my opinion about what makes sense differs substantially from other people's, whereas in the case of saving a young life there's no disagreement. So, to act more powerful in ongoing situations I need to take my attention off feelings of worthlessness and resentment, keep reminding myself that it's okay to make mistakes, and keep thinking.

Sarah Buckle
Brighton, England

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00