The Swimming Pool Theory

I heard this parable in a support group, once. I can’t find any sources, so this is just how I remember it.

Life can be be compared to a swimming pool. Emotions are equal to water and being able to process emotions is the equivalent of swimming. Some people are natural swimmers, born to families of natural swimmers, but some don’t ever learn how to swim. We start out clinging to the wall. It’s safe. Sturdy. But we get bored of that (about the time we turn into teenagers.) and want to learn to swim. There’s obviously more fun going on in the middle of the pool. So we dive in. The natural swimmers just take off and make it to the middle, treading water and having fun. Some people teach themselves to swim. Some get lessons. And some panic and cling onto whomever is nearest. The only problem is, the other person can’t swim when we cling on! At first, they’re excited to have you in the pool. they may even think it’s fun to have you clinging onto them. But once they start drowning, they don’t think it’s so cool anymore. So they push. Gently at first. But when that doesn’t work, they shove. And they shove hard. They will do whatever it takes to get you off of them. And you’ll do whatever it takes to keep hold of them. Because otherwise you drown.

When it’s finally sunken in (ignore the pun) that this person isn’t going to let you cling anymore, you have 2 choices. Cling to someone else, or face your fears and learn to swim. If you cling to someone else, you’re gonna end up drowning again.You need to learn to swim on your own. And that’s when the pool really is fun – when there are others, also swimming on their own. But they all have to know how to swim.


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