During my days both as a lecturer as well as a coach, I would often draw on metaphors to help explain concepts to students and clients. Metaphors offer a very powerful method in helping us to make sense of our world and experiences. In a previous post entitled, The Garden of Writing, I explored the power of metaphors in aiding the writing process. This week I was once again reminded of the insights to be drawn from metaphors.
On my bucket list has been the desire to experience the thrill of diving and to have the opportunity to explore some of the many wonders hidden below the surface of the sea. My brother-in-law, a keen diver, finally persuaded me to realize my dream and to enrol in a trial dive with his diving school in Spain. The first challenge was to try and pour myself into a very tight fitting wet suit, followed by unbelievably heavy weights and all the necessary breathing equipment. I was convinced that I would sink like a stone to the bottom of the ocean and never be able to make my way back to the surface. I also came to the conclusion that it was not an elegant sport as wet hair and diving gear doesn’t show off your best qualities! I just hoped that all the energy and effort in getting kitted out was going to be worthwhile.
I was surprised at how difficult it was to draw the necessary air through the mouthpiece and it was a technique I had to first master before attempting to go beneath the water’s surface. A very patient instructor finally persuaded me that I was ready and adjusted the buoyancy of my suit that allowed me to slowly slip deeper and deeper below the surface of the water. I had some moments of panic and had to resurface to try and deal with an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia. Eventually I succeeded. It was worth the effort as even in the shallow area where we were diving, the variety of sea life was breathtaking.
I was reminded of the ancient poem of Beowulf who set out to rid King Hrothgar of the threat of Grendel, a monster who lived at the bottom of a nearby lake. He had brought fear and death to King Hrothgar’s kingdom for many years. Beowulf successfully slayed the monster, but unbeknown to him and the Kingdom of Hrothgar, Grendel’s mother was plotting her revenge hidden in the dark depths of the lake. After a faithful advisor of King Hrothgar was taken and killed by Grendel’s mother, Beowulf once again set out to seek revenge. In order to destroy Grendel’s mother, Beowulf had to face his own fears and follow her into the depths of the lake to her lair.
As writers we too have to plunge into the depths of our subconscious minds and face and overcome our fears represented by Grendel and his mother. We have to gird ourselves with the courage of a warrior to slay the fears that may paralyze us and prevent us from bringing to the surface the hidden treasures of our minds and emotions. These monsters can seem so frightening and fearsome and it is easier to remain on the surface where it is safe and secure. However, if we are to do justice to our writing efforts, we need to have the courage to seek out the monsters and face them head on.
These monsters represent many fears and each one of us will have our own demons to slay. They may include the fear of failure, the fear of not being good enough or endowed with the talent of writing. I believe if we are to produce writing that will inspire or evoke debates and discussions we need to dive deep into the swamp of our emotions.
Just as my experimentation with diving required courage and managing an overwhelming sense of survival, so does delving into the depths of our emotions require enormous courage. Like Beowulf we need to confront our demons in order to surface the hidden treasures jealously guarded by the demons of our emotional swamps.