When Fear Begins

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I am blessed with a five month old son. I am also fortunate to have a 22″ deep soaking tub. This is an Olympic sized pool for an infant. When Son was first born we would get in the bath together. I would clean him and he would float around in my arms, and seemed completely unphased by the experience, even cozy. I held him on his back and he would float in the water with my support. Eventually as he was able to hold up his head, I’d hold him under his chest and he’d kick his feet as I sailed him around the tub. He’d chase down the “temperature turtle” water thermometer this way, and immediately put it in his mouth, as is the fate of anything he can get his hands on at this point in his life. Recently he’s discovered the joy of splashing.

The discovery of splashing has been part and parcel of his discovery of the world around him. Within the last month it’s like a switch was flipped, and he is engaging in everything he can see, touch, taste, hear and otherwise experience. He watches the cats walk by and tries to grab them (and put them in his mouth). He grabs for his toys (and puts them in his mouth). He found his toes (and..you know.) He’s also trying out all sorts of new noises.

I noticed today however, something I’ve had a growing suspicion of. It was much more pronounced today. He’s developing fear along side curiosity. He is now very anxious about floating on his back, despite the support. He held his head above the water as much as he could, scrunching his little ab muscles and clenching his tiny fists. He furrowed his brow and closed up his eyes and mouth. Sure, he’d gotten water on his face in the past, but it was never more than a splash–there were no tears, and in fact he’d laugh if he ended up sneezing. He had felt so comfortable and confident that he was almost floating on his own.

As his sense of “me” versus “not me” develops, his external expansion into the environment is hand in hand with an internal contraction, even without provocation. I’m surprised by this development because I assumed that if he was comfortable then, he would be comfortable now. There has been no negative experience to change his mind. Exposure was experience, and it had been all positive. Yet he developed a fear of something he had been doing regularly since he was born.

It really is a fascinating window into how the imaginary prisons we build for ourselves can develop. I found myself reassuring him, “Relax! The more uptight and anxious you are about it, the harder it will be to float!” Five months old and he’s already teaching momma by example. With lots of smiles and support he did calm down…but still not to the point he was as a newborn. Perhaps this will pass as he learns to trust himself. His momma certainly has his back on this one 🙂

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Points to Ponder

Though this blog is called Life, Liberty & the Law it has thus far been imbalanced toward the latter categories. I’ll take a moment now to write a little about the day to day.

If you will, immerse yourself in the scene above. Beautiful fall foliage on a trail in the northeast united states. Imagine inhaling the crisp fall air, squinting slightly in the late morning sun, feeling the endorphin high of a brisk walk, and watching the beauty of golden leaves like confetti filling your vision as they spiral to the ground. What is the first thing that comes to mind?

“Gee that would make a pretty screen saver.”

Seriously? That thought actually popped into my head this weekend as I walked this trail. It was quickly followed by, “What is wrong with me?” Am I so plugged in to virtual reality that I’m losing my ability to tune in to actual reality? (Oh Timothy Leary, say it ain’t so!)

As I had these thoughts a train on tracks running parallel to the trail across an adjacent river plodded by.

Every once in a while I think I’m spending too much time with my laptop. Facebook, gmail, scanning news websites, laughing at lolcats and the latest meme, starting a draft to update this blog (usually in that order)…I vow to reduce the time spent in this false relationship with reality. I may succeed for a day or two but eventually I’m right back. How can I disconnect when so much of “reality” is tied to this magical internet? I stopped owning a television about a decade ago, but the void was surreptitiously, slowly and steadily filled by other technology–first the computer, then the phone. It’s my source of news, the way I keep connected with friends, the way I network and search for work, a source of entertainment on screen or via event listings, and the way I map my way to places like you see above. And I know I’m not alone.

None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But this shift in our society, while blessing us with an abundance of potential connections to people and information has fundamentally altered social concepts and perceptions. It’s also created a potential for abuse, either by our selves or by some outside authority. Our ability to connect to people in ways never before possible has created a tendency to distance ourselves from our face to face interactions. An overabundance of information has enhanced the ability of everyone to access information quickly, but has also created the challenge of finding the needle of good information in a haystack of falsehood and propaganda. There are increased challenges to personal privacy, even as that concept changes. When does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a virtual world? We abuse the privileges that new technology brings us by receding into the ease of use. Those around us can abuse the fountainhead of information that we voluntarily pour into it with every key stroke and uploaded media file.

My mother recently clued me in to a new “ap” for our phones called Waze. It’s a “social GPS.” The ap uses gps technology combined with user input, game-style, to provide the most real-time travel information possible to its users. People earn points for updating the ap for traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, and more, all while giving people the ability to chat with other ap users. Frankly I’m not sure what the prize is, or if there is a way to Win at all, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t matter. This “community-based traffic navigation ap” is ingenious, feeding our insatiable appetite for the most up-to-date and reliable information possible, while incentivizing us to feed it information about ourselves and our neighbors. What would George Orwell would have to say?

I’ll leave the conclusions to you, dear reader. They’re good fodder for ponder on a nice stroll.