by William V. Giddings. Ed.D.

A visual metaphor for dealing with feelings of

being trapped,
guilt, and

as related to Personal and sometimes even Career issues

You're driving down a back road on a dark night when suddenly in an open area your car is enveloped in fog. Certainly the first thing you FEEL is startled and uneasy or nervous because suddenly you can hardly see. And consequently, the first thing you DO is slow down. As you proceed ahead your self-talk is wondering if others behind you have also slowed down as much, or if others ahead of you have slowed down even more than you, or if those coming toward you can see your headlights. You can't stop for fear of getting hit, but you don't know how fast to go. Plus, you can't see how much fog there is or where it ends. In your sudden claustrophobia it's easy for your self-talk to escalate to: " I've GOT TO get out of here...NOW!!!"

At that point, inexperienced drivers or those who have not driven in fog before, in their desperation to see through the fog click their headlights to the High Beams which of course are usually used to see farther. But in this situation what happens is an instant "wall" of bright fog appears in front of the car, and whatever bit of the road-lines or trees or brush there was to see before are instantly gone! Now the self-talk becomes: "Oh my god, this is AWFUL, I can't see anything! What'll I do?! I'm going to crash or get hit for sure!" And the panic in this self-talk can lead people to suddenly alter their driving in a way which greatly increases the danger -- such as stopping, pulling off the road, or accelerating faster in a panic to find the end of the fog.

On the other hand, drivers who have experienced fog before also experience fear, but they usually have learned that the way to get though it is to use their Low Beams and drive one white line at a time until wherever the fog lets up.

Similarly, people who are trapped in relationships, or are very lonely, or are in stressful jobs, or who face an addiction problem, or who are unable to make tough decisions, or who are very worried that some bad event might happen, or who are dealing with the loss of some aspect of their own functioning sometimes feel they have driven into a fog. The unknowns of their situation, the confusion, the genuine fears, the "stuckness," and the not knowing how to get through this can all surround and overwhelm them. And at those times they, too, are likely to feel panicky and start saying to themselves, "I can't stand this! This is Awful! I have to get out of here!"

And with that they turn on their "brights," get blinded, and proceed to think poorly and make impulsive decisions like

- running away from a relationship before working at it,

- settling for the first person who comes along because that's "better than being all alone and never having anyone,"

- giving in to abuse or quitting their job before finding another one

- deciding they'll never be strong enough to beat it so they might as well have another drink or smoke or snack,

- over-reacting to an event that hasn't even happened and may likely not happen,

- drawing conclusions about what other people think about them before they really know,

- believing that they can't be happy again or attractive to others because of their loss.

In our "travels" through life we all go through numerous "fogs," some of them thicker and deeper than others, but all rather scary at the time. When these times come you will make it through them better if you remember three key things that help people get through fogs. (And by the way, whether you realized it or not, the odds are each of these keys was present to some extent any time in your past you encountered a fog and got through fairly well.)

Try to Accept the foggy situation or condition.

"It is here." versus "It Shouldn't be here!"

(Acceptance doesn't mean to "like" the fog. No way, we do NOT like it! Rather to accept means to non-judgmentally acknowledge and go with the flow of the situation you're in rather than fighting it with unhelpful thoughts like "This fog shouldn't be here." Or, "I can't stand it when it's foggy!"

You can stand it, you're just scared and strongly wish you didn't have to. Like the lousy Joker that used to show up in your hand in some kids' card games, the fog card IS in your hand! So play the hand, care-full-y and with as much cool and finesse as you can.)

Remember to use your Low Beams so as to focus and work on what's right in front of you. When focused this way we spend far less time in worrying and "what-ifing" and hence are less distracted from getting through this fog.

Take "one step at a time" to get through. Pacing is everything. Don't try to run when you can't see your way.

One last thing needs to be mentioned, and that is that when we follow the three guidelines just listed the thing/condition/situation in our lives that was feeling so foggy doesn't necessarily have to go away for us to get through it!! When we see that we can cope, can "deal with it," can control what we do with the Arrows that have hit us, and can work on getting ourselves to our Ground floor, then the scary part of the fog dissipates enough that we are able to drive more comfortably again.

If this story has been helpful to you, I'd love to hear from you. Your feedback is always appreciated. Bill


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