When People Are Drowning, Am I Missing It?

By Greg Baer M.D.

May 28, 2012

A few days ago a friend sent me an article from the Internet that described a boat captain who jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and swam as fast as he could toward a couple swimming in the tropical waters. "He thinks you're drowning," the husband said to his wife. Earlier she had screamed while they were splashing each other, but now they were calmly standing, neck-deep on a sand bar. "We're fine!" the husband yelled, but the captain kept swimming.

As the captain pushed his way between the couple, they turned to discover that directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Once she was safely on the boat, she burst into tears, crying, "Daddy!"

The captain knew from training and experience that drowning is often not the violent, splashing, call for help that is depicted on television. Usually it's deceptively quiet. The nine-year-old never made a sound while she was drowning. Of the 750 children who are predicted to drown next year, more than half will die within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

In short, drowning people often don't look appear to be drowning. They don't yell for help: They're too busy trying to breathe. They don't wave for attention: They're moving their arms as fast as they can–below the surface–just to keep their mouth above water.

Emotionally speaking, most people also give little indication that they're drowning. Sure, some people drown dramatically–with yelling, blaming, hitting, and so on–but many others are quite inconspicuous, perhaps in part because most of us are also drowning to some degree.

We need to pay closer attention to the emotional clues of drowning people. Often they don't speak at all. They might even claim that they're just fine, but if we look at them with experience and compassion, we see that their faces are lined with pain, every effort is exhausting, and they quietly withdraw from interaction with others. If we are observant, we'll discover that there are people everywhere who yearn for us to extend a hand and pull them from the water.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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