What dolphins taught me about fear

Do you like to snorkel?  Swim in the ocean?  Bob in the waves?

Even though my Cancer zodiac sign proclaims me a “water baby,” I get terribly nervous and scared swimming in the ocean.

While other people surf waves and stand up to the sea, I pathetically cling close to shore, bathing suit bottom filled with sand. My teeth chatter uncontrollably; my breath gets lost.

I just know I’m about to be sucked out into the middle of the ocean on a riptide or eaten by a school of starving fish.

Couple all that with the requirement to wear a bathing suit in public …  and well, ocean swimming is just not an experience I live for.

Until a couple of weeks ago when …

I was on vacation in Mexico with my husband Rob in Cancun.  We jumped into the dreamy blue Caribbean Sea — and I swam without an ounce of fear.  In the ocean.  Where I couldn’t touch bottom. With hundreds of fish fluttering about – and even  TOUCHING me!!

My newly acquired bravery in the water was due entirely to my two, fun-loving and inspiring companions…

I went swimming in the ocean with dolphins!  Friendly, fun, rubbery-to-touch dolphins.

And I wasn’t scared.  At all.

I had always wanted to swim with dolphins. It’s been on my bucket list for years.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what made my typically terrified reaction so completely different in Cancun?

And is it something we can all apply to our lives when fear creeps in?

During my dolphin adventure, everything I had previously feared was still there – powerful saltwater current, fish brushing up against me, cold water taking my breath away.

The only thing different? There were dolphins.

I felt safe with my ocean buddies.  They were eager and curious.  Love and joy  emanated from them. Their energy told me I was OK.

A trainer in the water nearby taught us how to safely pet them, shake their hands, even kiss them!  We learned signals to call to them.

Instant love.

And fun. Of the 40 species of dolphins, they all love to play! There is even a young dolphin at Sea World in Orlando who invented a water bubble game that other adult dolphins have now adopted.

Dolphins, as I’m sure you know, are well-known for their complex communication system.  Like human fingerprints, each dolphin’s whistle is unique.

To actually experience how they team up and gently calibrate matching their speed (up to 20 miles an hour) to jointly pull me through the water above was astounding.

Rob loved playing with them, too!

There are more than 100 programs in the world that offer dolphin swims.  Many believe dolphins save people from drowning, aid fishermen in finding schools of fish, and, most amazingly, assist both children and adults in coping with cancer, depression, and physical disabilities.

There doesn’t appear to be any research that proves these things to be true. And there is much controversy about human and dolphin interactions.

What I know is that I learned something very valuable that day in the Caribbean Sea.

The next time fear stands in my way, I’ll remember what my dolphin friends showed me.

I need only to join forces for safety and fun, learn a few skills, give kisses, dip and dive, splash about — and go for it!

Fearless in the ocean with my dolphin pals pushing me from behind!

Have an amazing week. And be sure to share any dolphin adventures you’ve enjoyed on our blog.  I’d love to hear!

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  • Karen Dodd

    OMG, Debbie! Last year I wrote about almost exactly this same experience (I was totally like you in my fear of the water) but my experience was swimming with a sea turtle: http://bit.ly/turtle-freedom

    Although I have yet to swim with dolphins, I have swum with sea rays and I expected to be terrified. Like your fine-finned pals, I felt totally safe with these beautiful and gentle creatures and totally abandoned my fear to play with them.

    I can’t believe how much you and I are alike. Thanks so much for sharing your story and magnificent photos!

    Karen
    xoxo

    • http://www.debbiephillips.com Debbie Phillips

      LOVE hearing this, Karen! Thank you for your wonderful comments … and
      for all the love, energy and support you add everywhere you go! Feel
      free to post a picture of your adventure on the Women on Fire FB page.
      Thinking sea turtle might be my next adventure! xoxo to you

  • Mary Webster

    Debbie,
    “The Day of the Dolphins” was filmed at Treasure Cay. My parents didn’t think much of George C. Scott, but they befriended the dolphin trainer and swam with the dolphins. Too bad there are no photos

    • http://www.debbiephillips.com Debbie Phillips

      Wow! Mary, that’s fantastic. I loved that movie and was influenced by it … and of course, FLIPPER, too! ;-) Hope your arm is healing. xoxo