How to Survive an Emotional “Undertow”



The ocean is a majestic place. It is both beautiful and powerful, holding stunning colors and ancient secrets underneath its glassy surface. However, it’s also home to terrors such as sharks, where that beauty and power can turn deadly in a flash. When we swim in it, we are warned about the “undertow” which is very strong. It’s a current just below the surface which can pull us out into deep waters away from the safety of the shore without warning. Much like life.


What do we do when that happens? As an ocean swimmer, we can learn to prepare for the undertow and understand the mechanics of how to move in sync with the ocean to return to safer water. The process of surviving a physical undertow out in the ocean and a spiritual or emotional one is the same. The deep waters of our fragile, sensitive hearts can feel just as threatening at times where solid ground feels miles and miles away.


When life pulls us in an unexpected direction, that pain can threaten to swallow us up entirely. Even after the trauma has passed, it can be difficult to feel surefooted again if our trust in ourselves or the universe has been broken. In order to support ourselves in moving through a dark period with as much strength, peace, and trust as we can muster, there are a few important things to remember.


3 steps to survive an emotional undertow:


1. Stay calm. Sometimes easier said than done, I know, but panicking will only disorient and confuse you. Try to stay calm so that you can see where you are in relationship to the shore. Don’t panic and don’t struggle. This doesn’t mean bypass your feelings – but it does mean building the awareness in a heightened state of pain or trauma to put survival and strategy at the forefront for a moment, then allowing yourself the proper time and space to honor those feelings when it won’t create more damage to do so.


2. Swim parallel to the shore until you don’t feel the pull. In the ocean, they say not to try to swim directly back to shore as you will tire yourself out. If you do get tired, float. When you feel you are no longer being pulled, then swim diagonally back to the shore. In life, this is a wonderful reminder to work in flow with the hand you’ve been dealt, even when it feels like a hand you really don’t want to deal with. Moving away from the situation in a parallel motion means confronting what needs to be addressed, having the tough conversations, doing the inner work, taking care of the practical points that must be focused on (such as after a loved one passes away), and not running away directly. But when you feel too tired, don’t fight it. Take a breather, lie back and float for a bit.


3. Call out for help. Staying calm and going with the pull will allow you to reserve your strength and not resist the process. Those two tasks are your only job in successfully navigating this process and doing “all you can do”. However, this last reminder is your flare gun and its importance should not be underestimated. We can’t do everything by ourselves all the time as it is. But when tough times surface? We need to be able to lean on the support system around us for help. Whether it’s pride or low self-worth that seemingly push our flailing arms below water where no one can see, sometimes the best way out of an undertow is to ask for help. As the Borg says, “Resistance is futile.”


Eventually, time works its magic and the intense sting and disorienting fog of a painful period will ease up. But the lasting effects (both positive and negative) are often a reflection of how we supported ourselves through the worst of it. We don’t need to navigate an undertow perfectly, we just need to do our best to keep swimming through it even when our arms grow weak and panic sets in. Remember, you’re so much stronger than your mind gives you credit for.



Ankhasha Amenti is a Windbridge Certified Research Medium with the highly respected Windbridge Research Center (www.Windbridge.org). Her certification involved passing eight thorough screenings, testing and training steps during which her ability to report accurate and specific information about the deceased was scientifically tested under blinded conditions by Windbridge Institute Director of Research Julie Beischel, PhD. Her commitment is to give each of her clients a reading that provides comfort and validation that assures them their loved ones continue in spirit. In 2011 Ankhasha received the Annual Hospice Service Award from the Providence Hospice of Seattle. She lives a magical life in the misty forests of Washington State and can be reached by visiting her website www.Ankhasha.com.