In the south, being “hunkered down” means someone is holding in a defensive position. It implies that there is stress or danger and that one must wait it out. We’ve had quite a snow storm this week, and most people haven’t left their homes as they wait for snow plows to clear streets, ice and snow to melt, and sunshine to return. You could say that the town is hunkered down.
But what happens when you are hunkered down and holding? That means you never seem to leave this position of waiting for danger to pass. I see it in friends and colleagues who have sustained some sort of damage in their lives. Either they’ve lost their jobs, gotten a divorce, lost a loved one, or some similar major life event. It’s like it is all they can do to keep themselves safe; they have no more energy for something else. But what if they are like this long after the danger is passed? Like years and years afterward. Why do they continue to hide when the stressors are gone and their life is actually going pretty well? Why are they so afraid to trust that thinks can get better?
I’m not sure there is much we can do. We can encourage them to join us in more active pursuits, but they often turn us down. They consider a weekend wherein nothing has happened to be a good time. This group is afraid of taking any kind of risk. They lose out on companionship, potential fulfillment, and any kind of social connection. In return, they continue to wait for the other shoe to drop, safety, and security. It’s a tough way to spend your life. I was doing this for several years as I endured an autoimmune disease. I was just barely holding on, it seemed, and I did little more than work and sleep. They were tough years, and I hunkered down as a way to cope. My health didn’t improve until I began to take a risk by learning something new. Then that led to another something new, and the next thing I knew, I wasn’t hunkered down at all. I wasn’t quite thriving yet but definitely more engaged with my life.
If you find yourself seeking safety, I recommend taking a risk. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but taking a chance is a way to demonstrate that you feel safe and you’re ready to move on. Just by doing it, you can make it so.