Coping

Hunkered Down and Holding

deer in a meadow

These deer are hunkered down, waiting for dusk when things are safer. Their ears are on high alert, looking for danger. They didn’t move from this safe spot for hours.

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.

pond, red leaves

The koi below the surface are hunkered down, afraid to show themselves.

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?

koi

These koi have taken a chance that the food they suddenly detect is worth the risk to come to the surface and feed.

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.

mountain goats

Mountain goats are cautious but determined to transverse this hillside.

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.

elk

These elk are far from hunkered down. They are securely grazing in a place where they feel safe.

8 replies »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s