It was a beautiful day, it was a solid boat, and it was the start of a holiday.

About two months ago, after weeks travelling around the world, I had finally managed to take a few days off and was off to a magnificent island in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a beautiful day, one of those warm mornings from the crack of dawn, with very few clouds, very fast.

It was a solid boat, I said, a 40-seater catamaran, with an experienced captain.

Like me, the passengers were on their way to the island to enjoy their holiday.

Shortly after boarding, the captain greeted us, giving us a welcome that I found very warm and at the same time curious and interesting.

He told us about the boat, showing us how solid it was and how it was designed to protect us. He made some jokes about life jackets, told us about his ‘crew’, trained to handle and overcome waves as high as palaces. He also told us to introduce ourselves and our neighbour, shake hands, and smile.

It was not going to be a long sail, yet the kind gentleman felt it was important for the passengers to get to know each other.

When the boat left port, the sky was still blue.

Once away from the coast, however, the wind began to bring a blanket of darker and darker clouds over us.

The sky became darker, not completely because the wind was strong.

In a matter of minutes, everything changed. The sky was no longer a problem at that point.

Below and around, the ocean, until just before majestic but serene, was about to reveal itself in all its power. The waves grew, the catamaran jumped, and at first it looked like those speedboat jumps, with a bit of a vacuum, and everyone laughed. Then we all stopped laughing. The waves were really big, the catamaran slowed down and as soon as it started up again it was dancing all over the place. The crew disappeared below deck and ran all over the place doing things that were incomprehensible to me.

The boat stopped. The engines stopped…

We stayed a while at the mercy of the sea. Then they tried again. Then huge waves again and again we stopped. Someone vomited. A couple next to me started arguing.

Glances of dismay flowed between the passengers. Of surprise, too: how was this possible? Why? Until a moment before, everything was fine and each of us was only thinking about what to do once we disembarked.

We chatted about the sights.

We talked about this beach and that beach.

What to see, what to taste…

And suddenly we were in danger.

Don’t mess with the ocean!

In a matter of minutes, we all stopped thinking about what was next.

There was no longer any agenda, only fear.

After half an hour of trying, the captain reappeared, engines off again. “We can’t go on,” he said. “The ocean is too angry and if we go out again we won’t be able to continue.”

Only the sudden and terrible realisation of being gnats in the presence of a wild and rugged and strong nature. Not Dante’s dark forest, but the black menace of the stormy Atlantic ocean.

“We must turn back,” added the captain.

“As soon as we can, we will take the opportunity to reverse course and return to port.”

As the captain and his staff worked feverishly from the bridge, we passengers clutched each other.

We had introduced ourselves. We had learnt our names, and we shook hands. On the way from the harbour to the open sea, we had gotten to know each other.

When we found ourselves thrown out of our respective certainties and comfort zones, knowing each other was helping us to control our terror.

Terror, yes.

Not worry, not fear: but the very strong and sudden fear that seizes us when we are overwhelmed by unforeseen events.

The force of nature.

The destructive potential of the ocean.

The violence of a storm.

A navigation that starts off calm, blue skies and plans for the aftermath and suddenly becomes tumultuous.

It turns stormy and seems ready to cancel you and all your plans.

A few minutes later, we heard the engines start up again.

The boat began to move.

It ascended pointing its stern to the black sky, slow. It would almost stall, one second, two, maybe three, and then swoop down, into the waves.

We were below deck, always close. And even though we could not see what was happening outside, we could feel the rises, the stalls, and the descents.

They were very powerful moments.

Each of us, in different ways, was now thinking about our loved ones, about what we had to achieve, and certainly also about the precariousness of existence.

When the jolts finally stopped shaking us, some of us looked out the portholes, and then we realised we were back on the coast, and after a short while, we returned to port.

It was pouring rain, but we were safe and sound.

Before going ashore, many thanked the captain.

Not only for having ‘rescued’ us, but also for his welcome that was as warm as it was curious.

His invitation to get to know us before sailing had helped us in our time of need.

What I have just told you is not just a story: it really happened.

To me, while I was in Brazil, heading for a few days of rest.

I decided to share what I experienced because since then I have often thought about the parallel between the storm and our experience as EFT therapists.

Even when the starting conditions are stable….

Even when we feel prepared to navigate the sessions….

The unexpected can always happen.

A cloud (or a whole team of clouds!) can come along and change everything.

Then we have to stop the boat. We have to stay put, change course, return to port and reschedule our journeys.

The crux of this metaphor is that the unexpected happens.

Not everything can be predicted…

But there is something that can come to our rescue, and provide a safe shoulder: the community.

Just as I experienced, thanks to the captain of the ship and his initial invitation to introduce ourselves to each other, I experienced again how closeness helps, especially in times of difficulty.