“Into and Out of the Fog”. By Henry Regehr
We were walking in thick Vancouver fog with our little daughter, age two-and-a-half. She was testing her
wings in the park where we had gone for some family time. She ran ahead of us into the dense white
cloud only to find that we had disappeared from her sight. There was an exuberant shriek, and she ran
back into our view and our welcoming arms. It quickly became a game. Off she would run, again and
again, each time with greater confidence, testing her ability to be out of sight, shout, and excitedly come
running back to safety. It would be several years, in adolescence, where she would be ready to find her
way, on her own and by her own choice, in the fog.
Carl, an adolescent, was confused and uneasy. The son of the local clergy family, he was a good student
through Elementary and Junior High, and now in his senior year at High School. Carl always had friends
who saw him as loyal, as a good athlete. His friends’ parents saw him as “a very nice boy”. The girls were
drawn to him. “He is cute so nice”, they would say. He was active in youth groups where he was showing
signs of leadership. On his way to school one morning, he found that he was experiencing the unease
particularly strongly. He was anxious, worrying about things that seemed mundane. He was puzzled by
the newly urgent bout of tension. For the first time he reflected on this unsettling, now too familiar
state. There were no urgent issues with his Mom and Dad who had said, “He is not a rebellious teen”. At
the same time, some of the kids in his senior class were bitterly complaining about their parents, who, in
turn, were worrying about their partly grown-up teens. These, one might say, had been “running out
into the fog” while Carl was playing it safe.
With college years (he performed well academically), summer jobs and finally, graduation, he settled
down to a professional career. By age thirty, he was married, and had moved to another city for a
promising new job. The anxiety returned occasionally and without explanation, but each time he pushed
the issue aside in the belief that, like earlier times, it would fade away. But it kept returning like an
unwanted ache. Each time he chose not to explore the underlying issues. He stayed in his safe place,
refused to run out into the unknown fog and its mysteries.
By his mid-forties, a deep fog enveloped him with the onset of serious anxiety and depression. He could
no longer avoid the call of the normal developmental tasks that he had fearfully avoided: discovering his
own identity, (Who, under this veneer, am I?) Who am I in terms of my sexual identity, (and why did I
remain so naive)? How did I go about choosing a career that I do not particularly like? Why have I not
gone about searching deeply for a value system and religious beliefs that fit with my experience of life?
These issues were expressed in behaviour and relationships he would earlier have considered wildly
inappropriate. He quit his job in frustration. The relationship with his wife went through a stormy year
or two. He re-examined his religious beliefs and associations. He questioned the values that had defined
him through the years and which he had held to with tenacity. It appeared to him that the foundations
of his life had collapsed. The anxiety turned into episodes of panic and depression.
With courage and with help he began to explore the unfinished work, his developmental issues that he
had, quite unknowingly, for complicated reasons, avoided over the years. These slowly came clear to
him. Painstakingly he was coached through the fears, the uncertainties he was now confronting. He read
hungrily on subjects he had not considered important but now were urgently pressing on him. He
established new relationships with people who deeply understood the rocky pilgrimage he was taking.
It was a journey of several years, nearly a decade, but slowly the anxiety and depression lifted. In time
he found new joy in his wife and family and in his new associations. He had a new professional position
that was a better fit for him. His wife commented, “You do not seem as angry as you were”. They both
enjoyed the new tenderness.
His brothers were bewildered. “What happened to you?” they asked, and Carl described his journey.
They remained puzzled.
Carl had broken through the threatening fog and came into the sunshine, more prepared to face the
new life issues as they appeared on the cloudy horizon.