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  • AutorenbildKarl-Josef Sittig

I really had a deep water phobia!

Hello, my name is Mohammed and I would like to tell you my story.

I am a physician in a health centre, responsible for about 3000 inhabitants here on a beautiful island of the Maldives. I'm on duty 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, and I am always on call.

I studied medicine at the University of Mansoura in Egypt and I specialized in psychiatry.

"Don't go into the water, Mohammed, it's really deep in there and you can't swim. You will die" these were the words my father kept telling me when we were on holidays by the sea, and since I was 5 years old I definitely believed my father.

This faith has been firmly anchored within me ever since and has become my greatest fear over the years.

Until a week ago, deep water scared the hell out of me. For the last 6 years I have been living directly at the sea, which only makes it worse.

I didn't think about it before. I just believed my father, for almost 25 years now. So I had decided that I would not go swimming in the sea, otherwise I would die in the depths.

In the swimming pool in Egypt I learned to swim very well in deep water, but never went into the sea if it was deeper than one metre. If I could not stand, I would panic and not be able to breathe and then I would die, so my firm conviction. The mere thought of it scared me enormously, yes panicked me.

That's exactly what almost happened to me when I once went out to the sea with my friends, who knew about my fear.

We were swimming together in the shallow water and when it got a little deeper, they all said: "Come on, we can't all stay standing here. You swim perfectly, you can do it.”

So I swam with them into some deeper water. Everything went well at first. But when I suddenly realized that I couldn't stand on the ground anymore, I panicked, swallowed tons of water and nearly drowned. I can't remember how I got out of the water.

This was by far the most horrible moment of my whole life. I was scared to death, and I almost drowned. So it was true what my father had prophesied to me. But at the same time I realized that something was wrong with me, after all I am able to swim well in the swimming pool!

I came to the conclusion that I probably had a phobia and now a PTSD. But I told myself it was okay. I'd better stay safe. Not everyone can swim and life can be so beautiful without swimming.

That's my story about swimming until last year. Then I moved to the Maldives, where the sea is the only entertainment. Everybody swims here, surfs, sails, goes snorkelling, dives and marvel at this underwater paradise - except me!

I already got terrified on the boat, the main means of transport here on the Maldives. I only had one thought in my head: "I'm in real danger, because if something happens, I'll be the first one to drown in the sea."

That's how it was going for a few months. I worked in the hospital and that was it. I never went to the sea.


Then I met Karl-Josef and we became friends. I found out that he was a psychotherapist. Hypnosis had been very exciting during my studies. "Mohammed, let's go snorkelling together tomorrow," he invited me, and I just replied, "Yes." But I was so afraid of the deep water!

For the first time in my life, I went snorkelling. Already in the shallow water I panicked and had the feeling to die. My body became stiff in the water and most of the time I felt very weak. That's how Karl-Josef realized my fear. He accompanied me gently and safely.

In the evening, I met Karl-Josef again for dinner and he told me that my problem could be solved with L!fT.

I didn't believe it, but I had nothing to lose and so I just tried.

We had a 40-minute conversation in a pizzeria. At the thinking of deep water, in which I could not stand, I felt miserably stressed and totally scared. But at the end of the conversation, I could relax pretty well.

The next day we went into the water together and I had only one thought: "If I can't stand up here, I'll drown."

At first we were snorkelling in shallow water. That went quite well, after some problems with snorkel and goggles. Then we snorkelled carefully into deeper water, even to the dangerous edge, where the sea turns dark blue, where it goes deep. Karl-Josef was taking me by the hand all the time and I signalled the intensity of my tension to him with my hand pressure. We were snorkelling in the water for about 1 hour – unimaginable! In between, I was once relaxed, then tense again, then relaxed again.

But I didn't feel really relaxed. At least I had been snorkelling in the deep water for an hour, even if I was at Karl-Josef's hand!

Then Karl-Josef had to leave, his vacation was over and I decided to give up the swimming idea.

“After all, it's no big deal if I can't go into deep water. I can live with that...`` - and another year on the Maldives passed without me going into the water.


One year later, in December 2018, Karl-Josef and his dear family returned. My wife and I were very happy.

When we went into the sea together again on the first day, I suddenly had a hallucination - a "flash forward". I saw myself dead, lying on the seabed and panicked. Karl-Josef held my hand and calmed me down and offered me a detailed lift session.

He assured me that I could probably do well in deep water, yes it could be a pleasure for me. He himself is an enthusiastic diver, snorkeler and sailor. Honestly, on the one hand, I couldn't believe it, but on the other hand, I somehow had hope that it might work.

In addition, as a physician specialised in psychiatry, I was very curious to get to know this L!fT method.


On 26 December 2018, my L!fT meeting was on the beach. The meeting lasted about 2 hours.

 At the beginning, I was 95% - 100% tense. I was very anxious and stressed by the sea and yesterday`s death image in the deep water. I thought of my terrible experience with my friends in Egypt when I had almost drowned. Especially the moment when I could not stand up and take a breath made me terribly afraid: "I will definitely drown in deep water", so my firm conviction.

Then the session gradually became more and more pleasant, even beautiful it lasted, and I became calmer and calmer and more relaxed. Gradually, I was diving into my memories of really beautiful and unforgettable moments in my life, when I felt completely safe, light and calm.

I was knocking bilaterally alternating...

After a few attempts I had for example a very intense experience. Four weeks before a very important medical examination, I was scared to death and simply couldn't solve it. I couldn't learn any more, I couldn't concentrate anymore and I couldn't retrieve what I had already learned. After all, it was about my professional existence, about my life! My father advised me to pray to Allah and I just did it. I suddenly felt completely connected and safe when I was praying. I let go completely and immersed myself in this feeling of being picked up, in good hands, safe and secure. Then I could experience myself in the same way in deep water.

This session was very different from what I had expected, gentle, calm, solving, beautiful.

Now here, to my big surprise, I really can feel the same way while I am going into the water. It's very amazing that I think complete differently on my own.

The next day, I went snorkelling with my dear friends and was totally astonished when I snorkelled all alone without any fear. I moved away from them, swam all alone to the edge of the deep water, where the sea becomes deep dark blue. I saw myself lying quietly on the water, felt lifted up and carried by the water and could enjoy the beautiful moment with hundreds of dazzling colourful coral fishes under water. For the first time in my life, I saw a turtle under water.

I'm very happy, yes, to be honest, I'm thrilled.

I was about to go snorkelling again to prove to myself that it's really true that I really did it. I couldn't believe it!

After a few days, something very sad happened. A 63-year-old man drowned right on the beach where we went snorkelling. I was on duty, and by the time he was admitted to the hospital, he was already dead. There was nothing more we could do.

It was extremely important for me to go snorkelling the next day with Karl-Josef right there again, as a matter of course, and to my astonishment it went really well.

In the meantime, I have been snorkelling every day for two weeks now and every day I feel more familiar, more normal to go into the water. When I swim I always feel lighter and - connected with the whole universe.

For so many years I wished and dreamed of being free in the water, and now it is happening and it will continue like this....

I want to share my story because it might be inspiring, because the solution was actually amazingly simple.

I just needed to look deep inside myself to find it.

Finally, my insight:

"Not the ground down there in the depths is safe,

The water's safe,

It carries me and

I feel lifted up and connected to the universe. “


“When nothing goes right, go left‘‘

or better

“When nothing goes right, go l!ft‘‘



follow-up: Date 6/7/2019 Mohammed Elsankary


 My deep-water phobia and post-traumatic stress are completely gone.

A little more than 6 months ago I had my lift session. At that time even the thought of going into the water alone caused panic in me. It was absolutely impossible for me to enjoy any water activities here in the Maldives, where everything revolves around diving, swimming, snorkelling, sailing, surfing, fishing, boating etc. for years! I had never enjoyed anything of it and even when driving the ferries I was always afraid.


 Since this amazing lift session I have been able to enjoy many water activities. Yesterday, for example, I was board paddling with my wife and enjoyed the waves in the Indian Ocean. The tide was high and the sea threw high waves at the beach. Before the L!fT session it would have been unthinkable for me, to go into the water at all under these conditions.

My wife had taken her mobile phone with her in a waterproof bag to take some photos and videos of us. It was absolutely beautiful. Suddenly the waves hit her board and flushed her into the water. She lost her phone in the water, panicked and tried to get her phone back in that churned water.

In the past, in such exciting situations, I wouldn't have been able to think clearly. I would have panicked immediately and got a panic attack with hyperventilation and tachycardia. I would have been completely helpless, unable to resolve the situation and help my wife do the right thing.

Despite my great excitement and the panic of my wife, I surprisingly remained quite clear-headed. I was able to think calmly and carefully about what we could do and what we could do to get the mobile phone out of the waves.

But most importantly, I didn't panic at all! After weighing all the solutions, I made the right decision. I asked her to get on her board and paddle out of the water.

I didn't panic because I knew the water would carry me perfectly. The ability to make the clear right decision in this situation with this wind and these waves and the panic of my wife is a clear consequence of the changes I have experienced continuously since the L!fT solution of my deep water phobia and post-traumatic stress.

I notice that my limbic system works in a very different way, as I have managed to deal so confidently with this situation that would have frightened me to death in former times.

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