Soothing the Child Within

Your stomach is clutching, you’re sweating, you feel a pressure building up inside your chest or head, you shut down and can’t think, you feel panicky.  Someone has pushed your hot button, gotten your goat, ruffled your feathers, or gotten your panties in a bunch.  You know what I’m talking about.

What do you do?

  1.  Get mad
  2. Get even
  3. Blame the other person
  4. Feel terrible about yourself
  5. Realize that even if you’re wronged (and you may just think you’re wronged) doesn’t mean you have to react.

(Gosh, I should write self-help test questions for a women’s magazine like the character in Gone Girl.)

After indulgently considering 1, 2, 3, or 4, you pick 5.  Congratulations!  Your momma taught you well!

Now that you’ve acted in a grown up fashion and know that you can choose not to react, how do you actually not react?  That definitely falls into the “easier said than done” category.   You (circle all the correct answer(s)):

  1. Pour yourself a stiff drink
  2. Have a good cry
  3. Work it out at the gym
  4. Talk it out with someone you trust
  5. Meditate at least an hour every day.  Turning off your left brain leaves you feeling so blissful.

Test is getting harder, right?

Personally I think 1-4 can be adaptive to a certain degree.  But the question that I would ask if you choose one of these options is this: Is your approach is improving your ability to deal with your hot button issue?  Using substances to numb your feelings is not a good long-term strategy any more than harboring anger, resentment, self-pity, helplessness, or victimization.  Crying/gym/talking might make you feel better in the moment, but it doesn’t necessarily help you modulate what is probably an over-reaction at the next hot-button opportunity.

(I can hear you thinking: But  I HATE meditating!)

I may not be successful in getting you to meditate in the traditional sit-and-feel-your-body way.  Not everyone can do so successfully despite a true desire and dedication.   If you want to try or try to do better, check out this meditation website.  You may not believe how amazing it feels to just be completely in your body, without your mind constantly distracting you from that bliss.

More importantly, meditation will strengthen your right brain so you’re not so tempted to let your left brain run away with your logic and equanimity next time you encounter a hot-button issue.  Just like if you weight train only working your trapezoids but not your deltoids, you will look like ape-man because your muscles are unbalanced.  Same if you only work your left brain and never develop the right – you’ll have ape-brain.

If that’s not for you, maybe try one of these other approaches:

  • Moving meditation – exercise such as swimming or running can be very meditative, as long as you clear your mind and focus for extended periods on some aspect of your senses (what you feel, see, hear, taste, smell).  Perhaps you are very intentional about where you put your feet, how you put your feet, what your feet feel like as you take each step, and so on.  Don’t let your mind jump from feettobirdtochesttocarhorntothingstodoatworklist…. Focus on one thing at a time for as long as you can.  Doing the moving (or sitting, for that matter) meditation in nature is an added boon.
  • Writing meditation – in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends three minutes each morning of a writing meditation.  It’s not journaling, it’s not about practicing your writing skills.  It’s about dumping the accumulated garbage from your left brain onto a page and leaving it there.  Write whatever random thoughts/ideas come into your head for three minutes without editing it, questioning it or stopping, then leave it behind.  Do not, under any circumstances, post it on your blog like I do.
  • Mini-meditations – Three minutes still too long?  You ADD folks might like this one.  You only have to meditate 10 seconds at a time.  Yes, 10 seconds.  That’s the amount of time it takes to draw 3 breaths.  But you have to do it 100 times per day.  Yes, 100.  You can do several at a time, or one at a time, or some combination, but you should do 100 during your day.  Like the moving meditation, focus on one of your 5 senses for those 3 breaths.  For example, you might focus on how it feels to have your back pressed against the back of the chair for 10 seconds.  Try it now.  You can do it.  This method, described in Positive Intelligence, can also be used to calm your inner child when you get your hot buttons pushed.

If you decide in advance none of these will work, they won’t.  Resign yourself to ape-brain.

If you decide this will work, it will.  Be prepared to face your world with a renewed sense of peace and bliss.

There’s a no-brainer.

Exercise both sides

Exercise both sides

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2 thoughts on “Soothing the Child Within

  1. I am so glad that you mentioned Julia Cameron’s morning pages as a form of meditation. I am trying to get myself back into the habit of doing them (and, indeed, not posting them 🙂 ) because I was much more serene when I did the morning pages – or “writing meditation,” love that – every single day. Of course that was also back before I had a toddler, when all forms of meditation were easier to attain. But that’s not a good excuse, and thank you for reminding me of the importance of making these practices a habit.

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