calm down by making your story mind-numbingly boring

One of the reasons our traumas feel so bad is that we use emotionally heightened language when we talk about them.  Certain words trigger emotions more than other words.

If you find yourself freaking out about something that happened, here’s a technique you can use to calm down:  Write down your story.  Pretend you are the most boring person in the universe, and you’re writing the story of what happened.  The rules are to avoid proper names, possessives, and words that are emotionally charged.

Here’s an example:

“There was a person whom I had seen in person and talked to.  We also touched.  Then we lived under the same roof.  Then we started talking less.  Then we didn’t talk anymore and I live in a different place than I did.  The end.”

That’s the story of a breakup.  Isn’t it fascinating how boring it sounds when we take out all of the emotional language, sense of ownership, and proper names?

Here’s another:

“There was a place that I would go five times a week to make a trade.  I was there for a while.  In exchange for what I did, a person would give me a currency which I could then trade for other things that I wanted.  Then, that opportunity to trade was no longer available.  The end.”

That’s the boring version of someone losing their job, and I could barely stay awake reading it.

The use of possessives can cause extra suffering (as in “MY wife left me”).  Possessives make us feel possessive and attached.  There’s a time to use them, and a time to not use them.  Use them when explaining your situation to other people, for the sake of brevity.  Don’t use them in your self-talk if it’s hurting you.  It could be “a person I was living with.”  “A person whose womb I emerged from, many years ago.”  Some of them might sound comical, but they’re true (side note: laughter helps with this stuff too).  When you make those relationships non-possessive, you can see the story with more objectivity, and more as a witness.

Your story only feels as sensationalized as you describe it to be.  The point of this exercise is not to deny feelings or reality, or to act like what happened didn’t affect your life.  It’s to reframe it so that you suffer less.  It’s an especially good technique when dealing with loss.  Loss only occupies your mind when it’s interesting.  When loss is boring, you’ll lose interest in thinking about it as much.  You’ll find yourself getting excited about other things that are more interesting than the fact that something ended – such as how your new reality is interesting and different.

Try this writing exercise.  First, write down your upsetting story in your own words.  Let it all out and hold nothing back.  Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you feel, because that’s healthy.  Then take a deep breath, and review what you’ve written.  Take notice of the possessives (my, our), proper names, and emotionally-charged words that were used.  Then rewrite the story using the most boring, dry, matter-of-fact, depersonalized language possible.   Avoid using names, possessives, and vague concepts.  Write what literally, scientifically happened.  Read the story back slowly, aloud if that helps.  Do you feel calmer about it?  Can you even stay awake during it?

love,
Kate

p.s. To take it one step further, remove “I” from the story and use the third person.

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there’s no such thing as being too sensitive

If anyone has ever told you that you are too sensitive, they were mistaken.  Sensitivity is an often-misunderstood condition.

I’m a highly sensitive person.  The acronym is HSP.  This week I went to two meetups for people who are HSP, and both were empowering and gave me a better understanding.

Highly sensitive people experience life more intensely than other people, and are more affected by other people’s energy and the environments they are surrounded by.  It’s a bodily condition, not just a mental or emotional one (hint: think about the body holistically, noting that mind/emotion/body are all linked and affect each other).

Another term you might look into is HSS.  It stands for high sensation seeking.  If you find yourself bored fairly easily, or if you were ever diagnosed with ADHD, it might help to read up more on it.  I identify as HSS, too.  Many people identify as one or the other, or both.

There’s nothing wrong with me, or people like me – we just need the proper resources and techniques in order to live a satisfying life.  We’re all built uniquely and we all have different requirements, so be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself a break, and limit time spent with people who can’t or won’t be comfortable with the way you naturally are.  Educate the people who are willing to listen.

Being sensitive is not inherently good or bad.  It just is.  There are definitely certain advantages to it.  I like that it’s easy for me to empathize with others and feel compassion.  The crying is kind of neutral for me.  I just accept it when it comes, and don’t judge myself for it.  I used to be super embarrassed about it.  Now I just view it as my body’s natural reaction to certain stimuli.  I sometimes leave the room if I’m around other people when it happens – depends on the day and the circumstance.

Brad Yates, who is my EFT go-to guru, did a wonderful tapping round on the topic of sensitivity, which can be found here.  Another good resource for HSP can be found at www.thehappysensitive.com

love,
Kate

 

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saying goodbye to Pa-Pa

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To follow up on last week’s post, Pa-Pa passed away on Tuesday the 4th.  A couple of days later I was on a plane to Paducah, KY.  Pa-Pa had a large family of 10 children.  The above photo, of all but one of his grandchildren, was taken after his funeral mass.   (I’m 8th from the left of the standing people, between my sister and brother.)

It was a sad and surreal experience, but also an uplifting one.  At the funeral home several family members told their favorite stories about Pa-Pa.  There was a common theme about how loving, accepting, funny, calm, and down-to-earth he was.  It was clear that there was much admiration for him as a person.  I felt that way, too.  Lately I’ve been thinking about ways that I could be more like him.

Deaths can be difficult to deal with, but they also have a way of bringing people together.  Really it was a celebration of his life, and of life in general.  I’m very happy that I was able to attend, and that I had the privilege of knowing and loving him.

love,
Kate

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Pa-Pa

I have time for a brief post this week.

My 96-year-old grandpa, Richard (known to his grandkids as Pa-Pa), is on a hospital bed in his living room in Kentucky.  Family is keeping vigil, as his health has taken a turn and he might be nearing the end.

Lots of family stuff happening right now.

love,
Kate

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