I’m in the middle of writing something. Into my office walks my eleven year old daughter, tears streaming down her face.
“Dad, mom took away my phone away because she said I was being ungrateful to her about buying me candy at the store. But I wasn’t! I said ‘thanks.’ It’s not faaairrr…”
My daughter, the Academy Award winning actress
Yes, when she gets upset my daughter tends to stretch out the final word of a sentence for dramatic effect. But that’s neither here nor there.
What is here and there is that this kind of thing makes my blood boil. I’m in the writing zone, pumping away…and then this.
Normally, I’d react by melting down and saying, “OK! Calm down. It’s fine. Let me see what’s up.” Then I’d go to my wife and she’d tell me what a brat our daughter was about getting her candy. And I’d try to calm her down, which usually gets her mad at me and then I blow up at her and yada, yada, yada…Now all three of us are upset. Bye, bye writing flow.
Anatomy of a meltdown
Generally, what happens in these situations is that one moment we are ‘here.’ What do I mean by ‘here?’ I’m writing and I’m present. In the now.
Then the trigger occurs, in the above example it’s my sobbing daughter, and we leave that place of presence completely and get sucked down into our lower, reactive, egoic self. And as all of you know, nothing good usually happens when we go to that place.
But I discovered something recently in a talk given by Mickey Singer that is helping me stay cool in these types of situations. It’s all about trying to remain in the seat of self, the present moment…call it what you want, when something sets us off.
Here’s the technique
The practice is simple. When we get triggered, we just ask the question inside our head:
“Are you still here?”
You may still experience feelings of anger, frustration or whatever emotional button is being pushed by your particular trigger. But by immediately asking if you’re still here, you maintain contact with that ‘you’ you’re asking about: your conscious, aware self.
The key is to WATCH
And then we practice getting that aware self to merely watch those feelings of anger and frustration, etc. The key is that we remain above those lower self feelings and don’t allow ourselves to get sucked down into them.
I just love that sentence, “Are you still here?” So short and simple.
And the great thing about it is that we can already have melted down a bit, but then we remember to ask ourselves, “Are you still here?” Just asking that question can be super helpful in reestablishing ourselves in the present moment/seat of self.
Consider giving this one a try. If it doesn’t work, jettison it. If it does, you may find that you’ll save yourself a boatload of heartache by averting the toxic situations you may otherwise find yourself in.
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