Small reminders

I am interested in finding ways to avoid spiraling. When I say spiraling, I really mean “avoid situations where my mind goes into a dark pattern of sorts that sucks the alive-ness out of me.” In those situations, I find myself less productive, less happy, and more prone to sadness. I am not saying that “negative emotions” are all bad and that it makes sense to run from them (or even build massive walls around them). But I am saying that frequenting dark places — especially when you do not want to — is not _really_ a way to live (especially not a way that I am extremely excited about!).

It is not that I find myself spiraling all that often. I mean this year more than most, to be honest. I am not entirely sure why it is — I hear lots of people “get to this place” sometime in their mid to late twenties where let’s say they are more prone to this spiral sensation — but I am sure that being able to “avoid this darkness” (especially at times when it can seemingly last days or even weeks++) is a “superpower” that I would like to be able to harness.

I have written about a “spiral avoidance protocol before.” You should read that if you are interested in catching the spiral before you spiral — which is more an intensive protocol that can be used to build a foundation of sorts that is un-spire-able. Although not always the case with this blog, I still very much believe what I wrote there (sometimes, you will see myself more often changing my mind. This is not a bad thing. I call it learning or growth. And I am allowed to change my mind, it is my blog — but this is NOT one of those times. I am remaining at least temporarily consistent). I believe that a strong foundation — a strong system — is really extremely powerful. Far more powerful than any “willpower.” I put willpower in quotes because I am still wrestling with the power of willpower. I think that willpower injected at the wrong abstraction layer is really motion. So willpower + strategy will beat willpower most all days of the week — and that thought is for another essay.

But beyond having a foundation, and I will say even if you do have a foundation, is highly likely that a “bad bad bad thought” will come to your head. Even if they are not invited to the party, it is likely they will show up. Wanted or not. You will see these thoughts entering your conscious, sometimes when you least expect it (or least want it to show up).

So what do you do in that circumstance? You have the foundation. Your core is strong. But bad painful thing is about to show up. What do you do?

I am not saying there is one recipe for what to follow nor do you need to think about this soooooo programmatically.

But the thing I have been trying out — a thing that has worked for me more as of recently that I did particularly expect to work so well, is simply giving myself a small reminder: “you are okay. breathe. you are not alone in the struggle of this world.”

I do not repeat that verbatim. I say to myself a version of it. And then I allow whatever idea or thought to be coming through to come through and pass me through like a wave. I do not resist the thought. I do resist the action.

I do not act on the thought. I know better than that. I have done that far too many times before. You probably have, too.

It sounds like a good idea. At least in theory. You have this fiery thought. The best thing to do is to fight it. Right? Bring more guns to the fight? Tell them they are not wanted.

But that does not work. That is giving the bully more fuel. We know how that story ends (not that I was super bullied — but you can imagine that getting upset only provokes the bully into bullying you more, feeding the cycle).

Instead, I give myself a reminder that I AM OKAY (and subsequently to let this thing ride like a wave!).

And then I let time do the rest of the work. Time (and maybe going to run or work out or hike or some version of that).

The old me may try to counteract with some sort of bandaid. Maybe I’d eat unheatlhy food. Maybe I would try to spend money or something.

No silly — we know better than that. We know that that sort of counteraction really is motion. It leads to no progress. And honestly makes me feel even worse about myself.

Instead, I think about the small reminder as a mantra of sorts. Taking it every so often to hold your ground can position you for success.

Even typing this I know it feels relatively lame. Like old me would roll my eyes at this. Toughen up.

But the thing that this really gets at — the whole notion of a mantra or whatever — is trying to be more aware of what stories I am telling myself.

What do you think Kobe told himself as he walked onto the court in a finals game?

What about the navy seals before entering a mission?

Everyone is telling themselves a story. The thing for me is being more cognizant of my own – and injecting energy into the story that I know will give me ALIVENESS.


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