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Um… I think maybe I need help

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A few days ago I was asked some challenging questions. One of them was this:

What do you do to support yourself during difficult times?

I knew the answer.

Do you?

I know, not because I am somehow emotionally more robust or superior than other people, but because I’ve had practice, LOTS of practice.  My husband and I are currently blinking into the light at the end of the adoption tunnel, where these sorts of questions are the norm rather than the exception. When you get asked often enough, and are expected to know the answer, it focuses the mind.

Although there is no perfect, one size fits all, answer to this question, some answers are definitely more People Voodoo than others. “I don’t do emotions, thanks” doesn’t cut the mustard, nor does, “I just eat chocolate”, “I hide under the duvet” or “I take the next flight out of here”. Not that there is anything wrong with self control, chocolate, a nap or a holiday, but not for every size of problem. None of those are a healthy longer term strategy when the issues are emotionally overwhelming, complex or multiple and others are relying on you.

Life does like to offer up surprises, and not always in the form of a chocolate egg with a toy inside, (note to self about the second reference to chocolate) so it’s good to know if your support mechanisms are robust before the storm strikes.

As today is as good a day as any to mull it over, I thought this week I’d pose 3 questions you could ask yourself about your own needs and support systems.

Question 1: Do you know what your emotional needs are?

If you are lucky, your emotional needs have mostly been met in your life and you’ve not had to give this much thought. Do you know for example if you need regular hugs to feel loved and supported, or time alone, or time together, or to be told you are loved, or to be made cups of tea? If you could only have one of those, what would you prioritise? If you were suddenly forced to choose, could you live without the hug or the being told you are loved?

If you don’t know what you need or you instinctively know but you can’t quite explain it, I recommend the 5 love languages, as a good starting point. This is also great for trying to work out the needs of others you care about so that you can support them.

Question 2: Do you express or suppress emotion?

When emotion strikes, do you go with the emotion or try to contain it? I went to boarding school, where at that time, the solution to homesickness or upset was to be strong and keep busy. It has taken me many years as an adult to break this habit of suppressing emotion by denial and distraction; the pretending I’m fine, working late or cleaning the house rather than just getting angry or upset. Emotions are definitely better out than in and serve a stress relieving purpose (yes, there’s evidence).  20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry” is a great way to make sure children learn to accept and manage emotions. This article might be aimed at parents but I’ve tested it on adults and it works just as well on us too.

Question 3: Do you put all your eggs in one basket?

Now think about the last 3 emotional challenges you’ve faced (relationship break-up, bereavement, badly delivered feedback, job loss, health issue etc) and how you handled them.

  • How soon if at all did you ask for help to process feelings or thoughts?

If you did ask for help:

  • Who did you ask?
  • How did you make your choice? Did you have choices?
  • If that person wasn’t available suddenly, where would you go?
  • How big would it need to be, or how bad would it need to get before you seek professional help? and then do you know where to look?

It was only a few days ago but I can’t remember exactly what answer I gave to What do you do to support yourself during difficult times? I imagine that acknowledging and expressing feelings rather than letting things build up was in there somewhere. Sharing with others and getting professional advice as early as possible also featured, as did accepting help.

Oh, and chocolate!

 

 

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Get on the fence

person-915604_960_720Recently a new Facebook group popped up in my news feed. A reunion.

For many of us, milestones like reunions and birthdays can spark a whole host of memories and emotions.  Luckily for those who practice People Voodoo, this is a perfect opportunity for some emotional self-reflection.

Today I’m taking things back to basics and sharing with you one of my favourite self awareness activities.

‘Getting on the fence’

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘to get off the fence’, meaning to take a stand on an issue, or a side in an argument.

When it comes to our emotions we can be a bit too quick to jump off the fence and take a stand on which emotions are positive or negative. Fear, guilt, shame and anger tend to attract a negative label, whereas excitement, hope, joy and love a positive one.

All emotions tell us something important about ourselves and our story. If we can consciously get back on the fence and take a more objective look at our emotional responses, we can learn a lot about, and be kinder to, ourselves and others.

Let’s take guilt for example. 

We feel guilt when we have done something wrong. Or we could look at it another way. We feel guilt because we believe, or have been told, that we have done something wrong.

To feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong causes unnecessary suffering!

So who decides what is right and wrong? Do you decide the rules?

Are you sure?

For most of us, the rules about right and wrong, good and bad were put in place many, many years ago. We were introduced to them from an early age and take them as read until we come across someone who has been raised on different rules. Those of you who are parents will recognise the differences of opinion that can surface when you and your partner want to apply different rules to your children.

The next time an emotion strikes you, why not get on the emotional fence and ask yourself:

  • What triggered the emotion?
  • What is this emotion telling me about the rules I live by?
  • Do I respect the person or people who gave me the rules?
  • Do I agree with this rule?
  • Am I applying a rule that is outdated or no longer serves me?
  • Do I agree, looking at all the facts objectively, that this is the most appropriate response?
  • When I consider what triggered this emotion, does the size of the reaction seem in proportion?
    • If not, why do I feel so strongly?
  • Does this rule fit with the sort of person I want to be or do I need to adapt it?

If you are unsure which side of the fence to get off on, good or bad, then why not get some feedback. The best people to ask are those who have no emotion invested in the situation; those who are already on the fence.

Some of your rules and resulting emotions will serve you well and others won’t. The ones that don’t will require some effort to change. You might not be able to switch off an emotional reaction to a rule you learned when you were 3 years old on the first attempt, but the more you practice, the easier it will become. If you practise People Voodoo just remember to acknowledge that it is all about making progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting and Voodoo

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As a UK resident it would be a lost opportunity not to apply People Voodoo to today’s referendum result. No politics here, just Voodoo.

As the drama continues to unfold across the country, there are happy and angry outbursts, accusations and upset. Facebook is awash with joy and jubilation, fear and frustration. Shock has gripped millions.

Voting on a subject that is about identity is never as simple as win or lose. Many of those who lost the vote are grieving the future they feel has been taken from them, and as often is the case with grief, are lashing out at those who won. The winners are being accused of ruining lives, and hurt by the attacks, are snapping back or gloating.

There is suffering all around, win or lose; people being washed along by the raging river of shock, change and uncertainty.

Luckily, there are also those who never jumped or fell into the river, or who have quickly managed to pull themselves back out. They have seized the opportunity to apply some People Voodoo to those still caught in the rapids; helped them climb out, thrown them a lifeline. They have offered respectful congratulations to those who won, empathy and kindness to those who have lost.

There is an opportunity here to practice kindness. It is especially hard to be kind to each other when we are grieving or under attack, but it’s the time that we all need it the most.

 

 

I swear, it really hurts!

man-stress-male-faceHow do you feel about swearing?

Not the ‘making a solemn promise under oath’ kind of swearing. The offensive language, cursing, or using profanities kind of swearing.

People Voodoo seeks to reduce suffering, so you’d think that swearing would be on the list of things to avoid, but it’s not. If used wisely, swearing can actually be good for you!

If you take a dim view of swearing, or feel generally uncomfortable about, or around swearing, then please be reassured that People Voodoo does not promote swearing as a daily activity. There is however value in it for remedial purposes.

There is evidence that swearing helps you feel less pain. Yes, in the name of science volunteers put their hands in icy water and if they were allowed to swear, it reduced their pain experience compared to those who were only allowed to use neutral words. But look out, if you overuse swearing, the benefit reduces. It’s only effective in moderation.

So, regardless of how you feel about swearing, there is an opportunity to apply People Voodoo to a swearing situation. Try asking yourself:

Is this a physically or emotionally painful situation where someone is using swearing to manage their pain?

  • If yes – does the person need help to reduce suffering, and can you help?
  • If no – what’s really going on? maybe this is  a swear-oholic who might benefit from some People Voodoo.
    • Before you rush in, just be prepared that they might not want your @!!*%’! opinion.

And when you next stub your toe, grab the opportunity to be kind to yourself and swear!

If you think any of this sounds challenging, here is a reminder that progress does not happen overnight.  A ‘hole’ lot of progress.