pain

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  • Am I applying a rule that is outdated or no longer serves me?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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A change is like a…

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If the saying is true and a change is like a holiday, then the UK leaving the EU is like a two week break in the Maldives!

Maybe not.

In reality, change can be hard, especially when it is forced upon us. Actually, it can feel like a real punch in the face.

Why? Because it’s emotional. It’s about loss.

We need to go deeper than facts and process to help each other navigate change. This means there is plenty of opportunity to apply People Voodoo.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave her view on this topic as far back as 1969. She may have worked with the terminally ill, but when she concluded that we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in loss situations, she might as well have been describing the effects of the EU referendum.

Denial

This is the shock stage where we think there must be a mistake. Maybe votes have not been counted, the screen hasn’t refreshed. Of course, if it’s all over Facebook and every news channel, then denial doesn’t last long. If it does, then People Voodoo would recommend to allow a bit of time for it to sink in. If it helps to check the facts, do it. If it helps to repeat it several times, do that. This is a normal response to loss, it takes as long as it takes. 

Anger

Another reaction to change is to question why. Frustrated, we seek out the reason or the source of the problem which can result in blaming; people or events. We might be angry with those who voted differently, those we think lied or those who use it as an opportunity to pedal their own agenda. We might be angry with ourselves for being taken in, for being complacent and letting this happen, or for making the wrong decision.

Before we judge, and expect others to accept things and move on, it is worth considering how accepting we are being. Anger is a normal response to loss. Someone who is grieving is suffering, even if it comes out as anger. Where People Voodoo can help, is with being respectful to others in the messages we put out during this time. Anger is not equal to aggression. It is possible to honour the anger without doing harm to ourselves or others.

Bargaining

This is a negotiation or compromising stage. For People Voodoo this is the perfect time for listening. What is being bargained about, tells us what is really at the root of the suffering. We can’t go back to life before an event (yet), but there may be other options for going forward. If someone tries to bargain for what you believe to be a lost cause, just remember, this is a normal response to loss. Listen and help them work through the arguments or options, there may be something there to work with.

Depression

This is the ‘what’s the point’ stage. The sadness. This is a normal response to loss and maybe the one we most easily associated with it. We may become recluse, stop engaging in the discussion and disassociate ourselves, emotionally or physically. The People Voodoo approach here is one of being available as a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, offering and encouraging kindness to ourselves and others.

Acceptance – not to be confused with feeling OK about it all!

This the point where we can start to prepare for what is to come. People who feel they have suffered a loss won’t suddenly feel happy about it, and we can’t expect them to. What acceptance gives people is the space to plan ahead, without anger or sadness dragging them back. People Voodoo is all a bout getting here as fast as possible.

What about you?

What was your reaction to a recent change? Are you one of the lucky ones who flies past the other stages on the way to acceptance? Are there changes that you accept more easily than others? How are they different to the ones you struggle with? If you do get stuck in any of the stages, where do you stay the longest? Why do you think that is? How do you move yourself on?

Change will certainly feel more like a holiday if we can all get to acceptance faster with minimal time spent suffering on the way.

 

 

 

 

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.