How to stop sweating the small stuff… once you’ve already started

angry womanTragedy, like blame and Brunelleschi, is so often a matter of perspective. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to be rational about stuck lids, traffic jams, and computer crashes? These paradigm dependent annoyances are essentially arbitrary; it’s the timeless universals triggered deep in our limbic brains that cause all the huffing and puffing. So how can we tame our reptilian responses and learn to follow Miranda Kerr’s (who better than a supermodel to guide us plebs) most recent life advice and stop sweating the small stuff?

Let’s take a classic example – wish it was hypothetical. Two days ago I turned on my office computer and discovered that an entire chapter of my work-in-progress novel had vanished into thin… into… if I knew where, even metaphorically, I’d be ahead of the game. Instantly, I felt my whole body reacting: sweaty palms, nausea, teeth gnashing rage… the works. My prefrontal cortex couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I knew my only hope of regaining perspective on this paradigm pitfall was to engage with my system as a whole.

Exercise in Engagement: How to stop sweating the small stuff… once you’ve already started

1) (Optional) Begin to loosen paradigm associations/restrictions by performing a quick sense scroll mindfulness meditation – preferably, but not necessarily, in paradigm neutral territory (aka nature).

2) Identify the universal human theme that has been triggered. Since I was already blasting my way through the 5 stages, it was easy to identify ‘loss’ as my emotional theme.

3) Since our brains already process our lives through story, it’s only logical to make use of storytelling as a practical psychological tool. Determine the historical/geographical/situational paradigm that best fits your body/brain’s current system state reaction. My reptilian brain tends to be a bit of drama queen, so my go-to paradigm for almost any piss-off is medieval London during the plague years – not exactly the swingin’ sixties. Story a situation that truly reflects your emotional state, thereby acknowledging your initial reaction with respect and permission. What are the sights, sounds, smells? Characters? Dialogues? Really push it.

4) Take your universal theme into an entirely different paradigm and a story that would warrant an emotional reaction on the opposite end of the spectrum. Play around. Journey your piss-off through time and space to find multiple comparables. Someone stepping on a clay pot I just made in a Roman pottery kiln. Losing my latest obsidian spear point… and finding it again. Change the ending. This is your story. The purpose is to flood your brain with conflicting sets of information to clear the stage for conscious re-framing of your initial circumstance.

5) Return to your own paradigm and decide how big of a deal this really is. I do mean decide. By respecting your initial reaction, and giving it the neural space to temper through alternative storytelling, your thinking will be directed towards a more neutral, rational objectiveness. Any novel necessitates rewrites, so this is just an inevitable part of the process – plus, I’ve still got the handwritten draft. Also, because you’ve loosened your associations, certain paradigm privileges will start to peek through. My office’s air conditioning for one!

This entire process can be performed in under 5 minutes and can save, not just your composure, but your whole day, not to mention more than a few marriages. By some sweet miracle of storytelling come to life, the next morning I found a hidden typed hard copy of my lost chapter in a place I swear I’d already double-checked. But something tells me I’ll be storying new troubles back to the ol’ Thames before the week is out. Must be a human or something… sigh.

How to survive a woman who threatens your universe at the atomic level

universal photocopier“I’m pissed off.” The red haired woman states the obvious, with equally obvious venom.

I think I hate her. The realization is sudden, visceral, and acute. My stomach has made up its mind. She presents as an archetype I’ve spent my life avoiding eye contact with in high school hallways and grim office elevators. Not that I can’t come around – I’ve done it before – but the photocopier she did battle with earlier has my sympathies. And now that I’ve sacrificed the sleeves of my sweater to her jury-rigged straightjacket, there’s no turning back.

“I can see that,” I say. “Three minutes, will you give me just three minutes?”

“You’ve got a captive audience, girl.”

Swallowing her ‘girl’ with quiet martyrdom, I take her ever so gently through a 3 Minute Sense Scroll Mindfulness Meditation – my go to innovation that has helped my own brain rewire to focus its attentions, engage with the environment, and emerge from internal constructs/conflicts.

“There.” I breath deeply, feeling quite relaxed myself. My perception of my client is momentarily softened and compassion is awakened by my reconnection to self. “Are you feeling a little more grounded now?”

“No.”

The word is spit with a certain – yes I’m certain – gleeful malice that hits me right in the gut. How could any brain resist such a powerful tool? Must be out of spite. But why would any mind fight its natural craving for balance and peace? Her death stare is unrelenting, and now she’s fidgeting in her straightjacket and stretching my sleeves more and more by the second. I’m appalled by her total disregard for another person’s property. The photocopier becomes personified in my mind, poor thing. I empathize with its jamming now that the gears in my own head are locking up. And here she is traumatizing something else that doesn’t belong to her. Bitch.

“Shit.” I say. To which she looks triumphant. Drawing a blank in the face of such hostility, I reluctantly serve the cat her cream: “So why don’t you just tell me what’s pissing you off.”

I see her mouth open as she sucks in not only all the air in the office, but all available energy too, extending her vacuum to rob our oxygen atoms of their very spin as they’re drawn into her black void of negativity. I swear my eyeballs bulge and the overhead florescents flicker and dim as their photons are stretched and dragged screaming, tearing, into the abyss. Only a black hole or an angry woman can disrupt the space-time continuum – I know this, just ask my husband. But I could never match this wild haired force of nature. Sleeve assault aside, this woman’s utter disregard for the room’s atomic balance leaves nothing even remotely sustaining for me. Bitch.

“Wait!” I cry out, all hard-won professionalism abandoned. “I have a better idea.”

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