Friday, November 20, 2009

Rehearsing for the Family Gathering

Rehearsing? Yes!
Rehearse being nice. Being group-minded.

Being at ease & in control.

Why not? We sometimes rehearse being annoyed, angry or resentful. Rehearse? With our thoughts & imagination.

In fact (here comes another ‘confession’ on my part) there was a time when I did just that: run through a past or future ‘scene’ – If so-and-so says _____, I’ll say ____.” And, I experienced discomfort: racing thoughts, plus physical distress. Keep thinking fear and anger thoughts long enough, and the body will let you know what you’re doing.

I call it The Temper Alarm that ‘goes off’. It varies considerably, but you probably have your favorites. Favorites? Yes, those typical places where your body ‘collects’ and ‘exhibits’ the tension. For many years, for me it was my stomach. Before that, it was a pretty strong tension in the back of my neck. Temper is the cause; symptoms, the effect.

But, back to the topic...
At first I thought racing thoughts were only connected to fear. Then I recognized those other kind, the anger thoughts, could be just as swift and speedy.

Thoughts about an upcoming family gathering – whatever kind: a holiday dinner, wedding, reunion, etc. – have a tendency to bring up the past. Past tempers too… “Remember when so-and-so did such-and-such?”
If it’s a humorous memory, by all means do laugh about – whether you’re expressing your memories out loud to yourself or someone else – or merely reviewing (having thoughts about them) in the space of your own mind.

Your judgments about Cousin Stuart or Aunt Christy, or Grandpa may be dormant during most of the year, but when you think about being in the same house/place with them again, temper thoughts are apt to arise. (this goes for friend-type gatherings too, not just blood relatives)

My suggestion: Take the time now, prior to the occasion, to reduce and extinguish any temper (thoughts) that you recognize or identify. Whoever ‘they’ are, they are outer environment. We can’t control anything but our own thoughts, and our own muscles. Whatever ‘they’ did is a triviality compared to your mental health.

I love the chapter in Mental Health Through Will Training that has the story about the ‘letter to be mailed’, and Dr. Low describes the letter as a ‘piece of paper’. How silly it is to get mad at/about a piece of paper.

That’s exactly how I came up with the idea that what someone says – even if it’s ‘hurtful’ and I initially get upset over it, in reality it’s only ‘sound & air’ coming out of their mouth. Take out the disturbing emotional aspect, and it’s only sound & air.

Yes, the other person may have had a unkind, hurtful ‘intention’ behind what they said. They may have been ‘showing’ their temper. But I say: “So what. My mental health is more important than the sound and air that came out of that person’s mouth!” Besides, it’s ridiculous to be mad at sound & air.

Think that’s a little far out?? Maybe. But if it works for me, if it reduces my temper and tension, and keeps my symptoms to a bare minimum – I’m going to share it.

Notice I used the word sound, not noise. To me, ‘noise’ has a connotation of temper. Noise is not pleasant. Sound is neutral. Also notice I used the word ‘air’ not ‘hot air’ – again for the same reason.

Once temper is lessen, released, erased, deleted – then make a FIRM decision that everything you say and do is going to be done with kindness.

So, this holiday time, do enjoy the yummy leftover food,
just watch it when it comes to leftover temper. I will too!

© 2009 Rose VanSickle ~ All rights reserved