This week, we’re talking about fear – not the fun kind that comes from taking risks and growing, but the dreadful, icky kind that comes from having unresolved crap lurking in your psyche and pretending it’s not there. This is a type of fear that is deeply, intimately familiar to me, and I still find it very challenging to deal with. So, in honor of Halloween this week, I’m inviting you to play “name that monster!” with me. It’s a (marginally) fun game, but words of caution – if you have unhealed trauma, or even suspect you do – please, don’t even think about playing it until you have an established relationship with a therapist. Until you have a safe space to process this stuff, it’s way safer and smarter to leave these suckers unnamed.
Turning Off the Fog Machine
If you are anything like me, the very idea of addressing any type of unresolved trauma may send you into a state of near-manic worry about nearly anything else. I’ve recently joined a twelve step program, and am seeing this giant, looming step in front of me of “take a fearless and searching moral inventory of myself.” Oh dear. Part of me is phenomenally excited – it feels like a psychic cleanup of crap that I didn’t manage to get to in my healing journey yet. The rest of me is just flat out scared of facing all of this icky junk. Instead of looking at the fear of facing it, I’ve been cranking my mental fog machine to the point where I can barely see in front of me.
I’ve found myself making to-do lists that encompass multiple legal sheets. I can never possibly get everything done! There is so much to do, and I’m behind! I’ll never have any time to look at this stuff, cause there are SO MANY tasks I need to do, and they are all critical!!!!! Folks, I work for myself. I set my own schedule and create my own tasks! This self-imposed mania of task-busting is my version of a fog machine.
Take a minute and check in with what your fog machine might look like. An overwhelming schedule? A sudden and profound conviction that you need to fix your garden, right now? The realization that you must volunteer all of your time to a specific cause? A nearly obsessive habit of watching CNN, hoping you can somehow influence the election to your satisfaction by merely watching? An intense brooding over how much clutter you need to deal with? Whatever might be pulling your complete attention, I’m guessing it will have the following qualities – it’s consuming, it’s relatively minor in the scheme of your life, and it’s safe.
I’m inviting you to turn off the fog machine – whatever that looks like for you – and take a look at the monsters instead. For me, enveloping them in fog just makes them scarier, cause I can’t see them, and I never know when they might jump out and get me. Further… the fog itself sucks, and it’s causing me additional, completely pointless pain.
Name That Monster!
I’m just going to bet that you already know exactly what monsters are lurking in your psychic closet, you just don’t want to name them and make them real. At least, that is my own personal experience – I know they’re there, I just don’t want to deal with them so I’m pretending I don’t know what they are. I’m inviting you to bravely name them, and to make the process of naming them take as much power out of them as possible. Here we go:
Step #1: Find the least scary area of denial and write it down.
Seriously – please start with the minor stuff and work up to the scarier things. Maybe you’ve not been willing to face that you don’t ever balance your checkbook, and this really bothers you. It’s hardly traumatic, but if it eats at you and you’re pretending it doesn’t, it’s a great place to start.
Step #2: Give it a ludicrous name.
There’s certainly no reason to give these creepers menacing names. We’re looking for absurd things that feel nearly silly to you. I’ve named my unhealed trauma related to men “Mr. Lurky” – it’s not the wittiest thing I’ve ever come up with, but it’s really hard for me to feel afraid of confronting something with that name.
Step #3: Draw your monster.
I find it way easier to cope with the fear of looking at these things when I have a visual. It feels like a container to me, and it takes some of the looming power out of them. Here’s two of the ones that are upcoming for me:
Step #4: Shrink that sucker.
This is possibly my favorite tactic from Martha Beck – imagine that your monster is two inches tall and standing on the palm of your hand. I find it nearly impossible to do this without laughing. I cannot be afraid of a two inch tall “Mr. Lurky.”
Step #5: Give yourself a prize!
Congratulations!! You have successfully named a monster! This deserves celebration and a prize. For me, it’s getting to play with glitter glue to my heart’s content. Whatever it is for you, make it as fun as you can!
Of course, actually facing this stuff is still going to be hard, but I hope this helps a bit on the path there. Do you have any fear-busting tactics? I’d love to hear them please post them in the comments.