How a chair helped me stop grieving (and it works for anxiety too!)

In one of my public speaking talks,  I put this picture of a chair up and ask people what it is.  Very confident answers come back: "A chair."  At which point I make a big act of trying to sit on the chair - which is projected 8 ft up on a wall (and I am only 5ft tall!)

It can take a good few seconds before someone says, "Oh, it's a PICTURE of a chair"  Bingo!

The point of the game is to talk about generalisations.  How 'we' generalise things to make communication easier.  And these generalisations can go on to become common beliefs - ie 'it is wrong to interrupt someone who is talking', and even law - we all tend to stop at red lights the world over (excluding, in my experience, the Italians!)

And like most things there are two sides to this - many positives but recently I have experienced the negative side of these generalisations - and that is when it comes to grieving.  

A very well intentioned lady this week was quite distressed with me as she felt that I was bottling up my grief after losing Mum and in danger of a messy eruption.  I was not showing what she had generalised as appropriate grieving behaviour! She found it very hard to accept that I had made a choice to look at things in a different way.

Yes, I miss Mum, however when those feelings creep up I embrace them in the memory of the laughs we had whilst she lived here, the gratitude I feel for her having allowed me to hold her hand as she passed over, the pride I feel of how she endured years of an unhappy marriage.  Grief is but one emotion that was available to me but I didnt like it, so looked for others and found these 3 felt so much better!

And that is a big part of the work that I do - helping people see things from a different perspective, or see things that were always there but had not come onto their radar yet.  

With this 'choice' being front of mind, I put a little challenge out to a group I work with to do what I call Flip it - ie look at things from another perspectve.  One lovely lady picked up the gauntlet and started talking about an operation that she will endure in the near future.  She was most worried about the recovery time so this is what we focused on to look at from a different angle. 

She then realised she was going to have at least a week of no housework and no child care as her husband would be taking care of that during her recovery - her body language and expression started to change.  Next, "I can watch that boxed set I had for Christmas but havent found time to see yet", "I can sleep!"...and the list went on.  Within just a few minutes she had gone from clearly being stressed about the op to almost bouncing on the sofa about all that she was going to do in the week following it - all fears well and truly chased away. 

The op had not gone away, her view of it had changed - and that is what flipping it does - it changes your view to one that can be much more comfortable to live with!

And it can be that easy. 

If you have something that is worrying you, give yourself a quiet few moments and play devils advocate.  Ask yourself questions such as "What can I now do that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?", "What do I not have to do now" and the golden question "What would I say to a friend to help them if they were in this situation?"

And here is a challenge for you - Using the comments box below, share what is causing you worry at the moment and how you could make a different choice on how you view it.  I will pick one comment at random and offer a free session with me (worth £70).  Anyone up for that challenge??


PS: and if you want to learn a bit more about Flipping it, watch here 

Published by Caroline Cavanagh Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of Anxiety Alchemy. on |

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