Dr. Richard Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems model states that we know we are connected to “Big-S” Self when we experience one or more of the following towards a person or situation: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness.
The S-E-L-F Tools I describe below help me connect to my “Big-S” Self even when a rude comment or frustrating email threaten to ignite the reactions of my “Little-s” self. Each tool can be used together or individually.
Tool 1. S= Surrender
There are times when I feel powerless or out of control. My go-to remedy? Assert MORE power and control, of course! The problem with this solution? When guided by frustration and fear the situation seldom ends well for me. When I choose to surrender, however, creative solutions to problems rise within or around me.
What does surrendering look like for me? Few people enjoy feeling anger. I become angry when I believe I’ve lost my desired option and lack an equally desirable back-up plan. For me surrender is about acknowledgment.
We can acknowledge that we: 1) feel powerless, afraid, and/or frustrated 2) lack the awareness of the right thing to do; 3) possess the awareness but lack the desire to do what is right; 4) need guidance and support from our “Big-S” Self or the “Big-S” Selves within others.
Tool 2. E= Enter into stillness
My mind is the poster child for what Buddhists call “Monkey Mind”—restless and uncontrollable. My monkeys can wreak havoc in my head—knocking over furniture, throwing feces on the walls. I can surrender all day but at times my thoughts and feelings jump and screech non-stop.
What does entering stillness look like for me? I meditate! I sit and focus on my breath or the sounds around me.
Entering into stillness gives us something to do after surrendering. Meditation turns our focus away from ineffectively trying to fix others and towards the only thing upon which we have insight and influence—ourselves. Entering into stillness is like entering into the eye of a tornado where everything is quiet. We are not trying to stop the winds of thoughts and emotions (if you are, good luck with that!), but we are not overwhelmed or carried away by them either.
Tool 3: L=Leave the past and the future where they are
I create great stories about who did what, why and what will happen as a result. Unfortunately, these stories are often filled with frustration towards my past and fear of my future. Stories, in essence provide my mental monkeys with branches to swing from and bananas to feed upon! Because I cannot enter another person’s mind, a majority of my stories are based upon my own assumptions and judgments; they have little to do with others. It’s like having a nightmare where people in my life are hurting me and upon waking, I punish those people for what they did in my dream. Even if parts of my dream carried truth, much of it was my mind’s creation.
What does leaving the past and future look like for me? I remind myself that my stories, full of my assumptions and judgments, are creating my suffering. I then come back to the present moment and, if necessary, refer to Tool #1.
This is not ignoring the problem rather we are choosing to be in the moment for this moment, so the monkeys can calm down. Something upsetting may have happened; however, the problem is not banging down the door (and if it is, find peace AND call the police!—Not necessarily in that order). In most moments, nothing is wrong unless your fear, frustrations, and judgments deem it so.
Tool 4. F = Find gratefulness.
When all else fails and the tornadoes are flinging me mercilessly and the monkeys are running the zoo, I can always retreat to gratitude.
Our brains cannot fully focus on more than one thought at a time. When we focus on a grateful moment, thoughts that lead to anger or fear momentarily withdraw.
What does finding look like for me? I close my eyes and picture something for which I am grateful—usually my children.
When we shift our thoughts in this way, we shift our emotions; our bodies stop making stress hormones and start making relaxation hormones. As our bodies relax, our minds open to creative solutions and learning. Gratefulness (and similar emotions) is our mental reset button. Once hit, we can return to our physical, mental and emotional baseline.
~Go to the Self Center and complete a brief meditation using metaphors as your guide.~
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