We can pretty easily describe a metaphorical image of what we look like when we are highly stressed. For instance, we may refer to ourselves as a “wild-eyed, wild hair, raging beast” or a “racing tornado just like my mother.” Or we may see ourselves as a “warrior, battling the world.”
It is worthwhile to watch ourselves carefully when we are stressed to spot additional details of this inner character we play when things are not going well. This is not a casual, unimportant imagining of our minds for our minds take this stuff very, very seriously, indeed. The mind, and more specifically, the unconscious, loves this stuff. It is a primary fuel for our inner world.
If we run inner dramas of with us being a wild, barely in control character, we will live that role out. If our go-to role is the harried, I can’t believe nor accept us with every stressor there is no room and no experience playing a different role.
But there are many other roles we can, with lots of practice, learn to act out. We see them in literature and movies:
The Clever, Self-Possessed Hero – These characters range from Sherlock Holmes to James Bond, to Laura Croft.
The Wise Person – Usually associated with the wise, old male, this characterization of a calm person is not limited to men. Many wise women who can see the big picture, hold things in perspective, who are patient can also be found.
The Centered and Detached Sports Person – Think balance-beam gymnasts; professional poker players, golfers.
The Bounce Back Person – We find these not only in literature but in life; the person who goes through tremendous trials but comes right back and keeps on keeping on.
The Immersed Artist/Craftsman/Worker – These people immerse themselves into something finite but seem to get almost infinite vitality, enjoyment, and relaxation from what they are doing.
The Keep to the Simple Person – Look for literary characters who keep a simple life that stands in contrast to the people spinning, busily around them.
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1. Find an image from the list above (and from your list) the clicks for you. Note, it doesn’t have to be a single inner character. Our stressed out inner image is usually made of a little this and a little that, so you can make your relaxation self-image a little this and a little that, too.
2. Imagine that self-image a little bit each day for a month. We are talking about a few minutes each day. Do this until you feel connected to your image and that it is very clearly in mind.
3. Bring your self-image up in stressful but lower stress situations and start to act as if you are that image. See what you discover.
4. Apply imagining that self-image to memories of stressful situations and see what you can imagine as how you would have responded as that sort of character.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice steps 1 through 5. It takes awhile to develop our stressed-out image, it will take time to develop an inner image we know can pop up on its own when we are facing stress.
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