Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Put Your Personal Demons on ICE!

"We Choose Not to Cooperate with Your Stupid Christmas Photo!" by Melissa Klein
Models: Hawthorne, April, Captain & Willbe
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By Melissa Klein

As the holidays approach, I find myself in that  “love-hate” mode about them: love seeing relatives and friends, hate feeling obligated to do things that feel incongruent to my values. And of course, there are always the complications of dealing with some difficult family members or difficult moments around self-worth.

Here’s a method that I’ve devised to deal with some of those situations. I call it “ICER” and I like to think of the iciness of it as an antidote for the hot, angry feeling that happens around triggers. 


Identify the triggers; OK - you know who and what the main ones are: “that relative” or “that co-worker” or “the _______ (job, health, spouse etc.) situation” but what about the more subtle ones? 

How about the fact that you only got a few hours of sleep the night before? That is a trigger. 
What about booze? How well do you hold it? I enjoy booze, but it doesn’t take much to make me silly. Um… maybe half a glass is better than two glasses in some situations… That could be a trigger as well.

Same with eating - I had a couple of bites of cake at a staff potluck lunch, and suddenly I couldn’t think straight. I’m not really used to eating that much sugar, especially at that time of day. And then I had to teach… and then something went kinda sideways with a student… you get the picture. It wasn’t completely horrible, but I can’t help but wonder if I couldn’t have handled things better without that cake. It wasn’t really worth it. 

Triggers are not only situations and people, but they can be also things that you can control - sleep, eating and thoughts.

"April Pigs Out for the Holidays" by Melissa Klein
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Watch your thoughts; do they tend towards the negative? “That person is going to make me feel stupid….” Is it 100% true that it will happen? Probably not. 

Can you find a choice in how you look at it? “That person has talked down to me in the past. They may or may not behave that way this time. It’s really their problem - I don’t have to make it mine.” The choice is yours in how you take it. 

Or this is a mantra I made up: “I can’t control what others think, say or doo-doo! That’s their poop!”

And while you can’t control what others do (or doo-doo) - you always have a choice somewhere. It can be as small a choice as “I can choose to ask to reschedule this…” larger, “I have a choice to either keep this engagement or to cancel it,” or big “I can choose to go to Africa and celebrate Kwanza instead!” 

Reframe it in a way that acknowledges your choice. And while it’s a choice that you may or may not regret, it’s yours! Own it.

"Captain & Willbe at Xmas" by Melissa Klein
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Even if no-one else notices that something is getting to you, you feel it…. There’s always the bathroom. I know that this feels really silly, but there’s ALWAYS THE BATHROOM! And you have the perfect, socially acceptable reason to go and take a few minutes to be in your own private hideaway. So what if it seems like your bladder is out of whack? It’s unlikely that anyone will notice, and so what if they do?

Here’s another one; keep your dog in the car and go out periodically to check on him, it will do both of you good. Borrow the neighbor’s dog if you have to, perhaps they need someone to babysit the dog while they are away?

Set an alarm on your phone - and say that it’s a call you have to take. Step outside to take that VIP call.

Or - deep breath, say that you just need a minute.

"Willbe Hood Ornament" by Melissa Klein
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In that escape mode, ask yourself “What is the best outcome for this situation? What do I really want out of what is going on here?”

• It may be that you want to enjoy the company of the loved ones despite something uncomfortable.
• It may be that you want to be alone.
• It may be that you need to set a boundary for “that person.”

So… What are you going to do about it? Confront them? Stay? Leave? Decide to go along with it to keep the peace? All are valid choices depending on the situation.

Find your best, most positive outcome. And re-engage with the situation from that higher ground.

Here are some sample scripts:

• I am choosing to stay for the festivities, but I don’t feel comfortable with ___________. I will ignore their behavior as best as possible so that I can enjoy seeing the rest of my family.
• I need to be alone so I will say my goodbyes and honor that need without guilt, shame or blame.
• I need to be clear about what I am willing to do to contribute - I am willing to help with ___________, but not with ___________. Or I have a limited budget, so I will not be able to purchase anything over  _____$.
• This may make _______ angry, but how he/she know if I don’t say anything? (repeat the mantra - “I can’t control what others think, say or doo-doo! That’s their poop!”)

"Every Stupid Holiday" by Melissa Klein
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Communicate from the perspective of humor and kindness - this will probably be more funny than tragic in a year or less. Take it from that perspective. Remember the things that got you steamed in high school? That are now just funny? What if you could have approached it from the perspective of ten years or more later? Totally different - right? 

And realize that as triggered as you might feel, there are probably others who are just as triggered you are or more. Compassion is the root of kindness.

May the ICER be with you!
And….. Happy Holidays!


If this article interested you and you want to explore this more in-depth, I will be offering a workshop about confronting and overcoming your Personal Demons. It will be a combination of entertaining storytelling, art history, discussion and right-brain art exercises. 

What are Right-Brain Exercises?
A picture is worth a thousand words and helps to galvanize your emotional forces to create positive change. Many times we become inundated with a tidal-wave of words or become demotivated by all of the “shoulds” in life - which make it hard to see things clearly. 
Right-brain exercises are a playful use of visualization techniques to see concepts in a new light. Using simple materials like ink, paper, sand, collage, and doodling - you will be able to engage your visual side and have it communicate with you in a way that is outside of words and creates a clear picture of issue and new possibilities. 
It’s not about creating art, its about using art to create a new perspective. — Melissa Klein

The Happy Factor
People get really happy when they are given permission to play like children before they knew if something is “good” or “bad” — they can’t fail. Remember the joy of mud pies before they were “dirty”? Accessing problems from a positive and humorous perspective is more motivating to create change.

Journal of Journey
Your Journal is included in the workshop and is something that you will take away with you as a physical reminder - and to add onto as you gain new insights. This is about creating lasting change and keeping inspired.

Personal Demons
Sunday, December 15 

6717 Marshall Road
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Space is limited - reserve your place!  Tuition: $80 per workshop

Please call me at 360.809.0083 or email me at to reserve your place.