Monday, March 5, 2012

Grief: Learning New Dance Steps

Let's make them dance steps instead of simply learning to walk again.  Yes, I know.  Sometimes it feels more like a boxing match than a dance.  I spent the weekend at my NLP training.  Neuro Linguistic Programming is a way of creating change that combines human creativity with the idea that the brain is like a computer that can be reprogrammed.  What we picture in our minds, what we say to ourselves, how we move, all affects how we feel.  After Artie died I did the bereavement group, therapist thing but after a while I got bored talking about myself.  If you count how many times, even in this blog, I've said the words sad and lonely it would be billions. I decided to take different kinds of training instead of being a patient or a client.

My favorite technique is one I have mentioned before.  It is to roll my memories backwards - with happy or silly music to before Artie died.  When I talked about being in the airport, hearing "Lean on Me" and being sad but for a short time it was because of that technique.  It used to take me a long time to do it.  Now it comes more quickly.  The song makes me sad in the present because my favorite person to lean on is dead.  However if I put myself in my imagination back in time when Artie and I were singing together in the audience, or when we were actually leaning on each other, holding each other - I feel the joy and the comfort I felt then.  It's not delusional.  I know he's dead.  I don't live in the past.  Well, sometimes I do. :)   However - why should I feel sad when I can feel good and become lighter?  The time you spend in a past moment to recapture those happy feelings you have to be squarely in the past - then you can bring not the past - but the feelings forward with you into the present.  You want to bring the happiness forward - not the sadness and longing backward.

When I was at excerise I was talking about Artie.  My trainer said that while I was doing that my shoulders - which are normally made of taut wire - relaxed.  That told me I was on the right track.  If loving Artie and being with him some of my day makes my body relax that reinforces my idea that for me moving on means saying not goodbye - but hello.  Welcome, Artie.  Thank you for still giving me so much every day.

I learned another technique this weekend that I feel works well.  You picture a feeling you are having about a situation.  Think of what color it is, what it feels like.  Then you imagine a tunnel.  It can be as long as you want in imaginary space but it has to have a sensible end in real space.  I know that because I pictured doing the exercise with sadness and winding up 50 blocks from where I started.  You can picture someone - if you feel it will help - waiting for you on the other side of the tunnel.  Physically mime opening the door.  Physically walk through the tunnel, feeling the colors and consistency of what is around you.  When you get to the end of the tunnel turn around and close the door.  Now what do you feel?  What color is it?  You can walk through as many tunnels as you like. Always open the door - walk through - turn around and close the door. What is on the other side?  A person I guided in the exercise had the emotion of fear attached to a situation.  Its color was bright red.  When he closed the door on it he felt relief.  The color of his relief was rosy white. Rosy.  Red can be hot like fire or full of softeness and beauty like a rose.  After he walked through the rosy white feeling of relief tunnel he was smiling. If you are experiencing an emotion that makes you feel good you can anchor it by touching a part of your body - or touching the tip of your thumb and your forefinger together.  Creating an anchor gives you a way to call back a feeling.  Someone touched their heart.  If I am feeling safe and cosy I can touch my heart.  I touch my heart and recall instantly those feelings of safety and cosiness no matter where I am.

There is also what is called the "Circle of Excellence" - which I like to call the magic circle.  Picture a circle on the floor big enough to step into. Think of a feeling or a skill - again give it a color and a size - it could be a cloud around you - or anything you want.  When you have a picture of it - step into the circle.  Feel it all around you and through you.  Breathe it in.  You can do something call a roll up which is simply touching your toes (or getting as close as possible as you can) and rolling your body up so that what you have chosen to experience in the circle rolls up and covers every inch of you.  When you are feeling that completely, step out of the circle.  People rarely want to step out.  If you have done it well - you feel so good you want to stay.  You have to step out so that you can repeat the exercise - and learn that the circle can be recreated for you any time - any place.  No one even has to know what you are doing.  You could be in the mall or at a family gathering.  If you have a circle of comfort and you know what it feels like - picture it and step into if something uncomfortable occurs.  It will be your secret.  To everyone else it will look like you have only moved over a little.

All of these things require movement.  They repattern your brain.  It doesn't mean that miraculously your grief is gone.  There are NLP practitioners that would disagree with me.  They would say that you can, in fact, change your belief system and transform your grief completely.  For me, I am happy being sad that Artie is dead.  I don't want to give up my sadness.  It tells me how much I love him, how grateful I am for that love, how much I miss him.  It helps me have compassion for others.  However, these things help me shift the balance so  my tired, stuck, desperate me is less powerful  and my creative, happy, productive me shows up more often.. 

One of the images I came up with this weekend is a baby kangaroo in its mommy kangaroo's pouch.  I like being all snuggled in there, not having to face life without Artie.  Instead of having a cheat day I now call it a pouch day.  One day a week I can have a pouch day where I don't have to do anything except hide away.  A lot of times without Artie the world hurts.  On the other hand someone this weekend said I was amazing and the person they said it to agreed with them.  I'm glad I was there for that.  The teacher asked me if I was complete (meaning if I had completed the exercise).  I said, "Yes."  It was a metaphor.  Somehow, even with Artie no longer alive, for the first time I am beginning to feel complete in myself.  When it all dissolves, as it does and will - I can have pouch day - but also remember how to peek my head out of the pouch - and then jump out and go hopping off.

This weekend my mind stretched in a lot of new directions.  Today at exercise my body stretched in a lot of new directions.  Won't say I'm not sore.  I definitely took a nap!  However, we are all doing it.  We are all breathing.  We are being alive.  Stretch.  Each stretch extends our reach.  I know we can do it together. xo

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