Set aside a regular time every day to experience your suffering.
If you find yourself in a crisis when you have trouble getting through the day because difficult thoughts and painful feelings keep bursting in upon you, try this method for scheduling your suffering.
Set aside 15 minutes, at the same time every day. Keep to this schedule.
Set a timer. Sit down.
- Give yourself completely, totally, to your thoughts and feelings.
- Experience them fully. Don’t hold back.
- Let the problem consume you absolutely.
- In the beginning, this may be difficult.
When the timer goes off, get up, shake yourself off, and say,
- “See you again at this time tomorrow!”
- Walk around, stretch, wash your hands, take a shower, fix supper, go back to doing the ordinary things of your day.
When those distressing feelings come to you at other times, just repeat,
- “I’ll see you tomorrow at 5:15” (or whenever your scheduled time is).
If the feelings keep coming back, just keep gently repeating this.
Day by day, there’s a good chance the feelings will start to calm down.
- What feelings want most is to be heard, and you have set up a schedule for listening to them — so they don’t need to bang so hard on the window of your attention the rest of the time.
After your distressed feelings start to calm down a little, you can say reassuring things like this to them:
- I’m here to listen to whatever you want to tell me.
- I’ll learn whatever you want to teach me.
- I’m here, I’m listening, I care.
- I’ll be back tomorrow.
- I’ll always be here for you.
Then just sit there, relax into the experience, and give yourself totally to the unresolved difficulties of your life.
For 15 minutes.
Be brave. And remember to breathe.
Over a period of several years, I freely adapted this exercise from A Writer’s Time: Making the Time to Write, by Kenneth Atchity, where he taught the idea as a way to keep creative impulses from completely taking over your life by scheduling a regular time to write them down. It’s brilliant!
Gerald Grow is a retired journalism professor. More at www.longleaf.net.