In addition to letting you know that I’ve ended my all-sugar diet (it was fun; I sleep better when I’m “running clean” though), I wanted to share a tool that I’ve been using for a while now. It helps me. Maybe it’ll help you too.
In 2018, I started out on a deep mind-body healing journey that included hospitalization, bedrest, endless tests, PT, acupuncture, hypnosis, and ultimately a connection with parts of myself I had walled off for decades. Because if you stuff your emotions down long enough (or compartmentalize them, or drink them away, or pour perfectionism and workaholism on them when vodka’s not around), eventually your body will say, “Bitch, sit down.” I had no choice but to do the work I’d been avoiding since childhood.
Anyway, without getting too much into all that (I have a fabulous list of resources you may want to check out), I wanted to share my energetic hygiene triangle.
I wrote this up during a mind-body medicine class in July of 2018. I shared it with my enoughness masterminders in Expansive Capacity a few months later. This is at the core of some of our work when it comes to stabilizing balance and strengthening… anything, really.
We start at the bottom. STOP THIS PAIN. Here’s the visual I want you to hold for this first level: If the tub is overflowing, the first thing we do isn’t getting out a toolbox or calling a plumber. Heck, it’s not even grabbing towels. It’s STOP THIS PAIN: pulling out the stopper. Turning off the water. STOP THIS PAIN.
Moving up from there, we have NO NEW PAIN. This is a close relative to STOP THIS PAIN, and this is not turning on the water again after we found a way to turn it off. For my mind-body healing work, this meant boundaries like a mo’ fo’. I could not — would not — take on any new pain while in the depth of my healing work.
Next on the energetic hygiene triangle is HEAL OLD PAIN. Now we can get out the towels because we’ve stopped the water from flooding in and we’ve taken the stopper out so that old stuff can flow, unblocked. Only now can we take a look at things to find out how we got into this pickle to begin with. Let me underscore this: Until we’ve stopped the current pain AND ceased adding any new pain to the equation, there is no benefit to digging in and trying to heal any old pain. It won’t work. It can’t “stick” as solutions go. Order of operations is everything here.
Because we’re now doing some healing of old pain, we realize we’ve developed some NEW COPING MECHANISMS for handling pain as it’s flowing into our lives. In fact, as we heal the old pain, any new pain that does try to show up is dealt with differently. Better. With more grace and ease.
And finally we’re so good at this that we can GET OUT AHEAD OF IT from here. *If* we stay mindful, *if* we continue to do the work of energetic hygiene — NOT go back to anything maladaptive that led to the acute pain we found ourselves in at the beginning of all this — *if* we keep using those new coping mechanisms as we heal more of the old pain that pops up and surprises us (all the while being really good about keeping new pain from landing), we actually develop the ability to weather even really painful things from a truly meaningful place.
I tried out the energetic hygiene triangle on my sobriety. From the bottom — stop drinking the beverage in hand right then — on up to no new booze passing the lips, then do some work on what made drinking the option of choice for so long, followed by learning replacement behaviors for the drinking, and then finally staying in such a healthy place about the triggers that led to a less-than-healthy relationship with drinking, that being able to navigate things that for decades would’ve resulted in, “I need a drink!” becomes joyful and even somewhat easy to do.
With lots of practice. And grace. And presence.
Right now, I see such a need for patience and grace and presence. SUCH a need.
And I see things like way too much exposure to social media or catastrophic news or even friends and family who cannot stop complaining or worrying or worst-case-scenario-ing everything as those low-on-the-triangle pains to avoid.
While so many folks are rushing to FIX the economy and HEAL the broken systems and CHANGE all the disparity-filled relationships at play here, the more important work of NOW is way lower on the triangle.
STOP THIS PAIN
NO NEW PAIN
If you’re exposed to too much emotion right now — more than you ever find yourself having to endure for such long stretches of time, normally — the work is to set a boundary. Declare a sacred circle with yourself at the center. Create a moat. Make it safe for you to feel what you’re feeling WITHOUT the piling-on of all the things that everyone else is feeling right now.
I love the energetic hygiene triangle so much that I even used it on sugar when I declared it a thing of the past the other day. Stop the sugar. No new sugar. THEN do some journaling about the scared, powerless, free-falling feelings that got me going on that all-sugar diet to begin with. THEN revisit my toolbox for better, healthier, next-tier me coping mechanisms to deal with things like being scared, powerless, and free-falling for longer a stretch of time than my nervous system can comprehend.
And of course, getting out ahead of it simply means knowing — expecting — that the emotions will well up. I will spin out (again). Because this is a LOT. And we’re all feeling it.
It’s now a balance of letting my primal brain know, “We’re safe,” while absolutely NOT normalizing what is our current state of normal. Letting it feel okay to be in the unknown for a bit. Definitely not deciding that “if I could just get more INFORMATION about all this, I’d feel better” because OMG if anything we all need *less* detail on so many things right now.
This is why all the memes and vids and hilarious lighthearted things tear through the internet at times like this.
And share your thoughts on my energetic hygiene triangle. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s granular. Three things we kind of need for all the complexity and oversaturation we’re experiencing right now.
With that, I’ll share one last reminder that my free, quarterly SMFA Tune-Up call is still happening on Saturday. You can get signed up right over here. Yes, we’re gonna talk about how the industry has changed and will continue to change. Yes, we’ll get to rejoice in the fact that — no matter what — the show must go on.
Because the first thing those first-responders do after a grueling day is look to entertainment for some relief. Our work *is* healing.
Stay safe, my friends. This is a lot.
And that’s okay.
All my love,