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.

energetic hygiene triangle by bonnie gillespie
Click to enbiggen.

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.

My current favorites: DJ vs. cat and my friend Emerson providing a mask tutorial. Share yours, wouldja?

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,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Enoughness is an inside job… and sometimes you need a guide to find your way there. Let Bonnie Gillespie get you started.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Kenneth Ritter April 10, 2020 at 4:52 am

    Congratulations on “going there”. Those painful areas impede our artistic abilities. I was a victim of a traumatic event when I was 5. In 2015, I was having non Epileptic Seizures because of the experience. I went to a Dr. in NYC who did Prolonged Exposure Therapy to get at the root of the pain. I can now say that the event is unpleasant but does not hold the power over me than it once did.

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 13, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      Wow, Kenneth! That is SO COOL! I love that you found a therapeutic method that aligned with your needs and provided such a breakthrough. I love it when things that have previously been jarringly harsh in our systems become unpleasantness. That’s such a great shift. Sending you love!

      Reply
  2. Avatar Kimberly Logan April 13, 2020 at 9:23 am

    I remember trying this in Expansive Capacity and not being able to figure out why I was stumbling.
    I think I have the words now to ask:
    If the base of the pyramid is Stop The Sugar, how do you know when that step is “done”? ie if I’m able to stop the sugar today, but tomorrow I go right back to it, I assume I’m not ready to move up to the next level of the pyramid.
    I’m sure patience is involved, but the triangle I initially used was stuck on level one for about a year before I finally gave up on it! (I tried a simple: “Stop adding to the pile of papers on this desk”, thinking it would be a low emotional-investment thing)

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 13, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Yes, yes, yes! I’ve got you with this, Kimberly, and it’s super micro so there’s reason for it to feel a little confusing.

      That base of the pyramid is STOP THE SUGAR. Right now. This bite. That’s it. You’re done. You’ve decided you’re using the energetic triangle on this issue and that means we’re not finishing the cookie, the milkshake, the whatever. It’s stopped. Mid-bite. STOP.

      The next level up is NO NEW SUGAR and that’s exactly the next moment, the next meal, the next day, whatever it is that is the next urge. You’ve already moved up to that new level because the base was the awareness that this — the going on of it right now — has to stop. The NO NEW SUGAR level is that you’re already on a streak of minutes or hours or almost a whole day… and by making the choice to put no new sugar in our bodies, we’re working that next level.

      Yes, we may slip to having to do a new triangle all over again from the starting point of the base level, but that’s not as much a slide DOWN the first triangle as it is a whole new triangle. Because we’re back to one. 😉

      Does that help?

      Yes, patience helps, and every time we’re NOT putting NEW sugar into our bodies, we ARE allowing ourselves to move up to the next level of the triangle. And we can actually get stronger at the earlier levels BY staying higher up the triangle on the issue. So, if you’re a day since last sugar, you can ask yourself how you can best heal the part of you that NEEDED (past tense) sugar (beyond the chemical/physical addiction; remember, this is energetic work we’re doing) because now there’s space for that convo to take place WHILE YOU’RE NOT ACTIVELY STILL DOING THE THING TODAY, to deal with current sugar-would-help needs.

      Is this landing? 🙂 I’m proud of you for doing the work!

      Reply

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