We all have to sometimes deal with difficult and uncomfortable situations in life. Some of those can be regarding our siblings or our families during get togethers. In Fern’s book, I briefly discuss of a way in which we can protect ourselves. I sometimes call this “facing the dragon.” Some of us can feel things on a deeper level than others. If you’re the black sheep in your family, then you’re highly aware of what doesn’t get discussed, what gets downplayed, and just how those situations can play themselves out. We’ve mentioned before that we can come out of these contacts feeling drained, depleted or worse. When clients come to me for guidance in how to handle difficult family members, we sometimes discuss ways in which we can create more of a psychological boundary. If an event lasts only a certain time, and people feel the need to go, then to facilitate that space, one can use mental imagery. I sometimes have people imagine their family member as being a certain animal, for instance. Any one they please. Some people like the image of the dragon, for example. Afterwards, we turn the focus back on them, and have themselves imagine that they have a shield all around their body. I have some clients even going so far as decorating their body shield in creative and pleasant ways, to make it their own. Others even put spikes on theirs as a means to emphasise that they are protecting themselves. This cognitive tool can serve as a buffer between you, and the other difficult person, thus empowering yourself when in their presence.
Why does this work? Short answer, because you’re creating a form of desensitizing yourself, you’re able to distance yourself more from what the overwhelming feeling can do to you. A lot of the people who use this have said to me that it gives them a sense of grounding when having to interact with difficult people. So now, you can imagine your sibling being a certain animal or mythic creature, and you have your body shield. What’s next? We work on creating an exit strategy if you need to leave. Where will the exits be? Do you have your own living space that you can go to? What pretext can you come up with to cut the event short for yourself? In many cases, knowing you don’t have to go through an event in its entirety gives people a sense of security and empowerment. And if you want to go further, you can even analyse what worked and what didn’t for you, when you’re in the comfort of your own space. Give yourself a congratulatory tap on the shoulder! You made it through. On your own terms. And most of all, intact. Is this technique right for you? Give it a try and see. Let me know how you do.