Tag Archives: crisis

Challenges, Meditation fail and Scarborough

A part of me knows that challenge is also opportunity, a chance to grow and to step up to new things. We do that deliberately to ourselves in rites of initiation and in dedication, shouldering challenges, and sometimes reality keeps dishing them out as well. I’ve had to close my computer lid and just sit here repeatedly this morning. Things I may a have messed up, things that came out of nowhere, things I might yet resolve. It’s been one thing after another this week, and I am sorely worn.

We were supposed to be signing books at Stand Up Comics in Scarborough this Saturday, but at the weekend they mentioned they hadn’t actually ordered any books, what were we bringing? As we’re nearly out of copies of Hopeless Maine, and not too taken with this as an attitude, things ground to a halt rather quickly. I had assumed, foolishly perhaps, that a conversation about the feasibility of order us through Diamond Distribution represented an intention to make an order, given they’d just booked us. Apparently not. But, within a couple of days, Debra, my fab and tenacious lady on the ground there, sorted things so that we can go to Waterstones instead. Hurrah for Waterstones! Against all the odds, I’m starting to feel rather warm and fuzzy about them. (We’ll be there at 11am, if you can make it, please do!)

That’s a typical one. Much of the hassle seems to be of my own making, or perhaps if I was being kinder with myself, it’s a knock on effect of the chaos of moving house. There’s been a lot of chaos. I feel like I’ve been running for a long time, and amongst that, I’ve missed some things, and some of those may be important, and some may not.

Then there’s the really random stuff, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t made, things not showing up, or disappearing, with no explanation. There’s been too much of that, lately.
My perception is that some people are run ragged by crazy shit beyond their control, and some people seem to drift serenely though life, rather in the manner of swans. There may of course be frantic paddling below the surface that I cannot see. I seem to be made of frantic paddling, but perhaps to others I too look like something floating by, untroubled.

It’s hard to put time into being all spiritual and philosophical when mostly what you want to do is scream a bit and then get under the table and refuse to come out. There are times when the closest I can get to Druidry, is to breathe, slowly and deliberately, and in breathing, not actually scream. Inner peace is a lovely idea, but reality doesn’t always co-operate with that, and it’s hard to be peaceful when things around me seem to be falling apart. Of course that is the time when we most need the inner peace, when it would be most useful. Meditating is easy when you’re calm, but being able to do it to resolve stress would be really handy.

I think it’s fair to say that the work I’ve done in recent years on trying to be a calmer and more functional person has paid off in that I am still sat here, not under the table, and I’m not screaming, and I am chipping away at those challenges and setbacks, trying to climb on top of the various mad things that seem to be happening around me. That is worth something. Often in crisis it is hard to keep track of the progress, to recognise that the current muddles and troubles are less bad, or more readily managed than they might have been.

If you would like to cheer me up enormously, and are in the Scarborough area, do check out http://www.facebook.com/events/list#!/events/1388873817996797/ as I shall be playing with ideas around how we imagine our ancient Pagan ancestors, on Friday night and it would be good to have people along for that. And of course lovely Waterstones in Scarborough, 11am Saturday morning.

Now I get to sit under the table, yes?

The accidental counsellor

There are far more folk who find themselves in crisis than ever there are trained professionals available to help them. It can take months to get counselling in the UK, but people caught in the immediacy of their own grief, trauma or anxiety can’t really afford to wait. The official advice from the UK’s national health service for folk in crisis is to talk to someone.

So, what do you do if you find yourself the chosen ear of a person in distress? My brother found himself with one of these last week, which is what has prompted me to write today. Most of us aren’t qualified, but we still have to step up. And as a Druid, you may attract the need and distress of others, especially if you put yourself forward by running things. I’ve seen this topic discussed on pagan forums, where the fear of causing more harm than good, or inviting litigation, makes people wary about offering themselves. So, we’re not talking about being a counsellor here, we’re talking about being the person who gets the late night phone call from a friend who doesn’t know how to carry on, or being the one a family member confides to about some horrific experience. We don’t get to choose these, they happen to us. How do we deal with them?

The single most powerful thing you can do for a person in distress is listen to them. No matter how much it disturbs you, or whether or not you are able to believe what they say, listening and giving the space for them to speak is tremendously effective. Unless you feel there’s immediate physical danger to them, or someone else, go for listening. Make sure they know you are listening, by making affirming comments. “I hear you.” Don’t be afraid to acknowledge if you are out of your depth. If you don’t understand and can’t relate to it, say so. A person in crisis will not appreciate you claiming you know just what it must be like, if you blatantly cannot know. If you do know, it can be helpful to share.

In the short term, don’t think about trying to find solutions. Focus on the listening, and letting them talk until they are calm. Avoid any comment that in any way might be construed as telling them they shouldn’t feel as they do – they are feeling it, they need to feel it, if you let them talk it will pass. Ask why they are feeling a certain way, ask how you can help, what they need, and if the answer is ‘nothing’ then just keep them talking.

It’s not your job to find a solution. Any solution to the problems have to be the choice of the person in crisis. Making suggestions may be helpful, but be careful to avoid anything that feels like you taking control of things. Crisis is a loss of control, the person in crisis cannot afford to have more of their right to self determine taken from them. Support them, offer advice, but do not give instruction, or do things for them unless you’re down to very physical issues of preserving life, or making cups of tea.

Giving people food and drink affirms normality. People in distress may also be in shock, so make sure they are warm.

Often what people need is a sounding board, someone to test ideas on while they work out what they need. If that’s what you’re getting, questions like ‘will that work for you?’ ‘what do you need?’ ‘how do you feel about that?’ will help them with the process. Avoid anything that seems like you being asked to choose for them. You can say what you would do if it was you, but make sure it’s on those terms.

Sometimes people just need a witness or a cheerleader. They need someone else to believe in them because they’re having a hard time believing in themselves. Encourage them. Praise their courage and determination, acknowledge their difficulties, affirm that there must be a way through and that they will find it. If appropriate, remind them of things they’ve achieved before, of qualities in themselves that will get them through.

In this way, it’s possible to help and support a person without having to take responsibility for them, and without having to internalise their distress. This protects us from being drawn into crisis with them. It keeps control in the hands of the person who is in trouble. It’s very easy to do, and to remember, and is actually the underpinning of talking therapies used by councillors. Listen, encourage, ask and try not to judge. It’s surprising how big a difference these things can make.