Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help, Story

The Swing in the Back of the Yard

An excerpt from my interview with Jack from Grumpy Gators Saloon.

Jack was reminiscing about another story that he heard from a patron at the Grumpy Gator Saloon. Jack is the bartender. And as a bartender he talks to a lot of people and hears a lot of interesting stories. The saloon has become, according to Jack, a kind of magical, mystical, existential place of healing. Hence my interest in speaking with Jack, the person with whom most of the lost souls gravitate toward upon entering. They don’t seem to gravitate toward each other. Jack appears to be the draw. Or at least that’s the impression I get from speaking with him.

Jack shared a narrative with me that was shared with him by a middle-aged, balding, African American man who had a very chaotic and at times lonely childhood. I was intrigued with Jack’s fascination and almost intoxication with an aspect of the man’s story that featured a rural backyard, trees and a broken down, somewhat dilapidated, swing set from the 1970s. You know the type of which I’m speaking. Metal, the slide off the side of the main frame of the set, a couple of plastic swing seats connected to the metal frame with chain link and of course the obligatory seesaw.

Jack told me the most memorable aspect of this interaction was the Man’s eyes. And then, how he used the swing set to escape his reality.

“His eyes told the whole story,” Jack muttered. “Dark, almost coal-like eyes, lit up and almost glisten when the man talked about his interactions with his swing set. A swing set that for some reason, somehow, became a whole other world for this guy. Allowing him to heal if but for an afternoon of solitary play.

Jack took a step back, gazed to his right almost as if he was trying to make sure that what he said next captured the essence of that moment and the essences of that man’s windows to the soul.

“He told me the swing set became his safe place, his travel machine. He would imagine that he was a pilot soaring high above the world, away from all the chaos covering the ground, as he would swing for hours pretending to fly around the world. His eyes widened, seemed to flicker as the man continued to tell me how he would picture different destinations throughout the world. A smile casually and occasionally crossed his face as he told vivid stories of what he would do in places like Paris, Casablanca, Bangkok and more. That guy really had a hell of an imagination. That swing set teleported him to remarkable places of which he never saw, experienced, or lived. Not sure if the guy ever did visit those places after his time here.”

Jack took a step back. Wiped his forehead with the towel that he was using to clean glasses. He gazed again to his right and a smile casually crossed his face. His eyes sparkled.

“He told me he would sit on the seesaw and rock back and forth. Imagining that he was on a great merchant ship sailing the seven seas. Like with his airplane travels he would spin tall tales of adventures in interesting Ports O’ Call. I asked him once why he never imagined himself as a pirate. He scorned and sternly told me he ‘never wanted to be anyone or anything that took or stole from another’. I found that fascinating. But I didn’t pry as I assumed loss is part of his pain.”

Another smile and a subtle head shake were the only indications I had that Jack was reliving that memory; almost as if he were living it in this very moment.

Jake turned to me and said, “The magic of a swing set, in a rural back yard with a forest of imagination framing that all time machine. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes, the places he went, the healing that occurred, the pain that dissipated because of that swing set and that man’s imagination. Imagination so powerful, so able to heal, so often never used by people in pain.”

Ignite Imagination

Looking Up into Fall

Let’s Ignite Imagination…

Go outside.

FIND a tree on which leaves are changing form and color.

Lay down under the tree.

Open your mind and let your thoughts flow for the next 10 minutes.

Learn anything?

Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help

Dealing with a Bully

We all have bullies in our lives. We all have those jerks and a-holes who, for some reason, because their life sucks like a vacuum, need to come in and wreak havoc in ours just to make themselves feel good. Loosers.

When dealing with a bully, I encourage people to engage in a two-step coping, problem solving and communication psychological fitness routine known as Empathize then Pivot. This particular skill allows you to maintain a sense of self-esteem, self-advocacy and, at the same time, control the situation not allowing the bully to get away with all of their crap and leave you feeling as though you’re a complete wimp.

The next time someone starts to blame you, shame you, attempt to make you feel guilty, attempt to make you jump through their Fiery Hoops I want you to empathize. Empathizing with someone is a basic and vital psychological fitness skill that helps us communicate to another person our awareness and understanding of their emotional state and why they feel that way. When a bully is blaming or shaming, say to the jerk in your life, “Sounds like that’s very painful.” Or perhaps you might say, “that seems like it would be very frightening.” The goal here for you is to focus on the bully so that you can reflect back the emotion you believe they are genuinely feeling; which b6 the way, is actually fueling their aggressive and often annoying behavior.

Once you have empathized with the bully, pivot. Empathizing with the bully will throw them off their game, bewildering them. You’ll see it written all over their face. Once you have empathized and thrown them off balance now take control of the situation by pivoting the conversation away from their agenda to your agenda or something completely benign such as the weather, sports, politics, or one of my personal favorites, movies.

Once you pivot you have gained control of the conversation. The bully may try to take control back from you by siezing the proverbial Talking Stick. If this occurs do it again, empathize than pivot. And keep in mind that your pivot can also be walking away. Empathize then excuse yourself and walk away.

When you engage this particular psychological fitness skill, you will see your general and overall mental wellness skyrocket. You will feel a sense of confidence and your anxiety will diminish.

Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help

Getting Negative

I have noticed that I am getting more and more negative in my thinking and also in some actions.

Not sure why. Which not only perplexes me it also pisses me off.

I have become aware that I usually expect the worse outcome when out and about living my life. Case in point. Picture this, a man with his family visiting Las Vegas for the weekend is sitting at a UNLV Rebels football game when he suddenly realizes that the game may go into overtime. The man and his family have tickets for Cirque du Soleil and the time between the game and the performance is shrinking. His mind begins to wonder. He begins to imagine all of the reasons he and his family will not make the show on time. He becomes anxious. He becomes agitated. He no longer is enjoying the game. He can no longer look forward to the performance. He is in the Twilight Zone of anxiety.

The game did not go into overtime. We had plenty of time between the game and the performance. We even stopped at a sports bar and had snacks and drinks before the performance. After the performance and once I returned to my hotel I reflected and noticed that I have been more and more negative in my thinking, anxious emotionally, agitated, verbally abusive, and a pain in the ass from a behavioral point of view.

Something must be going on. Has to be.

But what?

I think, reflect, ponder and look inward. Can’t pinpoint the possible souce of my almost automatic negative view of the world and corresponding emotional and behavioral responses.

Past trauma? Could be. Fear of dreams failing to materialize? Possible. Just a funk? Maybe.

Either way, pain from my past, struggles with an existential reality or just some kind of Uptown funk could all be answers. Key here is that I need to step up my Psychological Fitness skills to manage this new wave of whatever it is until I can get a better handle on it.