This one action shifts stress, energy, and yes, often even outcomes, in an instant. And, when you feel life is heaping one frustration on you after another, it seems the last thing you’d ever do.
This particular action happened the first time for me decades back, without having read or heard anyone say it was a “technique” to use. Now, it’s recognized as such; but it’s also an easy one to forget or dismiss. The first time I did it, it simply FELT like the only thing to do at that moment.
I found a brilliant representation of it in the Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban. That’s a fitting title parallel as stress and frustration are emotional, energetic prisons we sometimes find ourselves in. If you aren’t a Potter fan, Azkaban is a prison where the guards—appropriately named dementors—suck the joy, and sometimes the soul, out of those imprisoned—until they want to die or do, which is what stress does to us.
A friend posted this statement on Facebook: “One day, I’m going to laugh about this.” She didn’t say what “it” was, but I responded I hoped that, if and when she felt able to, she’d laugh even sooner; that when life sometimes reaches what I call the “absurdity of it all,” I sometimes find it makes me laugh—and, it’s a spontaneous, not forced occurrence. (When stressed, you can “put it down,” for a while, if you watch or listen to something that makes you laugh or helps you to relax.)
The dictionary defines absurd as “so clearly untrue or unreasonable as to be laughable or ridiculous.” Ridiculous . . . Leads me back to Harry Potter.
In this particular book, Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, instructs the class on how to handle a boggart:
“Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces,” . . . . “It’s a shape-shifter” . . . . “It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.
“The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. . . . We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please . . . riddikulus!”
It takes the shape of whatever frightens us most. Our fears do shape-shift. Think of a particular fear you “entertain” often. How many ways has and does it show up in your life? It’s the same boggart in different costumes.
Most of our fears, which cause stress, are boggarts that linger in the dark spaces of our subconscious and conscious minds. Sometimes we “feed” them so well with emotionally-charged thoughts they pop out of the proverbial cupboard and show up as events in our lives. Sometimes more than one boggart taunts us at once as imagined or actual events, and we feel overwhelmed.
Isn’t it “interesting” how often what we think or worry about shows up? It’s as though we include them as questions on a “test”—the ones we fear we won’t know or be able to figure out the answers to.
Email pages and social sites have a box that lets you post what you’re doing. My email has this question: What are you doing right now? I also read it as, “What are you doing Right, now?” It’s too easy to dwell on what we feel is not working or what we feel we’re not doing right, and forget to acknowledge and appreciate what we ARE doing right, what IS working right—and let this guide us and create better experiences.
We know stressing is harmful to us in numerous ways: health, decision-making, joyfulness, and more. Positive thinking, Law of Attraction, and other techniques are familiar to so many of us these days; yet, we still slip into the practiced, familiar pattern of engaging and feeding our fears.
Don’t judge yourself when you do this. The most important thing is to recognize when you do it and then use a method you’ve used before that helped you then—or find a way to laugh.
Laughter relaxes energy and literally does shift outcomes. Please be realistic about the outcome part: it does this more often than not, not every time. Feeling crazed isn’t going to make things better. Releasing stress invites possibilities waiting to arrive because stress (judgment) acts like glue that keeps something stuck in our lives. If you find your “shoes” (fearful thinking) stuck in a puddle of “glue,” you can choose to leave your shoes where they are, at least until you can do something about them.
Later in the book, Lupin discovers what he believed Harry’s greatest fear was wasn’t it at all: it was fear. That’s true for us, as well. Some of what we fear happens, but most of it doesn’t. We abhor the idea of feeling fearful; and yet, we feed it. It’s a learned behavior. (What fear are you feeding right now?)
It isn’t that you must eliminate fear or feeling fearful from your life. It’s not realistic, or even a good idea; and thinking it is will cause you endless frustration. But, you can pay attention. Use one or more methods that help you notice and shift when you’re feeding a fear. “A real problem can be solved. An imaginary one cannot.”
If and when it feels right for you, find a way to laugh, especially at the untrue or unreasonably absurd moments. It really is often the best medicine for what ails you. If you share this stress-busting action, as well, let me know.
You are what you practice.
© 2010, Joyce Shafer