There are many kinds of Panicky Jitters. Today I’m thinking about: the ones that magically appear when you commit to an Adventure.
Like a mysterious project, something we’ve been understandably avoiding.
Or when you sign up for Rally (Rally!). Or say yes to a giant and powerful — and therefore slightly terrifying — voyage like Crossing the Line.
I think the Panicky Jitters might also be related to the Grumblethrum Collective.
The first question.
For me, the first question is always about how I can care for myself:
What can I do (or what needs to happen) right now so that I can feel safe, supported and sovereign?
And what usually comes out of that line of questioning is the recognition that not only do I need safety and stability, but so do my fears, monsters and walls:
Okay, what needs to happen for the Panicky Jitters to feel safe too?
There are three assumptions here:
- All fear/pain is legitimate. Even if I don’t remember the source or understand why it’s there.
- The secret mission of the Panicky Jitters is this: they want desperately to keep me safe from Bad Things (like rejection, humiliation, depression, loss). They want me to be safe and supported.
- I also want safety and support, so by giving these to the Panicky Jitters, I’m caring for me. And vice versa.
What does a safe room look like?
If I’m in a situation where I can ask the Panicky Jitters what they need, I will. But sometimes they’re being so loud and intense or so vague that it’s impossible to interact with them until they’ve calmed down.
So I declare the existence of the perfect-for-them safe room.
No one can get in. It is completely contained. There are loving lion-guards outside the door.
I go by feeling:
Should there be skylights? Hmm. Not today. It needs to feel really cozy and snug.
Blankets everywhere. Cubbies. Things to hide under.
Are there bright colors? No, not bright. But warm. Muted maroons, rich deep autumn oranges, velvety blues and browns.
What kind of food should there be? Is there a pantry? Pizza delivered by elves?
There are red bowls everywhere, filled with nuts and dried fruit. There is a giant pot of steaming delicious soup. Which you can drink from little mugs. Okay!
What do the Panicky Jitters do there?
Whatever they like.
They can nap. They can draw with crayons. They can read in the library where the books go all the way up to the ceiling. They can sit by the fireplace or take long baths in the heated soaking pool.
They can make requests for any changes, additions or alterations that they like. It’s their space. It’s their home for as long as they want to be there.
And once they’re there, we can secretly make plans to circumvent the things they are afraid might happen. By proxy, if necessary.
Step 1: Giving legitimacy.
The Panicky Jitters are almost ridiculously normal. Everyone gets them.
This is what’s going on in my head when I am about to be a student/participant at an event/retreat/whatever:
“I’m not going to like anyone. And then I’ll be stuck there with these horrible people who will not just be horrible but annoyingly self-congratulatory about their horribleness.
There will be nothing for me to eat. I’ll spend the whole time thinking about food. I’m hungry right now just thinking about it. It will be hellish.
Also everyone there will be a real [insert all my insecurities here about not being whatever it is I think I should be] and I’ll be the awkward outsider, like always.
There won’t be space to be alone. I’ll cry and have anxiety attacks. It will be a huge waste of time and money.
Not to mention: what am I going to weeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar?!“
Sometimes I just need to remember that even untrue and absurd fears deserve to exist. And that I am not alone. These are communal fears. They hang out in the ether, and we all plug in to them.
Step 2: Reassurances and back-up plans!
What follows is the answers I’d give to people coming to Rally or an event at the Playground.
Plus the answers I’d give to myself if I were going to someone else’s thing. Your reassurances and back-up plans might be different. That’s fine!
What if the people suck?
Me to you: My people astound me. They’re lovely. I always end up adoring all of them. You’ll discover all sorts of things in common, aside from the shared Panicky Jitters.
Me to me: I can be on Silent Retreat! I can have a strong force field. I can look for the one person who is always there that I connect with. I can be in a secret costume!
But I don’t know what to wear!
Me to you: You will definitely be better-dressed than messy moi because I pretty much wear the same thing every single day. Even Selma changes clothes more often.
Assume that I will be wearing black pants. Probably these (the first one). With a t-shirt or a loose cotton dress. And a hoodie? If it’s cold. That’s me. Wear whatever you like.
Me to me: Eh, the thing about being eccentric is that there is leeway. You’ll already be the one with the duck. People will make allowances for everything else. Just wear stuff you can stretch and feel comfortable in.
Me to you: There is the yummiest food in the world on our street. Plenty of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, whatever you need. Plus snacks. See the Rally FAQ.
Me to me: I can pack snacks! I can have emergency back-up plans.
What if everyone is X and I’ll be the only one who is Y?
Me to you: We all have outsider syndrome but it won’t be like that. Promise.
Me to me: Oh, right. Outsider syndrome is never true. It just feels true. I can look at why Now Is Not Then. And I can pop the bubbles.
What if I get overloaded? What if it’s too intense? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh?
Me to you: We will definitely be doing this in a way that’s not self-abusive and miserable.
Free time every day. Optional activities. Choice. Space. Daily designated time to projectize, nap, run away, decompress. Plus you can always take yourself to the Refueling Station and close the curtain to be alone.
Me to me: I am a sovereign being. I can make my own choices. I will pause when I need to, and I can make my own breaks.
But the awkwardness! Total strangers!
Me to you: It’s going to feel like a reunion. A hilarious Fluent-Self reunion of people you didn’t know you were friends with. You will feel right at home.
Me to me: I can change how I am present by preparing for the voyage. By preparing in general. By setting it up. And I can do the alignment exercise.
What if it’s great while I’m there but then I go home and forget it all?
Me to you: No point making all these changes and not getting to keep them! We’ll cover implementation magic and how to take it home.
Me to me: Once something is planted, it’s planted. Let the fractal flowers take care of it. You need this for some reason, so now your job is to trust that you will find a way to use this. Also: Now Is Not Then.
I don’t know what to bring!
Me to you: We’ll give you a packing list. Main thing is gigantic notebook and something to write with, because there will be much scribbling. And warm socks. And a raincoat. Really, that’s mostly it.
Me to me: Pens. Notebooks. Socks. Lipgloss. Duck. Phone charger. Secret costumes.
Back to the safe room.
Whenever I start to interact with the Panicky Jitters, it always seems like their panicking and jittering is infinite. Like the List of Seventeen Billion Things.
But when I insist that their fear is legitimate and that they’re allowed to feel safe, and that we can come up with sneaky ways to make sure they get what they need, everything changes.
It usually turns out that there are maybe eight things they’re worried about. And then we’re set.
Sometimes they like the safe rooms so much that they want to move in. Go for it.
Play! And the comment blanket fort agreement.
You can make safe rooms for your own Jitters, panicky or otherwise.
You can deposit Monster Concerns here and we will take care of them in the Monster-Watching Collective (we have toys!).
You can practice giving legitimacy and loving reassurances.
As always, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.
We make room for people to have their stuff, we take responsibility for what’s ours, we notice patterns.
We keep this a safe space by not giving each other unsolicited advice.
Love to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.
If you’re thinking about coming to a Rally (Rally!) in 2012, do it during the not-for-much-longer Plum Duff days. Password: extraraisins
dang, havi, i don’t know how you do this so consistently. exactly what i needed to hear, exactly when i needed to hear it. thank you.
currently packing for (yet another) trip and “what am i going to weeeeeeaaaaaar?! is so so up. every time i think i have it figured out, up pops another voice about [fill in the utterly life-destroying result of wearing the wrong thing that seems so senseless but is coming from somewhere ouchy that i now know needs to be checked in with]… so hard to give those voices space and not just scream at them that it totally doesn’t matter guys! (even though, i need to tell another part of me, it truly does not matter.)
so, yes, my dear voices, what do you all need to feel safe? and thank you for protecting me from all that ick. and i will silently retreat to go write more about all this elsewhere…
thanks again. two-hands on heart sighs for all of us, and super-packer-power for me today…
Well thank goodness you wrote this article for ME!
(I know you didn’t really.)
((But you did really.))
Even though I’m using it to find safe places for my exam jitters which are pretty extreme right now. For the first time ever. But hey ho.
What this post reminded me of is that there are parts and parts. And the parts with the jitters *don’t need to take the exam!*
They can go and be really quiet under quilts, and *I* can take the exam.
Seriously, really, strongly, full incredibly useful reminders.
Ah, thank you! I’m having panicky jitters right now about a presentation I’ll be giving this afternoon. Will definitely take some time to create a safe room for the PJs (hey, maybe my PJs would like to wear PJs!), and maybe I’ll also create a sort of safe room for the me who will be giving the presentation, perhaps a Green Room — or, if not a room, maybe a secret magical costume that will give me the superpowers I need. Conscious entry!
Hmm…I’d like to deposit some monsters here at the Monster Watching Collective! Here’s what I know:
Things that worry & scare them: questions about identity, solving things, the deadline, the other deadline, the money thing, the project thing, and the list of ten billion other things.
Things that make them happy: reassurances that I have everything I need, and I have backup resources on hand too; the special barley soup; magical keyboards that read your mind so no typing or talking is required; special snuggly bears and blankets and sometimes buttmonsters for naptime.
It makes me feel so much safer to know there are reassurances in the world. Reassurances I can plug into (it’s all normal, it’s usually not as bad as you fear) in the same way I sometimes plug into the universal worries and jitters.
Thank you again, Havi. Panicky Jitters. Safe rooms. Sigh.
I’m at my favorite bookshop cafe, and hiding in a nook created by a rack of calendars. It’s almost like a blanket fort; I’m protected from distractions and intrusive noise, and the open laptop is a signal to leave me alone. (My glare is also a signal.)
Almosty panicky, not feeling right. Anxious. A monster that is not talking at all, just lurking and digging its toe nails into my heart.
Right now, laptop art is a safe place. Thinking about form and color and shape and line feels good.
I may stay here till dark.
P.S. For anyone who wonders what to wear to Rally, I suggest “rolling-around-in-the-floor” clothes because old Turkish lady yoga, sprawling, blanket forts and pirate monkey cushions are best done in comfort and the floor.
Impeccable timing! (and by impeccable, I mean, completely peccable!)
The Panicky Jitters are here for my started-at-Rally and now-it’s-a-real-BOOK-with-a-publisher-and-deadline (did I tell you that’s what happened at the Rally?).
Because now my sweet BOOK that just wanted hugs at the Rally seems to be hiding and the Panicky Jitters are sure that it will NEVER COME BACK.
And I’ll spend my entire holiday season trying to chase it down and pin it down (ouch! no wonder it’s running! epiphany!)
Oh! Maybe it’s playing hide+seek? Maybe the Jitters just didn’t know it’s a GAME…it’s not a State of Reality. It’s a Game, and my BOOK wants me to seek it, to look for it, to want to hug and tickle it…not PIN IT DOWN (because who would want that?!)
Thanks Havi’s comment box, for being a Secret Epiphany Box!
I have a few Concerned Monsters to deposit.
Monster 1 is concerned about “aaaah we don’t have a real address”. If you could just watch him for a while so I can figure a few things out that would be lovely.
Monster 2 is saying “aaaaaah there will never be an end to the PhD”
Monster 3 works closely with Monster 2 and is obsessed with the job market and the economy; and convincing me I should not apply for any jobs.
Please take them for a while in the Monster Collective! This way we could all take a rest and I could tak to them quietly later this week.
OMG. You hit the nail on the head with what I needed today.
I had to send several monsters and battalions of butterflies to a soundproofed safe room . I wanted to get an initial query accomplished for something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time but was afraid to ask for..for a lot of reasons.
I blogged after, about how scared I was, doing this. About how it brought up old fears about asking for good things and feeling I deserved good things.
..and less than an hour later, I was invited to submit a funding proposal.
A few hours later, another funding source asked for one too.
Right now I am riding a wave of good feelings. I like this. I want to do it again.
I WANT MY OWN SAFE ROOM!
It has different floor levels. There are carpets and blankets and cushions everywhere, made from all kinds of different materials. Today the colors are cream, brown, green, silver… but I can change it whenever I like. Candles everywhere, and fairy lights. Garlands. A perfect spot for meditation, with a crescent shaped cushion. A bed with fresh white linen and a hwb and lavender sachets. Books books books. On wooden shelves. Chocolate! But only the good sort. 27 different teas. Warm socks and cardis and scarves. A fire crackling! Total stillness, only sometimes the wind goes through the trees outside.
Also, how did nobody (not even Havi!) mention the Emergency Calming Techniques??
I just listened to the audio in a Dire Moment of Need and am in tears. (not to be melodramatic…) Tears of “oh, gosh, yes. I’m okay. exhaaaaaaale.”
If you have it — don’t forget to use it!
After reading this my brain is in an interesting bit of whirl! I think I must go and start mindbuilding rooms inside rooms inside rooms 🙂
loads of love to all
What an excellent safe room you described!
Loads of great tips, this one is bookmarked. Sidebar worthy even.
I’m going to see if pieces of this will work with my Panicky Jitters about saying no to something. High school reunion, ugh. Don’t have a good excuse though… why do I feel like I need an excuse? Hmm. Because the person who wants my email (curse you, Facebook!) was nice, a friend in elementary school. urgh. Suggestions?
@Claire – you could go have coffee/lunch with the nice friend from elementary school?
@Hannah Perhaps… thanks for the suggestion!
I need to leave some monsters here, it’s my last week at university and I must finish lots and lots of final projects and I just can’t do any of them.
They like comfy beds and cushions, they love to sleep and enjoy eating cakes and cookies. They’re great when they don’t feel change is so close.
Thanks a lot, now I can work. =)