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The Power of Distance

I had a stressful week at work, with work piling on and deadlines looming. Perhaps someone out there might be able to relate to that? As I thought about the things that were stressing me out, I noticed that they all felt very close, like they were crowding my physical space or breathing down my neck. As a result, whenever someone new came into the picture, or said something that added to the stress, I snapped at them when sometimes they were just offering a simple question. This could not continue.

Someone asked me last minute if I would change the time on a scheduled group meeting because it was inconvenient to his schedule. I had talked about the time several days prior, and this person was either not paying attention at the time or was not attending the other group meetings. My initial response was “How DARE they be so pompous as to imply that the rest of our schedules should work around theirs when they're barely a contributing member of this team! They need a serious lesson in consideration of other people!” The irony of that last thought interrupted the pattern of my ranting, as I recognized myself being similarly inconsiderate. So I paused, took a breath, and stepped back, metaphorically speaking. Rather than respond to how I interpreted the words, I considered what else I might be missing with such a myopic focus. This meeting was an extra session outside of normal business hours, which no one was required to attend. The fact this person was willing to give up their weekend mattered more than the 50 or so others who weren’t even open to the idea. And with that distance, I was able to see a greater scope: was this one sentence text message really worth elevated blood pressure and anger ruining a perfectly pleasant Saturday?

Try This

Consider a situation that would get you very emotional in a negative way, whether that’s sad or angry. Get a really good sense of that situation, enough to feel those emotions getting stirred up; perhaps you might see it in front of you, or just know that it’s there without seeing it consciously. Notice where you are in relation to what is happening: are you in the scene, only able to see/be aware of the others? Or are you seeing it as if it were on a screen (television, movie, cell phone, computer) in front of you? Wherever you perceive that scene to be, move it closer to you and feel that emotion intensity. Then move it back to its original position. Now, imagine doubling that distance and notice what happens to the emotion. What happens if you double that again? What else can you be aware of in that scene now that it’s further away. Notice the change in emotion as that scene moves so far off in the distance that it vanishes. When you move something further away from you, you have less connection to it. By dissociating from it, you gain more power to affect and influence, or even outright change it.

This technique of dissociation is helpful not only in managing emotional impact, but can help with physical discomfort as well. If you have an unpleasant sensation in your body--whether that is tightness, pressure, or pain--really get a sense of it by focusing in to start. Then, in whatever way resonates with you, imagine that sensation being just outside of your body, followed by a few feet away, then the other side of the room. Notice how the sensation changes in relation to the distance. I wonder if it would become more comfortable if you move it away to the left, or away to the right.

Where is one area or situation in your life where a change in perspective will open new possibilities?

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