Kevin Nealon (of Saturday Night Live fame) had a routine dubbed, “Would you rather…?”
The game was to think of the two worst circumstances and choose between them. For us: Would you rather have insect eggs hatch in your ear or get a paper cut on your eyeball?
Gross and gross. (Sorry.)
Now, let’s vary the game to choose between your worst life-mare (real, current living nightmare) and a life free of your life-mare. Is this the easiest game you’ve ever played?
Because we’re asking you to resurrect (for the purpose of improving it) the one real life-mare that is so sinister–so life-draining–that it has become invisible to you.
Imagine a raccoon gets into your living room, breathes its last breath, and dies right in the middle of the floor. Instead of facing the carrion, you walk around it, start ignoring it, construct elaborate fencing around it, and eventually just accept that a raccoon skeleton is part of your primary living space. This is your life-mare.
We had a colleague who chose to drive 375 miles each way once per year to visit her birthplace to collect a sizable amount of money that had to be obtained in person. What should have been a 7-hour drive each way took days to complete because she refused to ever–in her whole life–drive on the highway. Over time, her aversion to the highway became an accepted aspect of her life to her and her acquaintances so that every journey about town was also translated into HAT (highway avoidance time).
Her life-mare had become so familiar that she and others danced around it, like ignoring a dead raccoon in her living room.
What has become the dead raccoon in your living room? To find out, you might ask your partner, therapist, or closest friend. If you’re not sure what your dead raccoon is, chances are, they know from translating reality for you.
We found our life-mare. All we had to do was ask ourself to identify a topic we chronically and toxically avoid in therapy: our body. Nothing shuts us down faster than mentioning yoga, somatic experiencing, or using our body to be present.*
Once you’ve identified your life-mare, your HAT, your dead raccoon, now it’s time to find the courage to address it. Would you rather continue to have life translated for you because of your life-mare or do you choose to take steps to be free?
A licensed therapist (such as a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker) who practices CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is an excellent ally in your quest to clean up the old bones and reclaim your living room. It may not be easy, and, still, the choice to finally be free makes deciding would you rather the easiest choice of all time!
*We vow to address our body aversion in therapy.