Distractions Part II

September 02, 2012

This makes the second time I’ve written about distractions, and how they can play a positive role when we’re grieving or going through any challenging situation.

Since I wrote the first blog, I’ve learned more about the subject.

Are you a creative-type?  Going through grief or loss? In constant physical pain or dealing with a chronic illness?  Distracting yourself intentionally may be exactly what the doctor ordered. (That’s a figure of speech. Please seek professional help if you need it.)

After my son died, I endured extended periods of overwhelming emotional pain, distress so profound I felt like I’d fallen into a black hole of grief.

Those periods of pain paralyzed me.

Although I felt overwhelmed and helpless, I learned eventually I could do something to help myself – often something as simple as taking a shower, going into another room or working on a crossword puzzle.

I saw that I could have a degree of mastery over my emotions without reverting to denial.

My interest in crossword puzzles became intense.  Although I didn’t understand it then, by doing puzzles I learned to flip a switch and get me out of my emotions and into the logical side of my brain.

During the years I’ve been taking as many screenwriting courses as possible, I had the privilege of studying under an excellent teacher, Corey Mandell.  But instead of focusing on writing, he stressed the importance of identifying which side of our brain we normally function from and then strengthening the weaker side.  Those who did this, he taught, had a better chance of success in their writing endeavors.

He talked about the left brain/ right brain syndrome, where one side deals with emotions and intuition and the other with conceptual, logical thought – you know, the side that even enjoys doing math.

Paraphrasing Mandel, he said most people continue functioning from their favored side of the brain while ignoring the other side of the brain and allowing it to constantly get weaker.

Some people take the stance we should live solely from intuition.  But balancing intuition with intellect makes more sense as a pathway to wisdom.

For years I understood that I can’t write a first draft or create and simultaneously edit my work.  I do one, and then later do the other, but it’s impossible to do both at the same time.  The activities are mutually exclusive, because each uses a separate, mutually exclusive side of the brain.

We have the conceptual and the intuitive, the rational and the emotional, the logical and the part that feels like we’ve been sucked into an endless black hole of emotions without a door that says “This Way Out.”

An exit exists, one that allows us to forget momentarily our pain – a road we can carve into the other side of the brain.

A few weeks before writing this,  a woman wrote to tell me that after searching the web, she appreciated finding my blog that discussed the positive side of distractions.

She had worked with a doctor until a chronic illness – and the pain that accompanies it – sent her home. The doctor suggested they write a book together about the importance of diversions and distractions.

While the doctor meant distraction from physical pain, it doesn’t matter which kind we need some distance from. Diversions and distractions work as long as we don’t use them as a path to full-time denial.

Don’t overlook the importance of playing games.

That’s why a team of us created a new section in the websites:  Distractions and Diversions.  Right now it consists of Word Seek puzzles but don’t let the simplicity of most Word Seeks deceive you. These may not be as easy as the ones you’re used to completing in three minutes.

My sister-in-law Pam Lee, created the puzzles basing them on my books.  She would read a book and then spent hours creating a Word Seek game that used words from the book.  The letters leftover at the end, when you’ve circled all the words on the list, create a mystery sentence that sums up the book.

The games will educate about recovery and help ease the pain, even if it’s similar to the relief we get from a Band-Aid. But those moments of not hurting can be worth a million dollars to someone who’s floundered in grief for years after losing a child.

This Diversions and Distractions section is located at the Grief Club site at www.MelodyBeattie.net. Follow the link to the Home Page, and then scroll down the menu on the left side of the page until you find the games.

If you can’t have fun, maybe for a few minutes you can forget how much you hurt.

Word Seek games aren’t the only way to switch sides of the brain.  Sudoku, Crossword Puzzles, Logic Games – even Scrabble or any of the new e-variations of it will get the job done.  The more challenging the game, the greater the chances that the activity will help strengthen the other side of the brain, the one where you don’t normally live.

If you’re someone who finds Sudoku, Word Seek or any logic game easy, than you may not be an emotional side brain dweller.  In that situation you may need help getting in touch with how you feel instead of distracting yourself from your emotions. Watching tear-jerker movies may help you find and flip the brain switch, strengthen the weaker side.

Take the time to carve a pathway to the other side of your brain.  Let yourself feel uncomfortable.   It can do more than give you a respite from  grief.  It can assist you in becoming more successful with your creative ventures and help you find a stronger, more balanced power.

What Popeye the Sailorman said, “I yam what I yam,”  isn’t  true — unless we believe it is.  We don’t need to stay at whatever level we’re at.  We can change and grow.

Even this old dog learns an occasional new trick. While life isn’t all fun and games, some of it is.

From the Desk of Melody Beattie