Feeling Pissed Off? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Try a 5-4-3-2-1!
Like I said, I’ll give this one to you free of charge. It’s a neat little trick that I have personally used to battle road rage (yes, even therapists get angry sometimes!) or even just when I’m nervous, like in a doctor’s office or job interview. It’s a technique designed to use both sides of our brains, therefore shifting our focus from that which is making us angry, frustrated, etc., onto something else. By the end of the practice, if you have REALLY concentrated on it, then you should feel relaxed and renewed.
Let me tell you a story about how this works: I once worked with a family, mainly a 12-year-old boy that we can call “Billy”. Billy had a great sense of humor and a LOT of rage. When he was raging, he would tear up Kleenex boxes, throw things, or sometimes even punch holes in the walls. He had been through therapy so many times that he was almost more therapy savvy than myself and he would often say to me, jokingly: “Ann, would you like to know how I FEEL about that?” and then laugh.
So this one day, he was in the midst of a rage. His mother and sister looked on in frustration as he paced around the room and began kicking and throwing things. I said: “Billy, let’s play a game! I’ll bet you can’t win at it”, which, of course, intrigued him, as he was a highly intelligent lad as well. He agreed and we began. I instructed him to name 5 things in the room he could see. He looked at me like I was crazy. “OK,” he laughed. “TV, curtains, couch, rug, dog”. “Great”, I said. “Now name me 5 things you can hear”. This is where it starts getting difficult. “The TV, the dog licking its butt…” Again, laughter. Then he began to struggle and that’s where his mom, sister and I began to help him out. He immediately and proudly continued. “Oh, and my sister tapping her nails on the table, mom clearing her throat and you clicking your tongue!” “Very good, Billy!” I beamed. “Now name me 5 things you can feel, physically.”
He had to think about this one, too. “The carpet under my feet…The shirt on my back…My glasses on my face…” He had to think harder and get more creative. He reached out and touched the coffee table and named that, then reached over to touch the TV and then named that. He became annoyed when I asked him then to name FOUR things he could see, not repeating any from before. “See? I told you you probably wouldn’t be able to win at this game”, I teased (It’s OK, we had that kind of rapport). This spurred him on in full force. So he continued to name FOUR things he could see, FOUR things he could hear, and FOUR things he could feel, without naming the same things as before. When he finished with that, we went down to 3, then 2, then finally to 1.
By the end of this exercise, he was laying on the floor, calmly and peacefully, like a little angel. So I said to him, jokingly, “So Billy, how do you feel about that?” And he grinned because he knew I had “got” him, laughed, and said “Calm”. Well then. I guess I DO know my stuff sometimes.
So just a run down: Name 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you feel physically. When you’re done with that, go down to 4, without repeating. Then 3, then 2, then 1. Nine times out of 10, IF you really focus, you will feel calmer and more at peace. And we could ALL use some of that!