A tip to help you ground yourself and others
What do the numbers look like?
Back in my salad days of high school and university, I engaged with a fairly fringe group of people.
Neither anti nor pro social, these friends of mine were engaged in all kinds of oddball foolishness. Most of it harmless and certainly of an age. These weirdos? Gamers.
Gamers today and gamers then were two different beasts. This had to do with the games we had.
Our games started simply enough. RISK gave way to Axis and Allies which gave way to Rise and Decline of the Third Reich which gave way to Games like Diplomacy or Supremacy. Along the way we played siege games like The Battle for Stalingrad or Warhammer 40k
These were all grand strategy simulation ‘board’ games.
They all took a long time to play. I think that I may have some friends who started a game of Supremacy in the early nineties that is still ongoing.
Each of these games came with innumerable pieces, counters and markers. The rules were incredibly detailed and complex. My favourite part of the games were the dice.
Dice rolls were everything. Dice ranged from four sided all the way up to 64 sides. The four sided ones look like pyramids. The sixty four sided ones look like balls.
These were games of probability and risk. Though the pieces on the board represented certain functions and choices to make for the countries and armies you’d be ‘playing’ any ounce of humanity was removed from the process. Emotions were not about the ‘loss of life’ the pieces on the map represented. Any emotion in these games were centred around the thrill of competition.
When we look at numbers, dice and probability without a story, they are merely numbers. They are facts. There’s not a lot of emotion attached to them. This must be how the sickos like Little Vladdy Pee, get shit done. They see pieces on a map and numbers on a dice roll. Stories be damned. Humans? We don’t need no stinking humans!
As such, the detachment of numbers can be helpful right now. In their seminal self help book “Born to Win” Dorthy Jongeword and Muriel James describe a great deal of human behaviour though a model called transactional analysis.
In this model, there are three main ways of being in the world: Parent, adult and child. Parent states have two subcategories: Critical and Nurturing Parent. Child states also have two subcategories: Adaptive and free child.
They suggest that a lot of conflict and distress arises in relationships where people are interacting parent to parent, child to child, parent to child or child to parent.
Adult to adult interactions may have conflict, but without the distress. Adult to adult interactions are grounding. They are based on facts and reality. ie: If I roll a thirty two sided die, and the number 7 comes up, it’s the number 7.
With that in mind, if I have ten dollars, I have ten dollars. Fact. Reality. If it’s 9am where I am, It’s 9am. Fact. Reality. Certainty.
From where I sit right now I am 1383.5 km from Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. How do you get there? Well according to the maps apps, it would take thirteen hours and fifty four minutes to drive there yourself, one day and twenty one hours to get there by transit, two hundred and fifty seven hours to walk and a mere seventy six hours by bicycle.
Read those numbers again. Notice your body. Feeling anything?
This is the realm of the adult ego state.
And knowing this little trick is helpful.
If you encounter someone freaking out over the illegal act of war by the merciless Russian imbecile, and they are worried about the future, it’s not helpful to diminish their fears. It’s not helpful to minimize their emotions.
Instead, help them engage with a different part of their brains. Help them get into an adult state. Get them talking about facts. What time is it? How much does your rent cost? How may miles on your car? How far away is your home from here?
Any of those kinds of questions may be good tools to ground people who are experiencing anxiety.
Numbers to avoid? Facts about war: ie: losses, troop levels etc. Stories stick to those numbers too quickly. And? You’re not Little Vladdie the Inept and starting a war.
But, the same ability to be calculating and remove emotions by discussing numbers and facts is a tool that can help you focus and experience relief - if only momentarily. I’m not in favour of that as a way to live all the time. I do think it can be a great way to take a break from feeling overwhelmed.
So now you know.
It’s like the old saying goes:
You can practice your way to Carnegie Hall, but to get there you’ll have to walk at some point.