How to Release Your Inner Piglet - Christine Kane

p1230001Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Sue Ludwig. Sue is a neonatal occupational therapist and a published poet. She is a consultant to neonatal intensive care units around the country and a national speaker. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.

During the last week of summer my kids and I joined friends at a large nearby amusement park. It was there I had a Piglet moment. And it wasn’t even about the hundreds of rides that propel my kids at Mach 5 into the stratosphere.

We were walking down a wide shaded path when we heard a loud, “Boom!” Startled, we turned to see that a wooden sign about 5 feet in length had fallen off a storefront facade. My inner Piglet said, “What if one of you had been standing there? That could’ve really hurt someone.”

As usual the kids nodded saying, “Yeah, wow,” and moved on.

However my brain was now thinking, “Ok, I was fine with them riding big roller coasters, but signs? I’ve never even thought about signs!” Suddenly they were everywhere, these ominous signs.

My inner Piglet was on a roll.

We have all been Piglet. We see big things looming. We imagine what could happen IF. We spend precious energy and time being anxious about the question marks in our lives. From falling signs, to our health, to the job market, to what could’ve happened if the guy behind us hadn’t slammed on his breaks.

What’s helpful about this Piglet triangle of fear, worry and anxiety is…well…

Nothing.

Sometimes we think we MUST worry about things because if we stop worrying then that’s EXACTLY when something’s going to happen. Right when we’re peacefully unaware.

We become so lost in our thoughts and fears we couldn’t respond to an opportunity or situation if we had to. It is another way we remove ourselves from the present. We’re not actually living our lives anymore. We’re all up in the future’s business or in what could’ve/would’ve/should’ve happened in the past.

Pooh’s response above is classic Pooh. The simple, wise thought of someone who sees the situation for what it is, and what it is not. This is Pooh as sage.

Why do Piglet moments matter?

We all get a little Piglet-y at times, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is when that anxious voice becomes the soundtrack to our lives. We unconsciously create the fear-filled life we thought we were avoiding with all our worrying.

Because what we habitually think, becomes.

How to Let Go of your Inner Piglet

 

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist and author of My Stroke of Insight, stated that when emotions like fear, anxiety and anger are triggered, they produce a set of physiological responses in our body. You know the feelings: shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, upset stomach and so on.

Our body’s physiological response to these emotions only lasts 90 seconds. Yes, just 90 seconds. So, in the absence of any true fearful situation, our bodies are over this stuff in a minute and a half.

Meanwhile our brain continues to run the familiar loop: “Oh no, more danger, bad things happening, must be on guard.” We make that loop in our brains deeper and deeper by feeding it these thoughts. It literally becomes a neural rut. Default mode.

The great news is we can rewire our brains to do this instead:

Triggering event occurs
Physiologic response (90 secs)
Quick assessment/no actual danger
Discard feeling

Look how quick that was!!!  Much like Pooh saying, “Supposing it didn’t.”

It is the stories we keep telling ourselves, our neighbors, and families that keep the anxiety alive long after the event. And while on the phone recounting our fears, the 10 year olds in our lives are waiting for us to help them with homework. We are not present except to our stories.

We’re off living in the past or future, but not in our very own kitchen, with the people who want and need us.

Try this today:

1. Practice being your own observer. Find yourself in a Piglet moment (this will probably happen today if you pay attention!)

2. Observe how long your body feels uncomfortable. Let it feel that way for a minute or two.

3. Resist the urge to tell 10 people what could’ve or may happen. Literally tell your brain you have no need for those thoughts anymore. Let go.

4. With practice, watch your anxiety plummet and the space and productivity you experience multiply.

5. Repeat this like a ritual when negative thoughts appear and watch your brain rewire itself with better thought patterns.

Your inner Piglet will visit now and again. But he will no longer take up residence.

Pooh, however, is always available for counsel.

26 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Bren Murphy

    Hi Christine/Sue,
    I can see how this can make everything seem less in the heat of the moment and we can all gain so much by being slow and considered in the middle of stressful situations.
    thanks
    Bren

  • Deb

    My inner piglet came out when my daughter’s best friend was abducted, tortured and murdered. I was a maniac for years. Terrified for my daughters to be out of my sight. When my daughters became adults, I finally realized they had made it to adulthood without anything bad happening. (We did have a baby daughter die in infancy which contributed to my fears)

    I turn my life over to my Higher Power as well as the lives of those I love. Realizing I have no control over what happens besides what goes on in my own head helps actually.

    My mother died three years ago from a cerebral aneurysm. You were very lucky and blessed your father is OK.

  • sue

    Meredith, glad this made the idea fun for you!

    Thanks Jodi and Pati!

    And Anna, ha ha, mostly I’m a Pooh-esque kind of girl, but that inner Piglet does rear his head at times! Love that you’re Eeyore in recovery! Made me lol.

  • Anna

    Love the post as always! Never had you pegged for a Pigletesque kind of girl…I’m much more of an Eeyore…and trying to recover from that. Thanks for the smiles!

  • Jodi at Joy Discovered

    What a sweet post! Your advice to wait out the 90 seconds and then release the thought is spot-on! I also like your follow-up advice to not tell 10 people what could have or may happen. Very wise! Thank you!

  • Meredith

    My inner piglet gets the upper hand several times a day… even when I know it is counterproductive and unhealthy. What a wonderful way to retrain my brain. I love how lightly and humorously you’ve addressed what our egos (or mine, at least) could easily turn into another serious self-improvement project. Instead, it’s more like a fun little game. Definitely going to practice this today.

    Thanks for some advice to help me become more present.

  • pati

    Sue,

    Thanks for reminding us of Pooh’s wisdom!

    Pati

  • sue

    Love how people are laughing at their Piglet moments!

    And David, though I had watched the TED conference before, I did again at your suggestion. She was just as amazing the second time.

    Thanks to my husband too, who has long endured my Pooh obsession. 🙂

  • Kit

    This is great insight – I’ve now discovered that piglet is chattering on in my brain on and off through the day… but at least now I know it’s him I can ask Pooh what he thinks too!

  • kathleen

    I love this post! So apt, so wise, so true! Thanks!

  • Dena Brehm

    Oh how brilliant!

    I just blogged about worry today … and how we bring on what we fear…!

    But of course.

    Shalom, Dena

  • David

    If you want to spend the most amazing 10 minutes watch Jill Taylor’s presentation on TED.com. It will change your view of everything.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

  • Mary Jo (Sam)

    Hey Sue, What a great post! And Beth, you are so right about the big things. When my mother in law,(who I was very close to) became ill, I worried for 2 years over the “piglet” things, like how will I feel when she dies, who will break the news to me so I don’t fall apart, etc. Well, guess what, when she was in hospice, I was there with her during her last week along with the rest of her family, and was as strong as ever. Sure wasted alot of energy worrying about nothing! 90 seconds, huh? I’ll be sure to give that a try in my next Piglet moment!

  • Giulietta Nardone

    Sue,

    I really enjoyed this post. #3 under Try It Today says it all! We only intensify the negative drama in our lives by spreading this story plague around. During the height of my inner piglet years, I’d retell an alleged “horror” story for days if not weeks. Now, I bore myself after 1 telling. Before inflicting my silly story on someone I ask myself, “Do you really want to bore this person?” Usually, the answer is no.

    Thx,

    Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel

  • Jenny

    Sue, I love how you named the anxiety-provoking fearful one in me! Piglet is such a great name. Gentle, lovable, and in need of a little guidance. Thank you! And a reminder of the 90 second rule is perfect and much needed. When I first learned that, I loved knowing that it only took 90 seconds for me to get over it if I wanted to.

  • sue

    Thanks everyone! I love reading how each person takes this. Your comments mean so much. Glad people are moving away from the Eeyore persona!!

    Beth, you are so right. When something happens to anyone we love we suddenly have this amazing perspective about life. I wish we could hold onto that all the time and see things as clearly as we do then. Love that you read Pooh to your dad!

  • brojoe

    Great post Sue. I’ve had a lot more Piglet moments lately. Ikm going to give your steps a try.

  • Lynne

    I have a tiny little Piglet stuffed animal that’s been shoved in the back of a toy box for a long time — I think it’s time to pull him out and sit him on my desk as a wonderful reminder of this important insight! Thanks Sue — you’re awesome, as always!

  • Positively Present

    Love this post! I’m always talking about how I’ve recently gone from being an Eeyore to a more positive person (not quite a Tigger yet…), and so I love the idea of centering a post on Piglet. Really great insights here. Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring!

  • Emily

    Love this, Sue! I have a lot of Piglet moments – perhaps it’s time to give Pooh a chance to talk more often 🙂

  • Beth DeSombre

    I literally just finished reading My Stroke of Insight, because my father had a burst cerebral aneurysm five weeks ago (and survived).

    And the one thing I’ll say about an aneurysm in a family member is that it helps with the Piglet problem — the big things we need to deal with are never actually the small things we spend so much time worrying about. And when the big things come and need to be dealt with, I discovered that I’m actually pretty good at dealing with them.

    Also, when my father was in a coma in the hospital, I read the Pooh stories to him!

  • Stacey

    I love Jill Bolte Taylor’s insights (especially what I call the “90 Second Rule”) *and* Piglet. Thank you for bringing them together for a fun and insightful post!

  • Diane Fit to the Finish

    I followed Lance’s (Jungle of Food Choices) tweet to find this article. Very timely for me, as I am a worrier, and need to listen more to the Pooh side than the piglet side!!

  • Kelly – Sister of another mother

    Suze strikes again!! I laughed out loud at my inner piglet. Thanks for your sage advice! Love you.