Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monster Spray

My 4-year-old son was at the nightmare stage. He would awaken each night, crying in fear over the monsters in his closet. We spent a careful afternoon at our kitchen table soon thereafter. Arrayed in front of him was a collection of scents, an empty spray bottle, and a cup of water. His job was to put a drop of fragrance into the cup, stir it up and decide if THIS was the right combination of smells that would frighten away monsters. It required sideways-tongue concentration and several water changes before he found the perfect combination. We put the bottle of Monster Spray by his bed, and each night before sleeping he squirted his room, especially under the bed, with the spray. No more monsters.

A colleague called today to ask what she might do to help her with a daunting task she’s tackling this week. I’ve been through the exam she’s about to take … what helped me, she wondered? I had already told her all the goofy things I had done to psych myself up for the experience — the music, the visualizations, the objects I put on my desk as a reminder of my skills, so I could be more excited than afraid when I faced the examiners.

I told her I was the wrong person to ask. Anything I recommended to her would be about me, not her. She needed to ask HERSELF what would help HER. What I did was personal to ME, but would have no magic for HER.

When you are afraid — the economy’s bad, Anheuser-Busch is being sold and what will that mean for the community — you have monsters under your bed. It’s great to ask others for advice (and I’m grateful my clients need me), but advice only goes so far. To get through a difficult time, you have to create Monster Spray or whatever structure like that works for you. One client uses a gladiator; another got a Buddha; another wears pearls, and another has a tiny pair of Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from “Wizard of Oz.” All these symbols are powerful to THEM about their talents, their possibilities, their ability to cope. Your personal symbol can help you leave fear behind as you work your way from “daunting” to “possible.”

At the end of the day, you own and hold whatever monster you’re dealing with. I’m happy to help you get you in touch with your talents and values and capabilities and to create with you the symbols that will keep you solidly in your core strengths, but you have to make the Monster Spray and bring it out when you hear growling under the bed.

You’ll be so brave as a result!