Deborah Hill Cone
Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Listen to Leonard Cohen, and don't get in a pickle

Leonard Cohen: Avoided "getting punchy". Photo / AP
Leonard Cohen: Avoided "getting punchy". Photo / AP

Oh, help. I don't know. There has been so much anger around this week. When the election result came in my eight-year-old son ran into the street with a rubbish bin on his head yelling: "Bad news, people." I am afraid I have little to offer in the way of insights about the US political situation, so here are 10 consoling things that helped me be a little less...um, salty...this week.

ONE

One of the things I struggle with is how to de-escalate emotions when me or the kids get angry. Usually I get grumpy about some stupid thing, like them taking too long to get ready in the morning, and then snap at them, and then they get grumpier, and so on and so on till we're all bent out of shape. So I wanted to share the simple thing that me or the kids say to each other when we seem to be headed down this rabbithole. We now say to each other: "Don't get in a pickle." My kids say it to me, to catch my bad moods in the bud, and I say it to them. And for some reason, the innocuousness of this rather silly saying helps to de-escalate our emotions (it's called "affect regulation" in the lingo).

So, today, don't get in a pickle!

TWO

Peonies. They are really pretty. Even when old and decrepit.

THREE

I hardly ever block anyone on Facebook. (I'm not on Twitter: it's terrifying.) The reason I don't block people is that I know that being shunned or ostracised by the group can feel like annihilation, and I don't want to do that to someone else, even if they can sometimes be a bit of a dickhead. I have to confess this week I have impulsively blocked a couple of people who belittled friends who were feeling genuinely aghast at the election of Trump. I'm not sure I will make a habit of pressing the "block" button though, as I think we live in enough of an echo chamber as it is, especially us media types. Sometimes the bravest thing isn't to speak out, it's to shut up and listen.

FOUR

Practice stepping outside the Karpman Triangle. This is a model of conflict in which participants are assigned the roles of persecutor, rescuer and victim. In most media stories, the protagonists are assigned one of these roles, although the people we love today are the ones we hate tomorrow, so they do swap around. Once you notice this you can become conscious of not casting others in one of these roles or even more challenging, refusing to let others label you. (Give it a go in your own family scraps. It's really hard, especially when you are used to being the rescuer, which feels so virtuous.) Noticing this gives you the opportunity to learn to integrate your own good and bad qualities rather than projecting your badness onto the "other", even official jeer figures like Paul Henry. Yeah I know, maybe he deserved it.

FIVE

Remember what really counts is "the repair". What really counts is what you do after you have lost it. My parents' generation rarely admitted they were wrong, as though if they conceded even one tiny lapse the whole authoritarian, elbows-off-the-table structure of civilization would come crashing down. Fortunately we don't have to be like that anymore. We can say sorry, dude, I was being a dick. Hug. Respect. See? Easy?

SIX

I have just come across the notion of "holding space," a new term to me. When we "hold space" for others we meet them where they are, listen to them attentively, and connect with them and their pain without an agenda to change them. Those last six words.

SEVEN

Read George Orwell. "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

EIGHT

Remember pain hurts, but it can be useful. In computer jargon, pain isn't a bug; it's a feature.

NINE

Watch Gilmore Girls. You won't catch half of it, but it will give you a dollop of eccentric Americans. Rory: Mum, can I ask you something? Lorelai: "Yes, I would date Steven Tyler."

TEN

Listen to Leonard Cohen. He left two angry-sounding verses out of his song Democracy. Asked why, he said: "I didn't want it to get too punchy. I didn't want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense." As the blog Brainpickings says: What might our world look like if we aimed for a "revelation in the heart" instead of belittling and badgering those we find at fault?

- NZ Herald

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