Emotional Channel Surfing

It’s so obvious. When I am driving and an obnoxious announcer or an unwelcome song invades the space in my car – I simply reach over and change channels. I might even surf a few options before settling for another station, or turning the stereo off altogether. So why haven’t I thought to do that with the assortment of thoughts in my head lately?

My Mom recently passed away. I’ve been floundering; I’ve been struggling to find my way through the fog of grief and it strikes me that so many phrases are unhelpful – “…you have to let go”, “ it’s time to move on”, “try and forget for a while”. For me, all of those phrases just crank the volume – those words get stuck in my head as an endless loop and I am driven to distraction.

Yesterday, a new friend simply asked me. “What if you changed channels?”

Those five words put the brakes on where I was going in my thought-pattern. “Change channels?” What if it was that simple? What if I could regulate my emotions by mentally switching stations?

I pondered this for a bit and a few parallel ideas emerged. By acknowledging the racket that is unhelpful – the ruminating in my head – perhaps I could decide to turn down the volume by making a deliberate choice to focus on something else. By simply turning my attention to another “channel” I could regain my composure; I could validate my own feelings and respect my own needs at the same time. (I also realize that I could turn the dial back to the original station any time I want – it isn’t going away.) By intentionally re-setting my attention on something more positive and uplifting, I might be able to access peace and quiet, a creative conversation or whatever else might be comforting or enjoyable. Maybe, without judgment, I could give myself permission to access what I want without obligation or explanation to anyone. I do that when I want a different radio station or CD track in the car – why couldn’t I do it in grief?

It takes a bit of energy these days to regulate the stimuli around me, but this new insight might be less effort than fighting through a blaring foghorn. Even in the haze, I can acknowledge what’s going on, validate the feelings and redirect my focus. It sounds simple, and I am willing to give it a try. As my friend points out, this takes time and practise to master – this is resiliency. I will never forget my Mom, nor tune her out of my life, but I can learn to selectively listen to my own heart and find my own rhythm on this ride. Shifting perspective seems somewhat like turning the dial on the car stereo – it is a little twist that requires intention and it amps up what is most meaningful to me at the moment. There is power in having the ability to choose and to select what best serves me at the time – be that silence or song. 

Where and how would it serve you to “change channels?”

Photo Credit: Alexandru G. Stavrica


Comments 2

  1. Dear Janet,
    My sympathies to you on the loss of your mom. I really like your concept of changing the channel. I had a similar experience in July and didn’t have a name for it, changing a channel is a very useful one. It’s a quick and easy concept to grasp and very transferable to other areas in our lives. About mid-July of every year, my feelings of sadness nearly overwhelm me. It is the anniversary of the death of both my parents, 26 years and a day apart. I have been frustrated through the years by this. Trying to ignore the dates almost seemed to make it worse. Letting the feelings happen overwhelmed me. This year out of the blue I asked myself how I could honor them instead of dwelling on all that I had lost. It was like changing the channel. My feelings of sadness were replaced with ones of gratitude for all the qualities they had passed to me–hard work, perseverance, artistic talent, and curiosity. I’ll still remember them every July, but now I can choose to “change the channel” from saddness to gratitude. Thank you.

    1. Post

      What an amazing gift you have given yourself, Eileen! You are an amazingly strong and creative woman; what a beautiful living testament to your family legacy. Thank you for your comments and your compassionate sympathy.

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