I always loved the movies where the sexy detective has a bad day because the man who murdered his wife six years ago is killing again, so he goes home to his overly large industrial loft, takes his shirt off, pours a scotch and starts punching a punching bag. Then he takes a cold shower and has a serious think in a leather armchair.
This is not what I do when I have a bad day. When I have a bad day I watch Bridezillas, eat something called “Oreo whip” (a birthday party staple for the ten-and-under crowd concocted at my local grocer), and lay on the couch in my underwear and a t shirt inexplicably covered in peanut butter.
At least that’s what happens with some of my bad days. Other times, my negative emotions turn into exactly what I want them to: diligent sexy productivity.
I’ve always loved this idea of my day going completely to shit and being like, “I just need to exercise, drink responsibly, then brood like a badass adult.”
Luckily, I have implemented a system of retraining not my emotions but my reactions to them so I can be more the sexy detective than the slovenly child. I want to share this system to those of you who also struggle with controlling the actions of your naughty personas.
Identify your personas
I was having a discussion with a friend. She was saying she had no variety in her emotional reactions. She said that, unfortunately, all emotions turn to hunger for her. Whether that be happy, sad, or angry, they all mean one thing: “eat.” But on further examination, some emotions meant “eat sugar,” other things meant “eat salt.” Some were “celebratory,” others “guilty,” and some “earned.” As one-note as we think we may be, dig deep enough and you will find unique distinctions.
For me, I have two personas: the Sexy Detective and the Slovenly Child.
Identify what personas comes from which emotions
I’ll use myself as an example.
- Anger: Sexy Detective
- Sadness: Slovenly Child
- Boredom: Slovenly Child
- Restlessness: Sexy Detective
- Happiness: Sexy Detective
- Sickness: Slovenly Child
- Anxiousness: Slovenly Child
- Loneliness: Slovenly Child
Treat the whole person, not just the emotion
Treating the person and not just the problem is a concept that is growing in popularity. I propose we take it a step farther. By making these archetypes out of our emotional states, solutions become more evident. It’s one thing to ask “what do I do when I don’t feel like doing anything?” and another to ask “what does an unmotivated person need to become motivated?”
A slovenly child needs structure. Plain and simple. By putting it into these terms I have more clearly been able to manage that brat by doing the following:
1. Have a list in plain sight
And I don’t mean on my phone or my computer. I mean on paper, with a black marker, with several options of things that I can be doing.
Our emotions can be stupefying. There are times when I honestly can’t think of what I could be doing because my Slovenly Child isn’t much of a thinker. My list involves various things that would appeal to the child in me but are still healthy: learning new makeup techniques or braids, painting, making my christmas list, etc. There are actual work things on that list but I don’t want to have a temper tantrum on my hands.
If your persona is a raging hulk monster, suggest things that it would enjoy, such as tearing down buildings with its bare hands…or maybe woodworking.
2. Say your emotional state out loud
When you are managing yourself, you need to use your vocals. It’s a strange thing because by and large we are discouraged from talking to ourselves. Stop psychically trying to get yourself out of a funk. State out loud: “I am feeling ________ so I will __________.” Sometimes we need to give actual voice to our emotions and actually hear them.
3. Say your plans out loud
This is one of the best pieces of advice I can give in this life. Be honest with yourself and then say it out loud. I have said to myself out loud, “I am feeling bored, so I am going to watch reruns of Frasier and eat junk food instead of going to yoga.” By hearing myself actually say it, and not just going into self destructive autopilot, my brain treats it as if someone else were telling me their plans, to which I would say, “Damn girl, get your shit together.”
Everyone’s problems seem so simple but our own. I used to yearn for the day my problems would be as easy to figure out as my friends’. Turns out, they were that easy all along, I just couldn’t get the necessary perspective.
The strengths in this technique come from shifting that perspective. By coming up with your archetypes, identifying the emotional cocktails that brings out these Jekylls and Hydes, and talking to them with your actual voice, you treat your whole person, whoever you may be that day.