PQ 21.2 — When I am faced with conflict, how do I seek to act with courage?

pine marten, brain weasel
Image by Steve Slocomb / CC BY

PQ 21.2 — When I am faced with conflict, how do I seek to act with courage?

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Sometimes the courageous move is standing up and advocating for yourself.  Defending the boundaries you’ve set. Fighting for your own rights.

And sometimes the braver move is taking a step back and gracefully bowing out. Telling yourself, “It’s not all about me.” Even though it sometimes can feel that way.

Context is everything. Well, and so is timing. Context and timing.

And your fear isn’t your friend at figuring out the best way to approach both of these. Mine isn’t at least. So I’ve found a workaround that helps me stay clear-headed in times of extreme stress.

Creating a Funny Symbol for My Fear Helps Me Be More Brave

I have a silly technique for dealing with my stress, my fear, or my anxiety. It’s simple but very effective. I turn it into a little brain weasel, called Martin.

As I wrote before:

This is my brain weasel, Martin the pine marten. Whenever I can’t sleep because of brain weasels, I imagine him in a tiny leather jacket (because brain weasels always travel in gangs).

You’re welcome to as well. Martin gets around.

What is a brain weasel, you ask?

It’s that little voice in your head with the nagging self-doubt, the one that tells you that you can’t do the thing, the one that is trying to solve problems with infinite unknowns 1000 steps in advance.

Martin isn’t content to just think way too far ahead. Oh no, this little brain weasel is an overachiever. He not only thinks really far ahead, he feels really far ahead. And that just ain’t fair.

Out of character voice:

One of the best strategies for dealing with stress is to create a symbol for it — especially one that’s funny or weird. That way you can separate yourself from the feeling of being stressed in a way that’s non-blaming and makes you laugh, instantly improving your mood. Creating a symbol puts stress in its place.

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Martin has actually become a shared symbol that my friends and lovers use.  Instead of saying they’ve been really anxious or stressed lately, one of my friends will simply say, “Martin’s a jerk.” And we’ll laugh and both know what they mean.

Or when I’m having doubts, a loved one will say, “Martin’s a liar, you know. Don’t listen to him.”

And occasionally, a friend offering drinks and chats will drag Martin into the mix as well. Actual statement: “Let’s roofie that weasel bastard.”

Anyway, there are likely an infinite number of ways of putting fear in its place. Symbols that can be used as a proxy for the more scary nebulous feelings. But this one has worked well for me and mine.

Using Martin as an adorable symbol has helped me to put away the fear and think in a more clear-headed way about how I’d like to act in the present moment.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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