“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
Remember Eeyore, the donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories? Sarcastic, depressive, yet intelligent and backwardly humorous, Eeyore is often a favorite of readers. Not that you’d want to hang out with him for too long, but he’s fun to watch from a distance. Say, when reading Winnie the Pooh to youngsters.
Why might he be so loved? Well, we all have that Eeyore voice that takes over now and then. Most of the time, it’s temporary, right? And it can be useful to hear the voice of caution when testing the waters of risks to changing. But when the Eeyore voice starts to takes up more permanent residence in your mind, that’s when you might need to take stock of the thought chorus and regain perspective.
In my experience, Eeyore shows up when there is a snowball and ambush impact from a handful of recent challenges. Maybe you’ve been busy or buried and have lost the bigger picture. Last week for example, followed a packed schedule and some tough cases. Then I caught a cold – very unusual – which had me wondering what I did wrong or might have done for prevention or (why questions can often keep the Eeyore-ing going). The lower energy level and general yucky-ness adds more Eeyore energy, and before you know it, my whole life was pronounced as a useless mess which had no hope of redemption. Hello Eeyore snowball / ambush!
For most people, that Eeyore voice is recognized as a temporary cloud and the sun is not far removed. Maybe a little sweat pants and binge watching break, time with friends, or a long slow workout will give the needed breather and reset. Otherwise, if Eeyore takes over, perspective gets terribly bent out of shape, leaving you feeling stuck and hopeless. When Eeyore does not leave, it’s a good time to practice self change.
So what to do? Here are two things to try when Eeyore butts in and you need to shift. One is naming the thoughts that your inner Eeyore is voicing. If you talk out loud expressing this voice, it will often sound ridiculous, exaggerated. It might even make you smirk when you recognize how distorted or off it is.
This is a therapy technique, to first name and then tame thoughts (see Thought Changing). Thoughts often occur under our conscious awareness, under the radar, so to speak. Exposing them to the sunlight of awareness is very powerful and sometimes enough to shake the hold it has on your mood.
Taming in this case would be restating that thought is a less Eeyore-like voice. This is called Reframing. So rather than saying, “I’m lame and there is no hope for me”, you might say instead, “I have a stressful learning curve here, and I can do my best”.
A second thing to try, is to just feel the emotions that arise. In the case of my recent ambush, there is some tweaking of the life design and schedule being asked of me. Often with my overworking, it’s camouflaging old ways of proving worth. This awareness of the old way not working anymore, and the pain lying under the old way, requires stillness to unearth. Being with the unpleasant discontent or anguish at the root of the Eeyore observation goes against the grain of all that is done to numb ourselves. At one time, this worked and usually at a future time, that coping pattern needs to change so you can grow.
In this case, that Eeyore voice has some truth to share, as he did with Winnie’s gang. At first it’s hard to slow down and feel, and that thrashing to avoid it – well, it’s common. One the other side of the avoidance, ah… lots of benefits. More richness, insight and presence gets injected into your life.
And if you find your stress and attitude isn’t responding to these fixes, Counseling and Coaching can be the support you need to uncover the truth under the distress. At the right time, this can ease the angst and help you reconnect with what matters most.