Helping you Live a Stress-Free Life

Are You A Space Cadet? Why It’s Time To Wake Up!

Zoning Out

Have you ever missed your train, your stop, your appointment? Do you find time passes and you don’t know where it went? Are you spacing out?

Where and when did you learn to do that?

By the sheer nature of the fact that as children we spend a lot of time being told what to do – and when and how – we have internalised that ‘parent’ part that even today may nag, criticise or even bully us to do certain things.  But it also may be that as a child you were left to your own devices for hours on end with very few boundaries or guidelines. In that case, your parent part might be vacant or spaced out with little input.

To know and understand your parent part you will need to spend some time remembering analysing and recalling your early messages. I explore this in more depth in my book, I Just Want To be Happy.

Zoning out can be a way of coping

Your inner child part is very much determined by your parent part. For example, if you were nagged, told off a lot or – worse – bullied or abused, how did you deal with that? One way that children ‘cope’ is to dissociate, disappear, take off and ‘space out’. I remember doing this as a child in a maths lesson, I was bored and disinterested and spent most of my time in the clouds floating about. Needless to say this in turn got me into more trouble!

So what is spacing out? Clients have often described it as that lovely timeless feeling: you’re there but not there. You have that sensation of drifting in thoughts, like bubbles, smoke, or like feathers or leaves floating away.

But now it’s time to zone back in

Now this is all very nice and perhaps a great way for us to cope as children, but is it useful as an adult? Probably not. When yet another day has passed and you haven’t delivered the goods, met the deadline, painted the bedroom. When you’ve missed the stop for the fourth time this week, or been late to pick the kids up. Well, it’s just not serving you any longer is it.

It’s a bit like an out-of-date program left running on a computer: it’s just taking up unnecessary space that could be used for something better.

So how do you stop spacing out?

Grounding. Grounding. Grounding. Stop taking off and get back into your body. Feel the sensation of your feet in your shoes. If possible be barefooted so you can really “earth”. Instead of getting out of your head, get into your body. You won’t become enlightened if you’re not embodied!

Then start the reprogramming.

The inner dialogue could go something like this, “I am X years old. I can do this!” Be conscious and awake. It will help if you address your inner child directly, giving them some attention by saying something simple like, “I’m just off to a meeting and I don’t need you to come along. Why don’t you stay at home playing and I’ll go off and do the grown up things and see you later.”

It may sound twee (and a bit odd!), but don’t take my word for it – try it yourself. I know it works! You can also address the inner parent by saying to that part, “You know what? Thank you for all the nagging, but STOP IT NOW! I’m X years old and adult and I don’t need your incessant rules. I can do this, so GO AWAY!”

Richard Bandler, originator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) would say tell that part to “Shut the f*@$ up!”. And it works – that nagging, parental part of you or that childish part of you will quieten down for a while.

We have to expose these parts and make this conscious. You’ll have plenty of time to practise since these parts pipe up time after time.

So, the next time you don’t want to miss your connection on the train, or you need to leave on time, get yourself grounded and make sure your inner Adult is in charge.

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Comments

  1. “…is it useful as an adult? Probably not.”

    All well and good if “zoning out” is detrimental to daily life, responsibilities and goals, but let’s not throw this out completely. I believe there are plenty of legitimate reasons for taking measured time to drift, so long as it is planned intentionally and does not take over.

    Particularly for creative people—but ultimately I believe for everyone—allowing the mind to drift or wander, supposedly aimlessly, can be good for lowering stress, relaxing, coming up with new ideas or even solving current problems which won’t be solved during ‘active’ thinking. Why else do people often wake up with the answer to a problem? Because during sleep you (generally) have no control over where your mind and subconscious takes you.

    So please don’t throw out the concept of drifting altogether. Many, many people find it extremely useful. And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a little aimless drifting to recharge. Heck, we’re usually under so much pressure to perform, prioritise, deliver and diarise that perhaps we could do with a bit more downtime of this nature.

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