Private 18: Do the bare minimum and bring relief

The snow plough deffo ran out of petrol after a bit during the day. My threat brain started to peel off my thinking brain. An “I need help” conversation with my G helped a lot to calm and refocus.

I reflected on how much my work is just all about rolling around in really traumatic subject territory, around people who can be in a very upset state, and I’m not getting to process it properly – and therefore the unprocessed stuff starts to impact on my ability to carry out the seemingly day to day tasks.

This week alone, I’ve had a whole team in tears in one of my mental health trainings for frontline staff because they are so stressed and over-worked. I gave a talk on suicide prevention to a hall full of commissioners, based on my lived experience of suicidal ideation. I’ve sat in the home of a traumatised young couple at risk of homelessness, giving them conflict coaching while the man was simultaneously trying to calm and hang on to (so it wouldn’t attack ‘the nice lady’) a biting, writhing 10 week old pitbull terrier on his lap for over an hour… I’ve counselled a company director about his year long conflict with his boss… And really, what worries me most? It’s the emails I haven’t replied to and the next training products I’m meant to have prepared. Oh, and my daughter’s birthday next week, which I feel I haven’t prepared for. And then… oh then… Lord above, there’s my broken-heartedness: we said goodbye to our beautiful, noble, amazing (14yo) family cat just 5 days ago…. </3

No wonder you are feeling …

Yes, I am feeling. That’s it. The words are too complex.

If you could name some feelings? 

  • Extremely stressed
  • Scared
  • Frustrated
  • On edge
  • Panicked
  • Wound up

It’s a Saturday and I got up at 6.30am to do the work that’s hanging over me threateningly. I need to ‘get on top of things’ to relieve some of those feelings.

Get on top to things in order to…? 

…relieve some of those feelings.

Relieve. Yes. Remember the equation for Compassion Fatigue? 

Burnout + Vicarious Trauma. Sing it…

And the preventative approach to avoid Compassion Fatigue? 

Compassion Satisfaction.

Yes. When you feel the satisfaction of successfully unleashing your compassion, it’s as if you have ‘completed the stress response cycle’. 

So what gave you Compassion Satisfaction this week, if you look at the above events, and reframe them in terms of good/successful compassion? (NB: compassion = the desire to prevent and alleviate suffering.)

  • I helped the frontline staff express themselves and decide to seek help
  • My talk contributed to commissioners’ decisions and pledges on the suicide prevention strategy in my area
  •  The young couple were supported to see their strengths and to report their progress to the local council
  • I supported the director in his decision to seek the support of another senior colleague around his employment contract
  • I rallied with my family as we said goodbye to our beautiful cat

Good. How does it feel to reframe things in this way? 

Really good. It brings me a sense of relief.

This is the key! Bringing relief. The work of compassion is essentially the work of bringing relief. And self compassion is about bringing relief to yourself. How have your brought relief to yourself this week?

I used my MEDS

  • M: Mindfulness – via writing here
  • E: Exercise – I managed a 30 min walk every day, and used the yoga mat 1 or 2 times a day
  • D: Diet – I tried to eat low-carb so as to control blood sugar levels
  • S: Sleep – I tried to go to sleep early (Screenfree and in bed by 10pm) to get 7 hours sleep.

And what else do you need to bring relief to yourself? 

To get on top of things – work and comms.

And how best can you do that? 

I guess by starting with the stuff that’s waking me up at night… And by getting the Compassion Satisfaction biofeedback for myself, like I did above there?

Ways I brought relief to myself / Ways I prevented and alleviated suffering?

What troubles you are the ‘ghosts’ outside – the shadowy others who you feel are judging, waiting, hovering, expecting, tutting. 

Yes!!!! They are ‘ghosts’ as well, because they are basically spectres of my own imaginings. (No offence to actual ghosts.) But they are indeed shadowy presences I’m cowering from. Thank you!

So we are not saying to you, “Cheer up, there’s no such thing as ghosts!” Instead we are saying, “These spectres really concern you. If you want to be compassionate to yourself, to prevent/alleviate your own suffering, and to bring yourself relief… then ‘defend yourself’ from the ghosts.”

Like a ghostbuster…

In a sense, yes. It’s about acknowledging that you, and your body, will feel free of threat, if you’ve looked at the ghosts and done the things to defend yourself from them – but the minimal thing! Not dancing a merry jig with them. Ok?

Relief arising from defending myself against the ghosts. Funny – the phrase defend myself… I wouldn’t expect if from you. But it makes sense.

If I look out of the corner of my eye, I am being ‘haunted’ by my imaginings of certain people WAITING for me to do stuff…

Who are they? Write those Ghosts down on a piece of paper. 

***writes them down – 14 items including groups – representing about 150 individuals in total***

Crikey! You’ve been carrying those ghosts round with you?!! No wonder you’re feeling drained! Can you see how exhausting this must be for you? You’re exhausted by them because of this formula:

You feel you have to ‘service’ them all at 100% – and to do so would take masses of time and energy – so you don’t (or you postpone) – so you CARRY THEM WITH YOU as you go about your day and night. 

Slough those dudes off, my friend! Slough ’em off! Slough ’em off with the minimal action it would take to DELETE them from that CROWD  of shuffling, shadowy ghosts! 

Does this seem brutal? Of course it does, because you think that maintaining personal boundaries is cruel.


No. Allowing these bright souls on your list to become haunting ghosts in your consciousness is what is cruel. Really! Keep them out of the haunting zone (by IMPERFECT, minimal actions to bring relief) and then, dear friend, you are actually honouring people. 

Ooooh, interesting take!!! I like it..! That kind of blows my mind.

So, I think I’m honouring people by my concern to do right by them, but actually, because I put them into my haunting zone, I’m not honouring either them or me.


Ok. I’m gonna get those folks out of my haunting zone, by the minimal action possible. Educated laziness!

THIS is it. You. Think. Minimal. Action. Is: Laziness and Not Caring About the Person. Which is not true. And this idea is creating haunting zones for all involved. 

Got it… I think!

Ok. Let me do it now: Do the BARE MINIMUM to lovingly get these folks out of my haunting zone – to bring relief to me and to them. 

Do the bare minimum (to release the apparent ghosts from your Haunting Zone) and bring relief

PS. Remember – get these beautiful people out of your Haunting Zone asap, for everyone’s benefit! They are only ghosts if you make them so, by clutching them tight in your Haunting Zone with your FEAR of their judgment/response to you. As you start a task say to the lovely person held there, “Dear friend, I am so sorry for holding you in my Haunting Zone – I release you now with love and thanks!

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