Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
August 2008
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August 2008

Consoling the Inconsolable

“And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

                                                          Dr. Seuss

I’m sure I’m not the only fan of Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel. An unofficial online biography of this talented author and illustrator points out that he was not an instant success. His lesser-known book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by 43 publishers. Dr. Seuss must have spent some time being inconsolable; I’m guessing the excerpt above, from Oh, the Places You’ll Go, was inspired by personal experience.

How do you know if you’re inconsolable? I think of this emotional state as a combo package. When sadness, fear and fatigue co-exist, for example, you’re pretty likely to be inconsolable. You may be inconsolable if you’re just feeling lonely, but the intensity will increase if you’re also feeling hurt, mad, frustrated, or all of those feelings at once! In the 12-Step Fellowships, an important acronym is taught to newcomers. H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you’re just an H, or Hungry, you may need to halt. The more letters you have, the more desperate the need for a halt. I find it useful to add one more letter to the acronym: H.A.L.T.S. The S stands for Sick. Everything gets harder when you don’t feel well, physically, and yet, how often do we stop long enough to truly get well?

You’ll also know if you’re inconsolable if no offer of care, comfort or consolation is well-received. A colicky baby is inconsolable. A grief-stricken widow might be inconsolable. Some people get this way when they’re sick, sending out loud “leave me alone!” vibes. You might find yourself positively irritated by the person trying to comfort you. It’s a tough position for the caregiver, caught perhaps between feeling compelled to help and at the same time, being rejected. How to break the spell?

Naming It

Sometimes, just saying out loud, “I’m inconsolable” helps to mitigate the suffering. Try to articulate the specific swarm of emotions milling around inside --- to yourself, at a minimum, and preferably to those showing concern. Remember the famous slogan: This Too Shall Pass, but don’t try to force it. As Dr. Seuss said, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” But reading one of his books might help! Since an inconsolable state is very kid-like, you might find great comfort in doing an activity that kids like to do. Read. Color. Video games.


How to Help

For those witnessing someone in this state, it’s pretty uncomfortable, isn’t it? Feelings of powerlessness evoke a strong desire to DO something to make this person feel better. But if you do things without endorsement by the one who is inconsolable, you might be pushed away. It’s helpful just to witness without offering remedies. Follow the lead of the sufferer, and if you get the “leave me alone” script, honor it and try not to take it personally. It rarely is personal. Some folks respond well to “I’m here when and if you need me.”


Joy-Gram for August

I bet you can guess! Find one or more of the classics by Dr. Seuss, and read yourself a bedtime story or two. Some of my favorites: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! , The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Are You My Mother? Dr. Seuss wrote one book for adults. It’s called You’re Only Old Once: A Book for Obsolete Children. The title alone may make you grin! And the inventive illustrations are fabulous icing on a delicious cake.


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By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303

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