Copyright 2006 Marshall House
A “puddle” is the ultimate re-framing of a “bottomless pit” or a “dark hole” or an “abyss” or an “unfathomable chasm” or “deep yogurt” or an “empty void” or “in trouble” or — well, you get the idea. “Moving through puddles” includes the concept of cycles, of life in constant change. We move through puddles more easily when we understand that everything is constantly moving and changing, including us! Feelings of joy when moving through puddles come with the realization of the magnificence of living in an ever-changing Universe.
Bottomless Pit Syndrome
Folks often telephone to tell me they feel stuck or in a bottomless pit of something or other. I accept their perceptions and accompanying feelings as honest representations. And, I know that one of the reasons clients call me is so that I can see what they do not readily see and, in turn, assure them that something more hopeful than hopelessness is really happening for them or is possible.
So, as I hear their stories, I survey their energy field to see how their perceptions are represented, catch the vision of their true desires, and envision them as already empowered. I also suggest that they speak their story briefly because I want to help to move them to where they want to be rather than keeping them in their current circumstances where they do not want to be. I honor their experiences without buying into their beliefs in insufficiency. If I collude with them in their limiting beliefs, I do not serve them. I am of no value to them if I join them in their bottomless pit or dark hole.
Sometimes clients argue for their limitations — trying to convince me how bad it is. My tolerance for interacting in such conversations is low. I listen deeply, compassionately, and quickly — needing minimal details to be helpful — then I suggest or facilitate empowering strategies. Sympathy is not one of my skills; compassion is, however. I am patient, yet my gentle impatience is usually more often a gift to my clients.
Most of my regular clients know that I hear and understand their condition with few facts, so we move effortlessly from their succinct storytelling to strategies for empowerment. Envisioning clients moving through a puddle rather than colluding with them to strengthen the abyss is a gift I offer. My assisting them to see themselves moving through a puddle rather than an abyss is another benefit for them. I witness their process, lovingly.
The Puddle Scenario
So here is the basic puddle scenario, a composite of multiple clients and client sessions. I call the client “Jim,” just so we have a character.
Jim feels feelings he has felt many times before. Once again, he has gotten himself into an untenable position with his boss. Last year, with his previous boss, a similar situation occurred. And, yes, he has experienced somewhat similar dynamics with co-workers and family and friends.
He is angry. He is angry at himself and his boss. He sees two ways to respond: (1) quit and feel like a quitter or (2) stay and feel like a loser. To choose whether it feels better to be a loser than a quitter is not very empowering. Of course, you and I can see immediately, even with little data, that Jim has many more options than these two. However, Jim sees himself as a victim of circumstances, even though he is not typically a victim. Jim sees himself from inside a bottomless pit with two options, not in a puddle with many options.
When you understand the idea of puddles, you view life as a series of experiences. Or a series of puddles. You know that the puddle is simply one experience that will be followed by others. This does not necessarily mean that you wait for the sun to evaporate the puddle, but that is one option. Enjoying making mud pies is another. Putting on your boots is another. Splashing gleefully in the water is another. Dancing in the puddle to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain” is still another. And there are many more options. See, already this is more fun than weighing the pros and cons of being a quitter or a loser.
Jim’s state of consciousness or mood is the key to how he relates to this experience. If Jim walks into the puddle with his eyes open to the experience, he will move knowingly through the puddle. He will move through it — this is important for him to recognize while he is in the puddle. If Jim walks into the puddle with his eyes closed (the most common way most people get into a puddle), his job is to open his eyes and recognize that he is in a puddle. If he relates to the puddle in some of the ways suggested in the previous paragraph, he will have a more positive experience in this puddle which will open the way to more positive experiences in future puddles. How he feels right now is the key.
The consciousness or mood with which Jim acts makes all the difference; his specific actions are secondary. If Jim has an attitude of strong resistance against stepping into one puddle, he is likely to encounter a bigger and/or denser puddle when next it is puddle time. However, if Jim is joyful as he steps into or around the puddles, he will find most of them dissolve on their own, which means that he can then give his positive attention to the most important puddles.
As Jim focuses on lifting his mood or consciousness, more and more options open for him. He may find himself playing with a big puddle to make a lot of little puddles so that he can more easily navigate through or around them. Or he might play with a lot of little puddles to make one big puddle so that he can spot it more easily or float on top of it or swim through it. Playing can be empowering and fun. He can use the puddles to make him feel more in the flow of life.
What Color is the Puddle?
Since first presenting the idea of Puddles as a way of viewing life’s cycles and challenges (in 1996), I have heard from many clients and readers. Sometimes they telephone to report “I’m in a puddle.” My initial response is “What color is the puddle?” Or I might ask some other playful question that helps to focus the attention on the energetics of the puddle, on what they want, or on how they feel rather than the issues that spin them in circles like a cess pool. It is not that the issues are unimportant, it is that people can deal much more effectively with the issues if they focus on and change the energetics or feelings first rather than attack the specific circumstances when they are discouraged.
Questions that help to give the attention to the energetics of the puddle rather than the details of their problem are: How big is the puddle? Is the puddle muddy or clear? What does the puddle sound like? Additional questions are included in the eight-step process below, which is designed to help you move through a situation you find difficult in a more empowering way.
An Energetic Process
1. Name a situation that you consider to be very challenging or problematic (1-9 words).
2. Describe the situation briefly in the way you might tell a friend you have not seen for a while. This friend, who is wise and enlightened, cares about you and listens quickly.
3. Select an image for the situation that captures how you feel about it. Consider such images as, a brick wall, a bottomless pit, stuck/sticky, hot lava, quicksand, a large vat of brown yogurt, a cesspool, a roller coaster, a sticky pot of dung.
4. Re-frame this situation a “puddle” no matter how it might initially seem. If you have any difficulty naming your situation a mere “puddle,” just start by believing it could be a puddle. You may put your situation in a puddle or put a puddle in your situation. Some of these ideas may make you laugh or smile or feel lighter.
5. Describe the energetic dynamics of the puddle. For example, what color is the puddle? What texture is it? What size is it? How thick/thin is it? What shape is it? What sound does it make? What does it smell like? How does it taste? How does the water feel on your fingers? How close are you to it (or it to you)? If it had a name (other than puddle or pit or pool), what would it be? Add any other dynamics you perceive. Be creative. Play.
6. Experiment with changing the characteristics. For example, if yours is a puddle two feet in diameter, can you change it to one foot or to four feet in diameter? If you cannot, no need to struggle, experiment with changing another aspect. Can you hear your puddle utter a cacophony of shrieks or sing a sweet melody? As you play with such dynamics, you give yourself an experience of dominion over the puddle which can translate to enhanced confidence with respect to the situation itself. Stretch your imagination.
7. Clarify desires about your puddle. How close do you desire the puddle to be? What color do you desire the puddle to be? What song would you like to sing while you are in your puddle