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The ghosts you never met

May 9, 2022

It’s a beautiful lazy Sunday afternoon. Feet up on the couch kind of. Exactly what you’re monkey mind has been craving for and you can feel that two-hour nap you just took still lingering in your body. 

The sun has returned after its hibernation for most of the winter here up north, and the birds have begun their melodic sing-song, looking for a mate. The trees and bushes are sprinkled with green leaf buds all over. I’m lounging on the couch reading a fascinating book about mental models as the sun is warming up my feet and leaving streaks of white on the hardwood floor. The book I’m reading is making me feel giddy like a kid in the candy store. You know when you dig into a good book and its words explode in your brain like Pop Rock candy crackling on your tongue? 

My son is playing around with a silver foldable garden shovel his mommy got for mothers day. It’s got a little saw, a knife, and another tool I have no idea of its purpose. The tools are tucked neatly inside the beautiful wooden handle Swiss Army Knife style. He opens the door to our backyard and heads over to the little wood-cased garden patch stashed in the corner. Is this the age he falls in love with gardening? I thought that wouldn’t happen until thirty-five years from now.

Suddenly I hear a dog barking. All too close. My son first freezes, and then quickly turns around. I see a giant white German Shepard barge through the bush fence just two feet from him. The dog looks alert and starts for my 5-year-old.

My brain zaps into overdrive, and my vision zooms in on the dog and my now escaping son. I yell from the bottom of my lungs as I move in confident strives toward my son. He looks terrified. I’m terrified. The dog hears my scream, snaps out of his chase, flips a Uie, and bolts back through the fence.

My mind is racing. I kneel down to check if my son is okay. He’s fine. A little shaken up though. I tell him it’s all okay. “The dog just wanted to come to say hi”, knowing that there were multiple ways this could’ve turned out.

He bursts into crying as the scare of his life erupts in his body. I spend the next fifteen minutes going through what happened and how he remembers and feels about the event.

Next, I proceed to teach him a very simple but effective technique I learned as a pro snowboarder how you can calm your mind after trauma.

“What do you remember from what just happened?” I ask him. He says he can remember a picture of the white dog in front of him. I say “That’s good, now imagine that you are on the second floor on our balcony and you look down to see yourself and the dog meeting each other and then going your separate ways just as it happened. Except now you are looking at this whole event unfold from above. “How does it feel to see yourself down there?” He says it’s fine and I can see the tension in his face and posture giving away. We’ll repeat this a few more times and will check up on how he feels about the memory tomorrow.

Next up will be a meeting with the neighbor’s dog to make sure my son and the dog can reunite without feeling scared.

In life, you don’t carry around a list of the worst things that will happen to you or your loved ones. You might have one for the worst things that could happen tucked away ready to be pulled out when your stress levels are riled up. 

For those days you need tools. Mental models if you will. Ways of thinking that will help you erase your ghosts, and get you out of your head and into your life.

A black and white photo of the author Jussi's smiling face with shortcut hair and a short beardJussi Tarvainen

Former pro snowboarder. Author at night. Multi(failed)-entrepreneur. And mostly an awesome designer (said, my five-year-old son).

plenty more loot in the vault

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