As I am currently in the throws of playing dog sitter for a friend overseas, I have been going on increased walks throughout each day. It was funny that this coincided with a post on our Facebook page about the effects walking has on our mental health and wellbeing. However, during these walks I tend to switch back and forth between listening to guided mindfulness meditations or listening to a podcast. Yesterday the podcast won the roll of the dice.
I was listening to an interview and the interviewee said something that really stuck with me. He said that his father taught him that in life he could be either the Thermostat or a Thermometer during difficult situations. Now all the adventure therapy folks out there know the value of a good metaphor and I think this is a great one. The thermostat regulates the temperature of our house while the thermometer reacts to it. Which one will you be?
I paused the podcast after hearing this metaphor and just let myself think of all the metaphors I could. Helping those around us is a big one. Here we go…
Think of a friend that is angry, or heated. If I am the thermometer then I may react and become heated as well. But if I choose to do the work of the thermostat, I may decide to try to help him cool down. Can I help him or her to chill out?
What if my brother is struggling with an intimate relationship and is feeling down, or cold and alone. This may have the effect of bringing me down but I can also be a person that brings warmth and light to his gloomy day.
Although we cannot force change onto another person we can be that someone, the thermostat, that brings them the warmth they need. There are days when its easier to be one or the other but I think that having this metaphor in my back pocket can be a simple reminder of the person I am striving for.
In our families, it’s easy for one person’s struggles to cause strife on the rest of the household. Making all of our metaphoric temperatures fluctuate. But if I am aware that at this time my role is to be the thermostat then I know I am going to be there for the children or spouse who needs me. That way when my personal temperature moves to a place that I’m uncomfortable with, they will be there for me.
I think this is a really great metaphor that can be used with people of all ages. Teaching our young people to not only be aware of physical discomforts but the emotional ones can help them to reflect on their “current temperature” at anytime.
In the bush I have drawn a thermometer in a young person’s journal as a way to see how they are feeling. Remember in cartoons when someone is so angry their thermometer bursts? This practice is not so concerned about what happens when the burst occurs but all the preventative things we can do before it happens.
So our challenge this week is to see what we can do to not only help regulate the temperatures of those around us but for ourselves. Not to react and get pulled in the deep end with those that need us most. Be the unconditional warmth to those that need it and the breath of fresh air for the challenges ahead.
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.