Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They're Hot Spells, NOT Hot Flashes

My sister-in-law asked me about hot flashes.
Do I get them? What are they like? She’s in her early 50's. She deserves honest answers – not the brush-off that you get on medical websites. Doctors only recently learned what women have known forever – the body actually does get hotter during a hot spell.

I can’t imagine how they ever got the name flash! Hot spells last up to 15 minutes. They are a form of blushing. They happen when I get upset. The upset can be about something in my own life, or a reaction to something going on in a play or a movie or a book. I’ve been in the audience at an emotionally intense play and taken off clothing in public. I dress in layers so I can do that. I’ve seen other women at these events do the same. We smile sheepishly at each other. We’ve even gone out into the snow in the thinnest of t-shirts just to get some relief, kind of like smokers, but we’re not hot enough to leave ashes on the snow. Maybe a garment or two.

When they started, I’d get a dozen or more hot spells a day. At 15 minutes each, that’s 3 hours a day of being “hot and bothered.” That idiom is a key to understanding what is happening and what can be done about it. The answer is not to get upset. And the only way I’ve found to accomplish that is compassion.

Yes, I’m sure whatever triggered my upset was WRONG. S/he should not have said/ done that terrible thing. That natural disaster was terrifying. Even if it was fictional. Even if it was totally out of my control. Even if it is WRONG by any moral standard. The bottom line is that when I am upset then I’m the one with the hot spell. I’m the one taking off my clothing in public and dashing out into the snow.

Being right is no compensation. A hot spell is nature’s way of telling me that I need a new way to think about my world. Not being upset does NOT mean NOT caring. It means compassion, rather than pain. When something bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s more useful to be compassionate than upset. A cool mind (I’m starting to love the idioms we use to describe our thinking processes) can work on problems better than a hot head.

Sedona Method helps. EFT helps. (Www.emofree.com). (This requires tapping on yourself, in public, which looks even sillier than taking off clothing – but who cares? During a hot spell, relief is all that matters.) The Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet at www.thework.com is brilliant, and I can carry these with me. Writing on a piece of paper does not look silly. EFT and the Worksheet are free. Some of the essays on the www.GuyFinley,com (also free) are also helpful. I particularly like this one on tolerance: http://www.guyfinley.com/Key_Lessons/Expanded_Lessons/Further_Understanding/2145/?q=you-i&x=0&y=0

Using them prevents future upsets. If I learn a new way to think about a situation, it’s like learning any other skill – the ability stays with me. Just as I’d rather exercise than take a pill, I’d also rather work on my thought processes than take a pill. I find it useful to imagine scenes in which I would be upset and work on them. Yes, this can induce a hot spell. But since I picked the topic and the time and place, at least I’m not stripping in public.

If you want to help a woman who is having a hot spell, get her some ice, or a cool drink of water. Don't be surprised if she dumps it on her head. The middle of a hot spell is NOT the time to introduce the tools of compassionate thinking. (These are great tools, but introduced at the wrong time, they can sound like "blame the victim") Her hot spell is a time for you to exhibit compassion. After she has cooled down, you might mention that you read an article that says compassion can help. Getting pushy with a woman who is "hot and bothered" is never a good idea.

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