Taking Care of Your Five Senses

Every once in a blue moon, I head out with a friend or a ‘willing’ family member (Sarah is always spared) to watch some goryish, exciting horror movie. As if the last time I watched one it left me with such glorious, uplifting emotions.  It’s a complete mystery to me as to why I don’t just devour them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Given enough time, my goldfish-like memory is wiped clean of the energy-depleting anxiety I felt the last time.  Instead, all I remember is the stimulating excitement, and agree it’s a great idea to head out and see Blood Fest 7 (not an actual movie… that I know of).

The last one I watched with a buddy of mine. We sat on the edges of our seats, drenched in the fear that we paid for.  Driving home, it was hard not to notice our conversation.  Besides the normal confirmation of, “None of that could possibly be real!” that always transpires after a very potent horror flick; our ‘conversation’ about every-day things felt forced, depressing, and seemed to highlight anxieties about things in our daily lives.  Yes, the things we talked about would warrant wariness or deep thought, but not to the extent that was taking place while we spoke. The conversation had nothing to do with the movie at all, but the emotional energy from it was still lingering, amplifying our difficult feelings around every day problems that, on their own, weren’t that severe.

Let’s face it. We chose to go into a dark, movie theater, packed in with a bunch of people who were waiting to be scared out their seats.  Eating sugary, salty crap-food (I know I wasn’t paying attention to how much or how long I was eating).  Blaring out of the T-Rex theater were screams, shrills, and the more than an occasional, “oh God, NOT THE MEAT CLEAVER!”  And let’s not forget the horrific, much-larger-than-life images on a screen that could double as a bill board.

Yes, if I were the Dali Lama (quite the stretch), Pope Francis, or even Kevin Costner in “For the Love of the Game” (don’t usually see these names together… but Costner made a great flick!), then blocking out all these sights, tastes, touches, sounds and smells that my five senses were picking up from my external environment might have been child’s play. But, since I am still a ‘Padawan’, and haven’t quite reached my blue belt in the Jedi art of Mastering what I allow in through my five senses and what I discard, my external environment was able to elicit the EXACT feeling of anxiety, depression and dread that my $9.50 ticket promised… And when I left the movie, those unhelpful feelings hitched a ride home; influencing my thoughts, my emotions, and the words that came out of my mouth.

This is not a rant — bashing all the wonderful, fun, frightful feelings Freddie Kruger, Michael Myers, or that guy in the hockey mask (yes, I know his name) elicited over the years. It can be exciting to experience the jittery, “on the edge of your seat,” hauntingly exciting emotions of fear or anxiousness when we know that it’s not a real situation.  But, what might not be as exciting, is to have those feelings remain afterwards, dictating your thoughts, feelings, actions in ‘real’ life.

To regain your ability to regulate yourself, it may be helpful when you leave the theater to walk around block a few times, visit a store that usually brings your thoughts to another subject. On the ride home, put on some music that elicits joy, happiness, and calmness.  After you’ve rehashed some of your favorite moments of movie gore, make a mindful effort to move your conversation to something that is uplifting or helpful.  Give your five senses a chance to come back from the altered “fight or flight” mechanism that has been triggered by the suggestive, very tangible stimulants that have been beating them for the past two and half hours, so that you can center your emotions back into yourself and enjoy the rest of the evening.

So, whether strapping yourself into a rollercoaster that takes you a mile high into the air and drops you into a dragon’s mouth; jumping out of a perfectly good airplane (with a parachute, of course); or sitting on the edge of a velvet-covered seat in the throes of the latest horror-flick rated “R” by the Movie Association of America, consider creating your own mental/emotional rating system that will allow you to “enjoy the ride,” then intentionally use your tools to center your emotions back into yourself…

RATED A (Awareness required) All the things taken in through your 5 senses during this experience require awareness from the person(s) participating. This experience can have the undesired effect of leaving lingering feelings that may change your normal perspective, influencing the way you feel, think, speak, or act at a later, undisclosed time. Please consider using your mental/emotional tools to re-center yourself once the experience has ended.