If you’ve ever seen an old Batman TV episode, you’ll remember the special red phone, and when it rang Batman always answered.
I find myself using this metaphor with coaching clients, asking:
I wonder, what is your personal Bat Phone?
What do I mean by that?
What I mean is: what is the thing that, when it happens, means that you need to wake up and pay attention to what is going on inside you?
Kind of like those folks you hear about whose knee hurts when it is about to rain, your personal Bat Phone ringing can be a bodily sensation that feels like pressure in your chest, hair standing up on the back of your neck, or a ball in the pit of your stomach. Whatever it is for you it can be an important cue, because it is the harbinger of something that is important to pay attention to.
Let me put this into context—why it is important, and how paying attention to it can help you streamline your life so that you enjoy yourself more, experience less suffering and are more effective in navigating your life and career. Here is a real example where I have changed the details to protect confidentiality for my client.
I was working with a client the other day who arrived to our session feeling like he had just emerged from a really bad week. Some things were going on with his personal relationships that were very stressful, and the work professionally was taking a lot out of him, too. He wanted to know how to avoid, or minimize, these types of experiences in the future.
From my perspective, this was not the first time I had seen him emerge from a hard week to check-in with me. It appeared that he went through a bit of a cycle from time to time, a period of a low followed by an emerging through to a place of (relative) peace once again.
We started to look at the cycle that we could observe about how the stressful/painful/suffering episode starts, and how it feels in his body. We identified some key physical sensations he notices—shortness of breath, flaring temper, difficulty concentrating, etc. We identified the belief system that he notices at that time, too. For him, the moment feels like the sky is falling. We all have a stage like this. For me, it feels as if the wheels are coming off the cart. When I feel that way, I start to feel hopeless, overwhelmed and pinched. So, that is the first step in the cycle, for both my client and myself.
Next, we identified what brings him through to the other side. He said that when the sky is falling sensation happens, the quicker he can get into exquisite self-care, the better he is able to reduce the impact and duration of the negative cycle. Whether it’s getting out into the fresh air for a few minutes for a short walk, doing a heads-down data dump to get all the things that need to be done (and/or the toxic thoughts) out of his head, or simply taking a few deep breaths, the transition into the body, focusing on what it needs in the moment, short-circuits the thought process that the sky is falling feeling brings on.
From there, my client can return to a place of resourcefulness and resilience, turning focus back to the problem at hand with a relatively clear head, presence of mind, and spirit.
I’m vastly simplifying this technique/cycle for the purpose of this post, but I think you get the idea. The trick is to identify what your personal Bat Phone signal is, learn to recognize it, and wake up when you hear or feel it.
To take the reminder as an opportunity to turn to what you need to do, in the moment, to take care of your own needs so that you can move from being activated/hooked/overwhelmed/irritated/feeling hopeless (insert your own adjective here) to being centered, grounded and present to what is going on in your body, so you can honor your needs and meet them. Then, you can resourcefully and mindfully re-engage with the subject matter in front of you from a position of increased effectiveness and reduced drag on your spirit, energy and internal resources.
I’m wondering, when you think about it this way, what is your own personal Bat Phone?
What is your signal that it’s ringing? What do you need to listen to?
What can you do (or not do) when you hear/feel it ringing?
For some people, in some cases, it may mean cancelling a meeting you know will be too much for you in your current state; in others or in cases where the meeting cannot be canceled, it may mean downshifting your expectations of what you’ll be able to get from the meeting and how you will be able to be while in the meeting. The key is to tune into the trigger for you that lets you know it’s time for self-care and for getting into your body, and seeing that as being of service to the whole, whether it be your work team, your organization, your family or the larger community around you.