Friday, March 24, 2017

Thoughts About How To Avoid "TILT"

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

I don't have anyone famous in family tree.  My family just never did much to make the papers, except for my second cousin.  His name is Doyle Brunson, and if you've ever read much about the World Series of Poker, you've heard of him.  He wrote a best-selling book called "How I Won Over a Million Dollars Playing Poker" back when having that much money was enough to make you a celebrity.  Occasionally you can still see reruns of his glory days when ESPN airs poker shows.  (I've never understood why anyone watches those programs, but then I was never good at poker.)  If you ever watch the movie Rounders, Matt Damon quote's my second cousin Doyle in a voice over.  My friends who are into poker think it's cool I'm related to the "godfather of professional poker."

I guess the fact that my only famous relative is a poker player made my ears perk up when I heard an interview with another World Series of Poker champion.  Her name is Annie Duke and now she's become a leadership coach and motivational speaker and author.  I had no idea poker skills were so relevant for successful living, but what she said made a lot of sense.  (If you want to hear the interview, click here.  Fair warning, the podcast is The Gist and it's decidedly left of center in its politics.  Oh, and they also use some curse words.)  I felt like her thoughts not only made a lot of practical sense in this charged political environment, but they also made a lot of spiritual sense too.

Here's a bit of what she has to say:

She describes a concept in the poker world called "TILT," as in what happens when you bump a pinball machine--it reads out TILT and stops working.  She describes "TILT" as "having really bad things happen to you that then you react to really negatively in an emotional sense that then kind of shuts down your ability to make decisions going forward so you have bad outcomes and it builds on itself."  That's a wordy concept, so they just call it "TILT."  In psychological or neurological terms, you might say that the frontal cortex part of your brain shuts down and your limbic system has taken over.  You lose your reasoning and react emotionally.  You lose perspective.

Annie Duke uses the example of "ticker watching," as in watching a stock ticker.  When you are obsessed with watching a stock every tick up or down in its value seems huge, but when you look at its performance over a long term those small changes don't amount to much.  She says when we "TILT" we zoom in on whatever is happening in the moment and lose perspective on its relative importance.  In such moments we can cause real damage to ourselves and others by lashing out and making a really big deal over something relatively minor.

She recommends what she calls "time travelling."  When you are overcome in the moment, think about how you would feel if this same thing happened a year ago or how you will feel looking back on it a year from now.  A flat tire in the rain would make for a very bad day, but in a year, it might make a funny story to share.    

In addition to emotional damage, we can waste a lot of time losing our @%&$%.  That's time and energy which could be spent helping ourselves and others.  Duke recommends asking, "What good is my outrage for me or anyone else?"  Does it really accomplish anything?  Maybe you just need to vent to someone you trust.  Maybe you need to just ignore it--you do have that right.  Or maybe instead of losing yourself in the moment to whatever latest outrage shows up on the news or your social media feed, channel those feelings into being productive.  Use those feelings to motivate you to donate to causes that actually are working on the problem you're upset about.  Use those feelings to get involved in protesting or volunteering.  Be productive!

American Baptist minister Susan Sparks recommends in our anxious age to make to-do lists: one for you and one for Jesus.  

For example, if you're facing a medical issue or illness, "your to-do list should include things that you can do - that you can control - like going to the doctor, taking your meds, going to tests or treatments. . . Jesus' list should contain things that that you can't do, or that you don't do very well, like calm the storm of anxieties about the future."

Sparks writes that in our daily struggle to read the daily news and remain sane in response to whatever godawful news has shown up our list should contain things like: "stay engaged, voice our opinion, reach out to those in need, pray, donate and fight."  Jesus' list should include: "calm the storms of anger, judgment, resentment, and fear in our hearts."

Similarly, Kim Sorrells with the Reconciling Ministries Network, recommends the following "Self Care Tools for the Resistance." 

1.  Get grounded. Get centered.
2.  Find ways to rest.
3.  Know your limits.
4.  Celebrate the little things.
5.  Do things in your control.
6.  Splurge (not the same as spending money--think long bath, etc.)
7.  Practice gratitude.
8.  Take care of your body.
9.  Love radically.
10.  Create.

If you believe God's love for everyone means everyone should enjoy equality, justice and peace, these are dark days we are living in.  You can choose to lose it and "TILT" or you can choose to ground yourself spiritually.  It's not easy.  Personally, I've been opting for "TILT" lately, but I'm trying to do better.  I hope you will too.

Grace and Peace,


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