Hi friends! It’s been a while since I did a Spellbook Saturday post, and since I unexpectedly fell asleep in the middle of writing yesterday (such is life), I guess it’s actually a Spellbook Sunday! Regardless, while I will share what I’ve been reading these days, this one is going to be a bit different. Rather than recommend a specific book, I’m recommending a concept: familiar escapism.

Given the state of the world, I think it’s safe to say the majority of us are experiencing anxiety in the face of uncertainty. Fear surrounding our health, economic security, and the failures of capitalism and our government are all weighing on us. The collective grief and stress can be overwhelming, and many of us are experiencing a phenomenon best-described as “brain fog”:

In times of chronic stress, our brains habituate to the “fight or flight” response. Our hearts may not race all of the time, and we may not notice that our muscles are tight or that sleep has become more elusive. Our awareness of worries may fade, but they continue to capture our attentional resources, making it harder to concentrate and fully observe our environment. At the same time, we may be more distractible, jumping from one thing to the next, unknowingly searching for signs of threat. Some incoming information will be missed, creating little holes in our everyday memory. We may make errors in decision-making or become stuck in old thought patterns. Brain fog creeps in quietly and insidiously.

That ‘Brain Fog’ You’re Feeling Is Perfectly Normal, Molly Colvin, WBUR, April 22, 2020.

I think that one important element of self-care during this time of crisis is inner child work. (For those not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia has a typically dry overview, and Psychology Today has some wonderful articles about this popular psychology theory.) The uncertainty we’re all experiencing right now can be deeply triggering for those who have experienced inner-child wounding, particularly if there was trauma during childhood. In addition to self-soothing and affirmations, I think one way that we can gently explore this work right now is through re-reading beloved books from our youth, or: “familiar escapism.”

Perhaps because I’m not someone who generally enjoys YA literature, and I don’t have or spend a great deal of time around children, I can’t remember the last time I read a “children’s book.” But in recent weeks, I’ve re-read several childhood favorites, including CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I’m so enjoying revisiting these familiar lands and connecting with old friends. In addition to being quick and breezy reads, often these books address the uncertainties children are familiar with and which we are now experiencing– a lack of control, feelings of powerlessness, etc.– with clear and concise messages. And really, there’s something to be said for a satisfying conclusion these days, when real life provides so few.

Did you have a favorite book as a child? Have you re-read it as an adult? If so, did you have any new takeaways? (I was particularly struck by the ways in which Lewis’ Narnia series was foundational to my interest in history and love of Celtic mythology.) Lastly, what are your experiences of inner-child work and how are you self-soothing now? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please share in the comments below!

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