Disclaimer: If you have experienced trauma or are working with a psychologist, then please don’t. Trigger warning. To the rest, enjoy the ride.
Let’s start with a simple warm-up. At the top of the paper, write “Ghost Story”. In the next line, continue with “My meager attempts at writing fiction.” Then, divide two hundred forty million six hundred and eighty five thousand and four hundred thirty three through seven hundred and forty six. Now go pick up the pen and paper that you didn’t, so you can carry out the division. Remember, no cheating, I’m watching you.
A good story needs a villain. In the center of the next line, write down the name of somebody you hate. Think hard. Your real nemesis. Then, right next to it, write three attributes that this person has, that are the reason for your dislike. When finished, go back to the name of the person you just wrote down. Draw a heart around that name. Did you hesitate? Feels weird? Feels real, doesn’t it? Take your time to describe those feelings in the next couple of lines. What do you feel when refusing to draw that heart around that name? Please do write it down. After that, draw a box around the feelings. Caption the box with “my feelings”. Go back to the attributes for your dislike. Draw a big circle around them, and caption it “my thoughts create”. That’s right. These thoughts create those feelings. How should it be different? The person you are writing about isn’t even there, and you have these feelings anyway. As I supposed. You had me written all along, in your head.
Now let’s do some cheap magic. Please write down the opposite to the three attributes in the “my thoughts” circle. If everything went well, those should be three positive attributes. When you’re done, find at least one example where that villain exhibits this positive attribute. Think hard. Be creative. Even if it’s really tiny. In a dream. For a split second. How does that feel? Write those feelings down too. Then let’s go back to the “my feelings” box. Please write down the opposite of those feelings as well. If you’re halfways well-wired, which I assume you are, the feelings you write down now should be positive in nature. Maybe ones you would associate with the positive attributes you just found, just not when thinking of that person. Think of those positive feelings anyways. Meditate over them. Drown in them. It’s time for a little reward. You did good so far.
Feelings all fuzzy and cuddly now? If you’ve indulged enough in good emotions, please, in your imagination, give that villain a hug. Remember, that person is not there. We’re not doing anybody “good or bad”. Whatever just happens, it’s all in your head. And the end of a good ghost story is to get to know and disenfranchise the ghosts, isn’t it? If hugging feels too awkward yet, try it for half a second only. Then cut the picture off and go back into your fuzzy positive emotion. Next time try it for a second. Then two, then maybe longer. Remember, it’s just thoughts. Nobody is asking you to really hug that person when you meet them. Just do it in your mind, we’re chasing ghosts. And as long as the toughtplay of hugging somebody triggers awkward feelings in you, the ghost story goes on. Write down those feelings. Continue until they start to calm down, and you can think of ending that ghost story. Let’s see when you take the courage to hug, so you can finally stop writing this story. I told you it would be difficult to stop. Can you?
Some call this a Buddhist exercise in compassion. I think it’s really about you writing a ghost story.