Spacing Out ? Where did you learn to do that?

Have you ever missed your train, your stop, your appointment? Do you find time passes and you don’t know where it went? Are you spacing out?


Do you space out? While daydreaming can be a vital part of the creative process, or a just a nice way to relax, if you’re missing your train and deadlines or just losing time from zoning out, it may be time to zone back in.

Why do we zone out? It can be a way of coping

If you were constantly nagged, bullied or even abused as a child, one coping mechanism used by children is dissociation. If it wasn’t safe to be you as a child, you may have learned to disappear, take off and ‘space out’.

I remember doing this as a child in a maths lesson. I didn’t ‘get it’ I was bored and disinterested (and more importantly, grossly shortsighted which no-one had picked-up) so I spent most of my time looking out of the window floating about in the clouds. Needless to say this in turn got me into more trouble, the more I got told off the more I spaced out!

By the sheer nature of the fact that as children we spend a lot of time being told what to do and when and how, we have internalised those messages into our own ‘inner parent’ part that even today may nag, criticise or even bully us to do certain things.

Often our ‘inner child’ is affected by our ‘inner parent (for more on this read Stop Letting Your Inner Child Rule Your Life) but it doesn’t have to be all about bullying or abuse. Maybe as a child you were left to your own devices for hours on end with very few boundaries or guidelines in place. In which case your parent part might be vacant or spaced out with little input.

So how do you stop spacing out?

Spacing out is often a great way for us to cope with stress or unhappiness as children, but is it useful as an adult? Probably not. When yet another day has passed and you haven’t delivered the goods, met the deadline or painted the bedroom. When you’ve missed the stop for the fourth time this week, or been late to pick the kids up, it’s no longer serving you is it!

Think of spacing out like an out-of-date program left running on a computer: it’s just taking up unnecessary space that could be used for something better.

First: Get back into your body.

Feel the sensation of your feet in your shoes. Where possible, walk barefooted so you can reconnect and get ‘earthed’. Instead of getting out of your head, get into your body.

A simple breathing technique to ‘change your state’ and bring you back into the here and now can help. Do it now. Breathe in slowly though your nose, pause a moment, then slowly out through the mouth as if with a satisfied Haaaa (quietly though!) Do this four or five times and keep your eyes open.

Remember you’re an Adult

Here’s how, remind yourself of your age. Tell yourself “I am X years old and I can do this!” Be conscious and awake. It will help if you address your inner child directly, giving them some attention and saying something simple like, “I’m just off to a meeting and I don’t need you to come along. so you’re going to stay at home and play while I go off and do the grown up things, and I’ll see you later.”

It may sound weird to talk to yourself in this way but it works! But don’t take my word for it, try it and see for yourself.

Send your Parent away

You can also address your ‘inner parent’ by saying to that part, “You know what? Thank you for all the nagging, but STOP IT NOW! I’m X years old, an adult and I don’t need your incessant rules. I can do this, so GO AWAY!” It really does have the effect of quietening down that critical part.

Years ago I trained with Richard Bandler, originator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and remember him saying “Tell that part to ‘Shut the f*@$ up!’”

It really works! That nagging, parent part of you or the demanding child part of you will quieten down for a while.

It’s important to expose these parts and the things they say, because by bringing this internal dialogue into a more conscious awareness, you give your ‘adult’ part permission to take more of a leading role in your life.

So, the next time you feel yourself spacing out do one of these exercises. Remind yourself of your age, get yourself grounded and make sure your inner Adult is in charge.


A longer version of this article was originally published on www.thestresshacker.com