Do you have a vague feeling that something is not quite right, but you can’t put your finger on what it is? Is someone telling you that they know your needs better than you? Are you left feeling confused?
If so, you may be in the Magic Circle
Dazed and Disoriented
As I closed my front door, I sat and stared at my new set of knives, which I absolutely did not need or want. A feeling of dread began to creep in as I wondered just how I had ended up spending so much money on something I could not afford. I tried to re-gain the magic by recalling all the amazing things they could do, cut through an aluminum can, saw through a nail and still slice through a tomato like butter. The sales pitch just rang hollow as I stared down at the set of knives in my lap. I felt dazed and disoriented as tried to hold onto something I did not want, all because I had entered into a Magic Circle, completely unprepared.
Magic what now?
So here is my definition of a Magic Circle and tell me if you recognize it. You found yourself in a situation where you felt dazed, stupid, wrong, judged, powerless or just unable to form a clear thought. It may be deceptively pleasant like when you find that beautiful but expensive pair of shoes and it’s only when you are fumbling for your credit card you are jolted back to reality.
Or it may immediately feel distressing, possibly being confronted by someone who “won’t take no for an answer” or won’t let you get a word in.
It’s only after you walk away that you begin to realize that you were being pushed into giving up some measure of trust in yourself. I call this the Magic Circle because it almost feels like you are under a spell. And as long as you are in that circle you will have trouble accessing the judgment part of your brain.
So you may be in the Circle, what now?
First, get out of the Magic Circle long enough to hear yourself think
- This may mean leaving the situation any way you can; “I’m sorry I have an important call to make” or “I have to go, we can talk later.” No details, no explanations, just make your excuses and leave, ignoring any attempts to re-engage.
- Or you may have to opt for more clarity; “I’m not interested” or “I don’t really want to talk about that right now”, then, again make your excuses and leave.
- If that doesn't work, you may have to take the gloves off and go bare knuckle, making your immediate needs known, saying something like “yeah, you need to take about three steps back.” If you find yourself at this point, you are past offering any kind of social grace, instead do not re-engage and definitely walk away.
- Sometimes situations and/or people are so toxic, possibly dangerous, that you may have to decide to not engage at all, ever. This means no explanations or justifications, no emails, texts or phone calls, just walk away and don’t look back.
Second, recognize that you were in a Magic Circle
How did I feel? Was it draining? Did I feel anxious? Was someone telling you that they knew your needs better than you did? Were they encouraging you to let them think for you? Did you begin to lose trust in yourself regarding stuff that belongs to you?
Learn to recognize when you are not in the Magic Circle. You will find that you feel centered as you sort through your thoughts and feelings, taking whatever time you need, without feeling pressured or anxious.
Work to find your balance again by processing your thoughts and feelings with trusted family and friends. Using your own healthy voice, talk to those you trust and listen to their feedback. This is a good way to re-center as long as they are not asking you to replace your thoughts and feelings with their own.
If it helps, write it down. Our brain’s frontal cortex is responsible for complex thinking and processing. The act of writing pulls feelings of bewilderment out of the primitive parts of our brain and into the parts that have language, judgement and understanding.
To stay centered, keep these words close. This can mean several handwritten pages or a few words on a sticky note attached to the mirror.
So here’s the bottom line, we aren't ourselves in the Magic Circle. Whether or not it is intentional, the Magic Circle thrives on passive responses. Walking away from a Magic Circle is difficult, and can feel counter-intuitive. But it is often a necessary step that helps us find ourselves again. It allows us the time and space we need to sort through the noise until we can think, allowing us to hear our healthy, nurturing voice again. This is not unreasonable. You get to do this.