The Monster Counsel Report: The Disturbed Spouse Solution

Nov 30

The Cliff-Hanging Counsel House! Yesterday’s post ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger, with everyone huddled together in a Very Important, All Night Monster Counsel [sic](which pretty much seems to mean munching on cookies while wearing meaningful expressions and pointing vaguely at maps.)

The Counsel’s Agenda?

The finding of ways to make Disturbing-The-Spouse or Not-Disturbing-The-Spouse irrelevant to the success and productivity of The Circus. (And Me.) (And my Monsters)

The Counsel was further instructed to be sure that any solutions were pragmatic and self-contained.  In other words?

No plans that require the Spouse to change or otherwise do anything (because that would just Disturb him), nor could the plans require me to engage in any spontaneous spiritual evolution.  I mean, sure, I’m all about evolving, but that’s a life project, and it tends to be a wee bit disruptive on its own.  The focus here is on Things Getting Done, not taking on more stress in hopes of transcending to an angelic state of bliss that’s beyond stress.

First Order of Business?

Anything we know doesn’t work gets sprinkled with powdered sugar and added to the snack table.

So a bunch of old notes about taking responsibility for our own emotions, effective communication, courage, 10-steps-to-a-quickie-divorce and a comic book about self-improvement were tossed together with some peanuts until it turned into a sort of Monster Trail Mix.  We added extra cinnamon, which was yummy.

Then, while still snacking, The Counsel found a solution.

I know.

I was shocked, too.

The official recommendation?

Build Steel-Reinforced Habit Habitats.

Yay, Spouse-Proof, Reinforced Habit Habitats!  If you missed the Habit Habitat post, you can find it here.  I’m still madly in love with the concept, and the Circus Menagerie will be putting together all kinds of info on Habit Habitats as soon as in-humanly possible, but essentially?

It’s about creating safe living spaces for newly formed habits, so they are protected and well taken care of and not disrupted.

Spouse-Disturbance Safe Habitat

Like, do’h.

So the Monsters pointed out that if I create a strong enough Habit Habitat for my work-stuff-plans? Said work-stuff-plans should  weather the storms of Spousal Explosions with ease.

And there’s a science-y side to this Habit Habitat thing, grounded in my background as a brain-blogger.  But I don’t want to bog you down in that, so..

Here’s the not-very-science-y version:

(In other words, don’t yell at me because this isn’t scientifically accurate. I mean, I’m talking about monsters, for gawd’s sake. It’s not going to be scientifically accurate)

Ahem. Anyway.

Each time we take a new action, have a new thought or experience, our brain creates a new neural pathway.

Each time we repeat that action, thought or experience, we strengthen that neural pathway – so  the more times we do something, the easier it becomes to repeat  that something, the next time.

Eventually, the neural path is so well established that our thoughts travel it easily, even automatically.

But until that pathway is well trodden, it takes a bit of effort to walk that way.

And if, say, a major flood rolls through the area before the path is well established?

Yeah. It gets washed away.

That’s what I think happens when the Spouse-Gets-Disturbed.  It’s like a flash flood that overwhelms those barely-started neural pathways of productivity.

He exhibits some sign of stress, and my Highly-Sensitive self starts desperately seeking ways to solve whatever-the-crisis might be. Since the spouse in question tends to throw a LOT of issues out at once, whenever he’s disturbed?

Bridge out, Dude. Bridge out.I wind up with a whole bunch of brand new, tangled-together neural pathways.

Tangled up new neural pathways that may or may not lead anywhere, but certainly don’t lead towards my pre-existing plans of productivity. That bridge? Yeah. Totally washed out.

I even get the feeling that the whole mucky process may actually re-purpose the same neurons I’d already used for my barely established business planning things, completely erasing that tentative brain cell network of productivity.

So When The Spouse Is Disturbed?

It’s as if a flash flood obliterates my carefully planned paths.  I’m left slogging through mud and debris of  half-built neural pathways, with no clear way ahead. And the time between Disturbances is rarely long enough for me to get new paths firmly established.

Seen that way, it’s pretty obvious why no amount of self-compassion or working-it-out-with-The-Spouse has solved the problem. Being Highly-Sensitive means when I spot indications of the spouses distress, my nature is to focus on relieving that distress. And fighting my nature? Yeah. Serious drain on energy and neural-path resources, and the productivity pathways get overwritten that way, too.

Which brings us back to a Habit Habitat, and Monster Counsel.

The Big M’s are pretty excited about this Special, Awesome, Steel-Reinforced Habitat thing.  They say that even if it doesn’t totally solve the productivity-plans-going-kaboom problems, we can still use it as a hidey hole for ourselves. They’re also working on a side project that seems to involve portable rope bridges.

I’m not entirely sure what all of this will look like when complete,  but the Monsters are busy with architectural sketches and some rather extensive supply lists.

We’re all very excited to see how this turns out.


It's another flourish!

The Comment Carousel; No Ticket Required

Oh, look, I finally found a Circus label for these little pre-comment notes! Cool.  Anyway, I’d love to hear from you about this wackiness, so long as you don’t try and send me to a psychiatrist or suggest I need counseling.  Because that would be annoying.  Plus, there’s the insurance deductible to fret over.


  1. Ooh, portable rope bridges. I’d love to see those when they’re done. Also, extra cinnamon, very yummy. Unless you’re French, apparently.

    Being so sensitive to other people’s emotions can be so disruptive and draining. I’ve even caught myself feeling/absorbing other people’s (ex-boyfriend) emotions. Which could have been okay, but he was bipolar, so it wasn’t at all.

    !Virtual-self-cleaning Confetti! for your resolution!

  2. Andy Dolph /

    You have briliantly smart monsters!


  3. I love Kathryn’s !virtual self-cleaning confetti! – that’s awesome! 🙂

    I passed on yesterday’s blog post to Meg and she’s now following and reading your blog. We’re all excitedly awaiting developments with this. Lots of us suffer from similar flash floods and so your Monsters working out a cinnamon covered solution for this is doing the world at large a favour.

    Thank you, Tori and thank you, Monsters. Rawr*.

    Noreen xox

    (* means “I love you” in Monster, right? I hope I’m pronouncing it right?)

  4. Girl, you are ROCKING this blog! So fun and helpful. Nicely done!

    I am looking forward to more about the Habit Habitats.


  5. Yes – Habits that Help!

    I wish it were easier to set good habits in place. But, they seem to take a lot of tending and coaxing and sweet talking – oh and sparkly things 🙂

  6. Tori!!!

    I absolutely love this, and your monsters are actually being very helpful. Looks like you have a possee of Helper Monsters!

    I can’t wait to see what these Habit Habitats look like.

    Lots of love!


  7. You are a genius and a visionary. I salute you and your monsters!

    What we need to remember is the existence of the spouse’s monsters, whose prime directive seems to be To-keep-the-world-as-it-should-be, which usually means as it is right now.
    These monsters have found a safe place where things appear to work and where they feel loved and brave enough to come out of the cave every now and then. But if things look different outside the cave to what they’re expecting, then very loud alarm bells start to ring and they have to scramble to regain order (explosion ensues).
    The knack may be to invite them out more often, hold their hand and give them a tour of new changes so it doesn’t sneak up on them all at once. Thoughts?

  8. Tori Deaux /

    It’s a funny thing… each comment on these monster counsel posts makes me smile, hugely… but the topic feels too real to reply to you individually.

    I hope you forgive me for that.. your thoughts are all being taken into account and woven into the reinforcements 😉

    • I totally understand – it’s part of building the neural pathways. Allowing someone to take you off your original track of thought before it’s totally set in is almost as dangerous as spousal explosions.
      I, for one am on tenterhooks (is that right?) to see what emerges… when it’s ready.

  9. 1) Love the art

    2) Love the posts

    3) Counseling OR therapy? Why not both!?