THE BLOG

On Using Mindfulness as Party Survival Skills

04/06/2014 16:29 BST | Updated 04/08/2014 10:59 BST

I don't like parties anymore, I don't think I ever did but when you drink, the world is your oyster card. I remember in the old days throwing it back as fast as I could and thinking I was a joy to behold. I wasn't, I told the same story over and over again and didn't notice people blurring over with boredom. I spent days afterwards on the phone asking if I went too far? If you have to ask it you did.

I went to a large party a few days ago and this time was aware of why in the past I felt the need to get drunk. Maybe it's because I've been practicing mindfulness that this time I could notice with clarity what was happening and what I was feeling and thinking in the moment. When I'm with a few people and feel stressed I have the space to be able to focus my attention on one of my senses either breath, sound, taste, touch or sight and be able to cool down my chattering mind, think clearly and listen to everyone. At this party - with so many people in one room - my mind scattered so I fell straight into my old habits from way back in childhood; getting people laugh to get their approval. Why I need to do this I don't know. It could be because as a child I always thought the more people I could get to like me, the more protected I was from my parents' abuse. It would be like building a human igloo of protection. So I'm at the party moving like a starving animal hunting for attention from person to person. I usually gravitate to those I perceive as the most powerful or popular. If I can get them to like me my self-esteem goes up a mile. That feeling only lasts a few seconds because it's such hard work. While I'm mentally tap dancing for their attention, my mind is assaulting me with, "Any second they're going to find out that I'm a fraud".

I'm ashamed to write this but it's true and better out than in. The rest of the evening is spent panicking about how long I'm supposed to talk to one person and then when do I turn and talk to the next? I don't want them to turn away first: that would stab me in the heart, so I exhaust myself trying to stay interesting even if they're boring me senseless. What kind of people have the confidence to just stand there and be boring? Does this mean they're more evolved or superior to the rest of us? So, I'm standing there holding a glass and my mind is now a car crash of instructions on what to do next. (I never know why we can't sit down. Does standing mean you're a grown-up?) And then dinner starts and you're assigned to sit next to someone you don't know and have to talk to him/her for the rest of the night. Is this supposed to be fun? I'm dripping in sweat because of feeling the burden that I have to keep the conversation titillating. I found myself at this party saying, "So tell me about the diggers you invest in, in East Africa." I caught myself humped over desperately trying to keep my interest going but then thought, "I can't do this anymore" and making sure he didn't notice, I made sure I didn't upset him by letting him finish his speech about diggers, I slipped away. I suppose that is being mindful, noticing that my mind was out of commission and I wasn't really there. I left to sit in the loo to calm my racing mind. I could then clearly decide what I really felt I wanted to do. Without beating myself up about it, which would have happened five years ago, I went to bed. It turns out no one noticed I left. Sometimes it's good not to feel like you have to steal the show - you only end up with a hangover.