Help me with a symbol or token for "No negativity spirals!"
April 22, 2021 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I would like to display a symbol or token that will remind me to stop overthinking and allowing anxious thoughts and catastrophic thinking to spiral out of control. But, I would like it to be a positive symbol. Any ideas?

I am in therapy for general anxiety, depression, and adhd. My therapist has suggested that I keep a visible reminder in a prominent spot that will be a reminder to not let my anxious, negative thoughts take over. But I'm drawing a blank on any kind of symbolism that isn't along the lines of a red circle with a line through it, like no parking signs. I'd like something that feels more positive, rather than negative. And it would be an added bonus if it would make a nice piece of art or a small tattoo.

Do you have any suggestions?

I'm not really into the zodiac or metaphysics or religion, so those kinds of symbols wouldn't really work for me.
posted by SuperSquirrel to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A plate of beans?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:24 PM on April 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A circle with an arrow pointing outward (thank you Diane Diane!)
posted by bananacabana at 3:25 PM on April 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

What about a pause symbol/button?
posted by moogs at 3:28 PM on April 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you know it's a reminder, then it's a reminder, even if it's not apparent to other people. Thinking of this in terms of your ideas about 'what would make a nice tattoo or piece of art?' might be a more productive approach than trying to find a suitable symbol, especially one that won't potentially be misinterpreted.

Alternately, there is a symbol of positivity that's free of any zodiac/metaphysical/religious/etc. connection: +
posted by box at 3:29 PM on April 22, 2021

What do you feel is the alternative to an anxiety spiral? Do you think of an open palm, a nose (inhaling), a calm lake?
posted by rogerroger at 3:34 PM on April 22, 2021

If you don't mind a little kitsch, there's always the classic "Hang in there, baby!" poster, and you've got plenty more cats and kittens to choose from than in the 1970s.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:40 PM on April 22, 2021

Best answer: I would try out the image of a downward spiral but then have the arrow angle up and out - escaping with joyous energy from the spiral. Maybe even have the downward part in black and the up part in a bright color or with confetti around the tip.
posted by metahawk at 3:54 PM on April 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My first thought was a little sleeping cat figurine for your desk or windowsill to calm you by example. A quick search uncovered this one that I quite liked (I am not associate with the seller in any way), and there are plenty more to choose from.
posted by ejs at 4:16 PM on April 22, 2021

Best answer: Images that feel like the opposite of that kind of spiral to me:

A bunch of helium balloons, floating paper lanterns, or birds or butterflies rising up into the air

Seedlings pushing up through the dirt (I mean, I could go on at length about this metaphor, about how seeds use nutrients and bacteria in dirt (or compost, or literal shit), the heat of the sun even before they can detect its light, and fuel carried inside itself in its seed to grow and change and become something thousands of times bigger than it started)

The waxing moon (in witchery, generally the time from the new (dark) moon to full is for calling things in to you - abundance, opportunities, power, strength - and the waning moon is for casting things away - often habits/relationships/energy that doesn't serve you. But the entire cycle is important, you need the dark and the light, but since you're trying to focus on the light side the waxing part is probably more meaningful.)

A kite.

A sail as it fills with wind.

There's a lot of really great diagrams out there to convey the physics concept of lift, as in how things fly.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:41 PM on April 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

This may be obvious, but what about a squirrel? Your username makes me think of a squirrel with a cape on which is one of the least anxiety-inducing images I've ever pictured.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 4:44 PM on April 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Something that will lift you out, like a balloon or a feather? Grab ahold of the feather and it will float you on out of the whirlpool of negativity.
posted by Gray Duck at 5:17 PM on April 22, 2021

Best answer: a symbol could be some object or physical system that recovers back to a stable resting state/stable trajectory after getting bumped or perturbed. a thing that might jitter around a bit in the short term after taking a knock but is self-righting.

* yacht with a keel, leaning against the wind / surf
* one of those weighted roly poly toys that bounce back up when they get knocked over
* for a more natural thing, something like the ocean, perhaps? you can drop a rock into the ocean and locally there will be some ripples and agitation but after a short time (& zooming out for a wider perspective), the ocean will just keep on doing its oceany thing
posted by are-coral-made at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2021

a stick figure image of a person leaping over a crevasse
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:40 PM on April 22, 2021

Best answer: Maybe the Symbol of Chaos. Rather than something like a black-hole, or a drain where everything spirals down down down.... this is like a white-hole that is spewing the new outwards in all directions.

The Vulcan IDIC seems a bit too complex.

I view (post-hoc) the chaos symbol as just a simple projection of the tiny but large cold dark prison of multidimensional space, the hedgehog/porcupine as it were.

Say you're a 1d creature and your arms are 1 unit long and you're in the middle of a 'room' with walls 1 unit to either side. If you hold your arms out, you can touch both sides, pull them in and you can go anywhere on that 1d line between those two walls.

Now in 2d, you have walls 1 unit to the left, right, top, and bottom. You also have 4 corners that are sqrt(2) (1.414...) away. Go to to 3d and you have 6 walls boxing you in, left, right, top, bottom, front, and back. And 8 corners that are sqrt(3) (1.732..) away. Keep going up the dimensions past 10, 100, 1000, ...

You're still stuck in the middle with a humongous number of walls that you can touch and even a more humongous number of corners that are humongously far away. The box it as tiny as it was and at the same time much larger.

From the next dimension up, projected like a shadow into 3d space, this sorta looks like a porcupine/hedgehog. A little ball in the middle and a bunch of spines pointing out in every directions imaginable.

The chaos symbol is just this, but more like a slice than a shadow. You have the little round middle and caught 8 of the spines.

Now all you have to do is remember that you don't have to stick your arms out all the damn time. Pull them in and become a spherical cow and you have an infinite volume of space available and you can go infinite distance in any direction.

Basically the opposite of the black-hole like gravity well that spirals down to a singularity.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:52 PM on April 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe an image of the North Star to remind yourself to fix your sights on what's true, and not to get sucked into anxiety.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:44 PM on April 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

How about the ace of spades? Makes a superb tattoo, it's a hugely popular subject for art. It's the symbol at the centre of the greatest song about mindfulness ever written, stressing the value of being fully present in the moment and rejecting the negative fear of losing:
If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man
You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say
I don't share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace of Spades...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:43 PM on April 22, 2021

a soft white cloud.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:16 PM on April 22, 2021

I actually drew a picture of a monkey at the circus to remind me: not my monkey, not my circus. Helped a lot.
posted by Toddles at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

A cartoonish green checkmark.
posted by AugustWest at 9:30 PM on April 22, 2021

Best answer: Anxiety spirals make me feel trapped, as the spiral winds tighter and tighter, so I'd go with a colourful firework burst to symbolise bursting out of that trap.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:08 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A sunflower? It has a connection to spirals in the arrangement of the florets and seeds, but it grows towards the sun. Also it’s a nice cheery yellow.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:08 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ya cd double down on that spiral by considering "Newgrange triskele / trisceal". Might be a little woo-wah for your taste but it is generally assoc with positive energy and you can ignore the earth-mother baggage.
posted by BobTheScientist at 3:32 AM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: A cartoon of a plane pulling out of a dive?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:05 AM on April 23, 2021

One saying that comes up a lot around this is “you can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf,” so maybe a happy cartoon surfer riding a big wave?
posted by en forme de poire at 6:26 AM on April 23, 2021

What about a bracelet or ring with a complicated stone, perhaps with some tiny sparkly bits? You could gaze into its depths to refocus yourself. That use would imbue it with meaning.
posted by carmicha at 7:01 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have an extra MeFi Beanplate button. send me your address, I'll send you 1. I can't find the design, but it would remind you not to overthink a plate-o-beans.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: You're welcome to use our family size snuggle bucket if it will help.
posted by flabdablet at 9:41 AM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: This might be a bit abstract, but what's coming to mind for me is a set of little pebbles. Each thought is real and valid but discrete and with boundaries, to be picked up and set down as needed.
posted by dusty potato at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: A fermata, which in music means "hold this for a while before moving on." If you specifically want to represent a silent pause, use a fermata over a rest, like this.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

An SLR camera - so you can remind yourself that you can control whether you zoom in or out. The key thing is to focus on the right field of view.

There is also this infographic which is way more literal (obviously) but does break down unhelpful thinking styles so they might be easier to recognize when they occur.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:14 PM on April 23, 2021

Best answer: My brain goes for images that are silly and action-packed:

A Phoenix, busting out of that damn negativity fire
Kool-Aid man, smashing through that self-building negativity fortress
Wonder Woman, squeezing that negativity spiral with the lasso of truth until it has its own emotional breakthrough and cries out that it sees now how we all deserve to be seen and loved exactly as we are
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:53 PM on April 23, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you so much!!! I think I have an idea, and I'm going to approach an artist I follow on Facebook to help me think it through. I will follow up on what I decide on if anyone's interested. (Also, thank you for the cat pictures - those always help!)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2021

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