Spinning out of control

I never go to Disneyland without a spin or two on the Mad Hatter’s Teacups. Now, I know that they are not everyone’s cup of tea. (Dang, that was clever!) I like riding them, probably because I don’t have a problem with motion sickness or dizziness.

Last year, pre-plague, most of the family went to Disneyland together. As we were getting ready to board the teacups, My son Ryan and I asked my son Dan if he was sure he wanted to ride with us, because we were going to spin hard. It’s what we do.

He said he was up for it. We warned him again, but he said it was okay, and he and his wife, Kailey, got on board with. Yeah, that was probably a mistake. My son Ryan and I dug in and started pulling against the wheel to speed up the spin of the cup.

Dan started looking a little green, and eventually leaned his head back and just “went with it.” Kailey, somehow, managed to take video and pictures.

Me? I was cool as a cucumber. Essentially unaffected.

As the ride began to slow down, we did a counter-spin to minimize the dizziness, but Dan was too far gone. He staggered out the little door and proceeded to vomit on the ground. I felt bad for him, and the person that would have to clean up the mess from the 47th person that day to puke on the ride. When I say “I felt bad,” I mean that I made sure he was okay before I started mocking him relentlessly. Juvenile? Yes. Irresponsible? Probably. Hilarious? Definitely.

Eventually, Dan shook it off and was ok. We gave him the requisite amount of grief, and enjoyed a great rest of the day.

I don’t know why I’m not easily affected by spinning vertigo. Lucky, I guess. Maybe my inner-ear is built differently. My EC? She’s probably dizzy just from reading this. While I am not prone to dizziness, I do know a few tricks to help prevent or minimize the dizziness from happening: In the case of the teacups, I always watch my hands on the center wheel, doing my best to not look at the surrounding area, or pay attention to my peripheral vision.

Now my idea of focusing on the center wheel is not a new thing. In other areas they have a similar technique called “Spotting.” One of the best example of someone who “spots” while spinning is a ballerina performing a pirouette.

The spotting technique is to pick a point to focus on, usually a place on the wall or some other fixed location that will not move. Then, when the dancer is spinning, she focuses on that exact spot every time she makes a full revolution. If you watch really close, you will notice that her head will spin at a different speed than her body: Her head will start the spin later, and spin faster than her body, to get back to the focal point for just a split second longer. That technique does several things: Helps her not get dizzy, helps her keep her balance, and keeps her precisely upright.

Ice skaters spin even faster, and use this same technique when they are newbies. Eventually, they spin too fast to spot, but something else happens to them: Eventually their brains change how they process motion. (Advanced skaters depend less on their inner ear for balance, and their brains rewire themselves to override those inner-ear warnings. link)

As you probably know, I am not an advanced ice skater or a ballet-dude. For me, my challenge with spinning is more about rides at amusement parks, or test-driving office chairs.

If you look at it from a metaphorical viewpoint, it is very easy to see why many of us feel like things are spinning. Even spinning out of control. Do you ever feel this way? It has been a tough year that has made my head spin. I imagine you feel the same.

When our lives (both personal and societal) seem to be spinning out of control, what can we do? We can use the same “spotting” technique that dancers do: Find a steady point and focus on it every time it comes around.

Like what? There are many, but here are a few, with the most obvious first:

  • The Savior
  • The Plan of Salvation
  • The Prophet
  • The Temple
  • Sunday Meetings
  • The Sacrament
  • Service
  • Prayer
  • Scriptures

Our focus can, and should, turn to the Sacrament weekly. We should focus on the Savior “always.” We’ve been counseled to have a picture of the temple in our home for a steady reminder. We should be focused outward, and serve others often. The essentials of prayer and scripture study should come into focus on a daily basis.

The Lord knows what He is doing when he asks us to do certain things (like these) on a regular basis. It’s not a “one-time shot,” like looking to the brazen serpent to be healed. It is a regular, weekly, daily, hourly process of finding focal points that last our entire lives. If we can focus on these bedrock principles, and not pay as much attention to the periphery, our lives can be less dizzying.

“In searching the scriptures and the words of past and current apostles and prophets, we should focus on studying, living, and loving the doctrine of Christ.

In addition to developing the habit of personal scripture reading, we need to be like the sons of Mosiah and give ourselves “to much prayer, and fasting.”

It seems that these things which are not easily measured are of great importance. Stay focused on these simple things, and avoid becoming distracted.” (M. Russell Ballard)

As for the feeling that things are spinning out of control. It happens to all of us. Sometimes it can be debilitating and depressing. When we feel dizzied by the frenzy of movement around us, it is hard to feel “joyful.”

To this point, President Russell M. Nelson said this:

“Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!

My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.

When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, which President Thomas S. Monson just taught us, and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.” (link)

The Lord has given us so many things we can focus on in order to keep ourselves standing upright, clear-headed and balanced. If we go to long without spotting those things provided, it can become all too dizzying.

Stay focused! And no puking!

About the author


  1. Back when I Square danced in college we had contests to see how long we could spin or if we could make our partner dizzy. We always focus on our partners face

  2. Thank you for this. Our RS lesson this afternoon is on the Sunday Morning Conference October 2020 talk “Peace, Be Still” by Lisa L Harkness. The talk is about how faith in Jesus Christ can lead to peace when the storms rage, but I’ve been unsatisfied. I’m always looking for the HOW. HOW does faith lead to peace? What do I need to DO to achieve it? Your list of focal points is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Your message, therefore, is particularly timely for me.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

%d bloggers like this: