In my continued exploration of habitual anxiety – specifically, mine – I have also noticed a far more disturbing habit at work within me.
I have become addicted TO emotion itself.
I am also starting to suspect I am not alone in this.
Everything in our culture, in society itself, is set up to foster a continual seeking out of emotion – its highs, its lows, its sheer adrenaline rush of unpredictability – from television to movies, books to casual conversation, relationships and more, we seem to rely on emotion for meaning, motivation, direction, and relaxation the way cars rely on gas or other fuels.
This does not feel okay to me.
As I have begun to work on this emotional dependency within myself, I look at the example of the great beings for guidance – for instance, the Dalai Lama. In the post, “Less Emotion” earlier this month, I shared how the Dalai Lama believes that emotion gets us into all kinds of avoidable trouble. He shares very candidly about both how and why he practices the art of less emotion, and he exhorts those he meets to, if they must seek out emotion, to at least seek out emotions that are more uplifting, such as peacefulness, kindness, a welcoming nature, acceptance, joy, and humor.
I really think he is on to something.
Furthermore, I am beginning to realize that my characterizations of people close to me say a lot about which range of emotions they tend to spend more time and energy experiencing. If I say someone is “negative”, “angry”, “always happy”, “loving”, or another description, this says a lot about where they are spending their emotional time and energy – and when I turn this contemplation towards myself, I can find a lot to ponder in where I invest myself emotionally as well.
Perhaps even more fascinatingly, I have begun to perceive that when I am feeling “bored”, if I can remind myself to dig a bit deeper into what I am really feeling (ie, like “fat”, I am realizing …
It is a terrible (or wonderful, depending on which day you catch me) irony that I have a life filled with change.
Because I also have an equal and opposite unquenchable desire for order and stability in my life.
Here is my problem in a nutshell: whenever I have experienced brief periods of order and stability, I have quickly grown complacent and, sad to say, bored. But during my much more frequent periods of daily changeability, which can last for months or even years at a time, I as quickly grow irritable and begin daydreaming about a day when order and stability will once again reign supreme.
One of my mentors calls the thing I clearly do not have “equipoise”.
Equipoise basically translates as “balance”. Here we are talking about emotional or inner balance, although perhaps the easiest analogy from a visual perspective is what happens when an Olympic (or any) gymnast does not fall off the balance beam during their routine. If they manage to stay on that (ridiculously) narrow little slab of composite, it is due to the power of equipoise.
I spent one summer in gymnastics – a summer that was mercifully cut short when I jumped off the balance beam and promptly broke a bone in my foot.
But to this day I continue to long for equipoise the way my bird, Pearl, longs to shred my new magazines with her sharp little beak. I feel quite sure that a generous application of equipoise would make everything in my life better.
[Thom_Book] Thom Rutledge may be best-known to the eating disorders world these days as Jenni Schaefer’s therapist, but Jenni is just one of literally hundreds of folks who credit Thom for life-saving guidance, mentoring, and support.
When I first published Beating Ana and launched MentorCONNECT, I was pretty starry-eyed around folks I considered to be “eating disorder celebrities”. So when I first started getting email from Thom himself, I nearly fell over.
But he liked what we were up to with MentorCONNECT, and proposed a collaboration. His idea involved “teleconferences”, which made technologically-challenged me feel a bit faint for other reasons. His part would be to lead them. My part would be to run the teleconferencing program.
Needless to say, it took awhile for us to get the thing up and running.
But to date, Thom has presented 9 amazing teleconferences for us, and the 10th is right around the corner on February 9th.
At some point, we wake up, whether early on, midway through, or late into life, and realize what we’ve signed up for.
In this singular (and at times singularly unpleasant) “aha” moment, we realize that “life”, regardless of whatever definition or outcome we may have attached to it, is really nothing more than a lifelong chance to learn lessons.
This is probably why – almost certainly why – the anonymous author of “Rules for Being Human” devotes nearly one-half of the 10 short rules that make up the treatise to the process of learning lessons.
We may not have control over the fact that we will always be learning, but we for sure can decide what our attitude towards the global classroom will be.
The author examines learning lessons from every angle – from liking them to not liking them, from learning them to not learning them, and everything in between.
Rule #2 states:
You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time information school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think they are irrelevant or stupid.
Talk about telling it like it is.
“Is mentoring a replacement for the Twelve Steps?”
This is an “elephant in the room” question that is so loud, I can usually hear its clomping footsteps gallumphing past me before the asker even gets within earshot.
The Twelve Step fellowship, being at once the single most effective sobriety maintenance program yet documented and yet one of the most hotly contested, is a subject about which nearly everyone involved in any aspect of recovery has an opinion.
Just because others are heading in one direction doesn’t mean that is the right direction for you. Try it – if it doesn’t work – head out and go somewhere new.
For some who are in recovery from eating disorders, having a Twelve Step eating disorders-focused home group or fellowship to attend regularly has been a life-saver.
For others, they have found Twelve Step communities in the context of eating disorders recovery to be highly triggering, demotivational, confusing, and sometimes scary.
Mentoring, like garlic and hang-gliding, is not for everyone.
Those of us who work in a hands-on mentoring-based environment eventually figure this out, whether anyone thinks to tell us or not.
We also eventually figure out that it may not actually be mentoring itself which isn’t working, but instead the specific mentor-mentee match that has no “chemistry”, the format or frequency in which the mentoring communications do or don’t occur, or other equally compelling factors that can give the appearance that mentoring as a whole doesn’t work.
But it is rare that an entire discipline itself is broken, so instead we must look to a frank and open discussion of today’s “elephant in the room” question, “What if mentoring doesn’t work?”
MentorCONNECT, the eating disorders mentoring community that I work with, is a global online-based mentoring charity.
Our founding board knew even before we launched MentorCONNECT that sparks were nearly guaranteed to fly once we commenced to combine two loaded words – “recovery” and “internet”.
But we did it anyway. Why?
This brings us to what is possibly the single most explosive, and at times corrosive, “elephant in the room” question that mentoring for eating disorders recovery can generate – “Is the internet a safe place to find recovery support?
The answer (or at least my answer, from my own personal experience with MentorCONNECT) is, under the right set of circumstances, YES.
Oh boy. This one is a hot, HOT button for recovering persons and professionals alike.
The recovering person, often beset by mounting financial issues after attempting and failing to afford the level of treatment and care they truly need, can view a mentor like a godsend – a free source of, um, therapy.
Wherever there is a recovery crowd, we can’t forget the presence and needs of that recovering person there in the middle, small, scared, often feeling quite afraid, and needing support from ALL of us to heal.
The treatment professional, on the other hand, after many hours and days and months and sometimes years of making small and steady progress helping clients work through the many and often quite complex issues that can arise around the diagnosis of “eating disorder”, may be understandably reluctant to embrace the unknowns that adding a recovered person to the support team can generate.
What I am saying is that the mentor often enters the mix at that critical juncture where failing finances and increasing need meet.
Add to that the fact that the mentor is often available during days and times when the professional treatment team is not.
Add to that the fact that the mentor has “street credit” in the form of personal eating disorders recovery experience (which the mentor and professional may actually share in common, but the professional for one reason or another is choosing not to disclose).
Before you know it, the people who all have the same goal – helping that recovering person to get better – may believe they are on opposite sides with different goals.
So here, our sixth “elephant in the room” question thus becomes, “Is the mentor a replacement for a therapist?”
I actually get a fair number of questions that relate in one way or another to how we match mentors and mentees on MentorCONNECT.
What interests me here is that, for some reason, the answer I give does not seem to be soothing to the askers.
Maybe this is because we are all searching in this life, mostly for certainty, surety, a secure footing. We want to know whether the match will work, how we will know, and who to blame if it doesn’t.
Whether we are a professional trying to facilitate our client’s access to a high quality support team, a family member desperate for help and hope for ourselves or a loved one who is struggling, or a recovering person who wants a “recovery guarantee”, we just can’t seem to help ourselves.
We want to know for SURE.
What we all have in common is that we never quite can.
So here is where we get to our series’ fifth “elephant in the room” question, “How are mentors and mentees matched up?”
Boy this is a tough one.
We – especially in this Westernized society many of us inhabit – sure are a numbers-happy bunch.
We like statistics, percentages, ratios, and if we happen to be non-profit, we know that funders like these things too.
Thus, it is often very tempting – nearly irresistible – to focus on assessment, even to the detriment of a qualitative effectiveness that can be felt but not yet measured.
So for this, our fourth “elephant in the room” question, we ask, “How do you assess a mentoring program’s effectiveness?”