Archives for February, 2011
I was wandering around some neighbourhood streets recently, when I came across these two cat-friends in the gutter, just hanging out together. They reminded me of all those sayings about friends being the ones who’ll walk into a place with you when everyone else walks out… That friends are the people who’ll meet you where you are… maybe even share part of the journey ahead with you (even if that happens to be down in a gutter of some sort just now). Interestingly, there are also some parallels to counselling here, too…
Stuck in traffic on my way home the other day, I could feel the frustration building, when I happened to spot a taxi with “Your Driver” painted boldly on the door right under the driver’s window. It made me wonder about who my driver was at that moment… me or the frustration. So I wonder, on the road you’re travelling, who is your driver when things get tricky or tough? Who gets behind the wheel at difficult times? Does it seem automatic to just let them take that control? And then what happens?
In Part 1 of this post, we waded through some clutter and wondered if there might be such a thing as internal clutter – the things that accumulate in the mind or in memories, that get in the way and end up in unstable piles of stuff that rob you of space to think. Space to be… Organising guru and clutter expert, Peter Walsh, has some interesting thoughts on clutter (the physical kind). And perhaps they’re worth contemplating, noting any internal parallels … First, Peter says that, “Everything in your home is there with your permission.” So could that also be so for your internal home? What have you let in over the years that you might like to show the door to now? What might no longer fit the life you lead? And what’s not yours anyway? (Like any notions or expectations you maybe inherited from other people).
This photo was taken in a local second-hand bookstore, a huge place crammed with an infinity of books. It seems to have a lot more order to it now, but some years back, the chaos was almost breathtaking. This particular aisle gives a sense of how most of the shop used to be: perilous piles listing and leaning all over the place, with narrow paths cut through the clutter for the brave at heart. In fact, there were piles in front of piles, completely blocking the shelves where yet more books crouched in the dark. It was a hard place to find anything in. Hard to use. You kind of had to dive in, hold your breath, let serendipity lead you, and hope to come out alive. Walking in here again the other day led to thoughts of internal clutter. What might that be for you?
In Part 1 of this post, we started looking into the ways of the inner-critic, and the kinds of criticism it often likes to give (hardly unbiased…). We wondered if it might be possible to help this inner-critic evolve. And whether it’s possible to draw on the typical guidelines about giving constructive criticism to others, and apply them to yourself. It’s amazing just how many of those guidelines suggest the same starting point: Start with something positive (which sounds a bit like that billboard in the photo) So start by noting the strengths; the ‘good’ bits; the stuff that’s praiseworthy and worth keeping (and therefore worth reinforcing). What might that feel like? To start your inner dialogue with a strength.
How much do you think you’ve learned over your lifetime about how to treat others well? As a child. As an adult. In the professional world of work. Minding your manners. Holding your tongue. Counting to ten before answering. Drafting a difficult email and then simmering down or even sleeping on it before hitting ‘send’. Being mindful, respectful, professional, polite. Yet how much of this translates into how you treat yourself? Maybe that question gets especially interesting when you think about how you give yourself feedback (and whether it’s constructive or just straight out criticism, no holds barred). For instance, how often do you ‘think before you speak’ your internal dialogues? How often does mindfulness or respect come into those?
I picked this leaf up off the ground the other day. Uncannily heart-shaped. Fallen. And though it’s clearly seen some damage in its time, and has even worn through in some places, it has a beauty and a fragility all of its own. Something that no verdant (‘perfect’) green leaf could emulate... It’s an interesting thing to reflect on in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day; a time when so many big glossy red hearts burst boldly from card shops and florists. When the spotlight’s on rich romantic love and the hearts in the throes of it. When there might seem to be less space for those hearts that feel a bit worn through; a bit damaged… So what condition is your heart in at the moment?
This sign is actually supposed to be about real estate (‘position, position, position’). But another form of exposure crossed my mind when I saw it (and not the lewd sort either). For there’s yet another kind of exposure that’s worth exploring – graded exposure therapy. And interestingly enough, that also involves position in a way; the art of positioning yourself in a different place in relation to your fears. So how does it work? Graded exposure comes from a place of deep rationality (something that fears and anxiety don’t always base themselves on). It takes you out of that internal realm of the dark imaginings of the mind and gradually brings you back into the external world. It asks your inner fears and anxieties and dreads to come out of your head and back into the light of day (where they’re usually reassured that it just isn’t anywhere near as bad as they presumed it might be). It invites you to get a bit more forensic about the problem and really experiment with it – find out the actual result, not the imagined one – and in the process, to discover your true experience of the world. But how?
There’s a lot of extreme weather around at the moment. In Sydney, it’s hot – today reached over 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit). Hot enough to feel yourself wilting. Hot enough to steal your sleep in the night. So everyone’s gravitating to the shady side of the street… if they’re outside at all. For the sun is brutal. Walking along the footpath, following the patches of whatever shade I could find, it struck me that maybe there’s a kind of parallel psychological shade, too. A place to seek shelter in. To find relief in. Somewhere to escape the full brunt of whatever emotional or situational heat you might be facing, if even for a short time. For maybe even a short time can start to bring replenishment. So what would your psychological shade look like for you? If you’re facing sorrow or trauma or relationship challenges or loss, what gives you that break from the heat? What soothes you? Perhaps even restores you? What lets you stop the burning process (and maybe even lets you start to heal?)
Queensland, Australia, is awash with extreme weather events right now: first floods, now a cyclone. It’s an incredibly tough time. And what’s interesting is how the therapeutic community is responding. Once upon a time, the ‘experts’ – counselors, therapists, psychologists – might automatically have been trucked-in to sort of ‘rescue’ people from the trauma. Now, though, people’s own expert status is also being recognized. Their own resilience. The strength and support in their communities. Their own ability to find, and to walk along, their unique path through the pain and loss and back towards recovery. So instincts and gut feelings about recovery are valued right alongside the more traditional therapies. So what about when life’s emotional storms descend upon your coastline? Are there any parallels that might be useful here?