Archives for August, 2011
"No problems." That's what this sticker on an alleyway wall in my local neighbourhood is on about (in the photo, above). It sounds like a pretty good proposition... No emotional meltdowns, no relationship dramas, no self-sabotage, no "failure." But is it too optimistic? A bit utopian, even? Something to strive for, maybe, but not completely attainable? Well, a branch of family systems therapy thinks not. In fact, from it's perspective: "the problem is the solution" So what does this actually mean?
Have you ever felt “beside yourself”? Sort of in two places at once? Maybe shocked or surprised or even beside yourself with joy? The Australian cartoonist and philosopher Michael Leunig, puts the experience this way: “Come sit down beside me I said to myself, And although it doesn't makes sense, I held my own hand As a small sign of trust And together I sat on the fence.” So is there a way of inviting this "beside yourself" kind of experience?Intentionally invoking it? Where you deliberately sort of take a seat and then sit with yourself in consultation. Or maybe sit and wait for other parts of you to come along and ask them for their input?
It’s easy to be seduced by the idea of “later”: I’ll do that later. I’ll fix that up later. It’ll have to wait until later. I’ll have time for that later. (I think I’m slightly addicted to it, myself…) And the thing with this “later” business is that you have to believe that there always will be a later. That maybe you get some kind of say in how much “later” there’ll be (a lot, thank you). That your time – your life – can be controlled, planned, predicted. Yet, existentially, none of us can really do that. For the end of our days – the end of all our “laters” – will come when it comes, and however much we procrastinate, it seems that’s something that just won’t be put off. One day, it will simply be too late for your “laters”… So then what? Where does that leave you with “later”? (And where does it leave you with now?)
In a book I'm currently reading, I came across this quote: . “There are always more leaves than flowers”* ... Or perhaps a notion that there’s “always” more “mundane” times than “special” ones. “Always” fewer of the blossoming moments of perfume and petals in life… Except for the magnolia I just walked past (in the photo above), all branches and blooms bursting into the sky, not a single leaf in sight. (Don’t you love exceptions?) The leaves and the blossoms in life can be seasonal, it seems. So which season are you in right now?
This sign in the photo – “PLAY” – is at a local park near a children’s play area. I love its whimsy. There’s something wonderful about a street sign that’s about as anti-stop-sign as you can get. A sign that’s green for a start, and that insists on such a fabulous pursuit. So when was the last time you played? Or are you too serious – too grownup – for that? (And, if so, what might you be missing out on?)
There are enough limitations in this world. Physical ones, depending on your age and agility and health at the moment. Existential ones, in terms of having a finite lifespan and knowing that death awaits us somewhere. And the limitations that the dominant social norms of society might like to try to contain you with (prescribing what we’re all “allowed” or “supposed” to do or be in certain situations). So there’s plenty. Yet do you find yourself sometimes adding to this list? Creating even more barriers for yourself? Arguing for yet more limitations and making a watertight case for why you can’t possibly try or succeed or excel? (Isn’t there already enough holding you back?) And is it possible to drop that baggage and move on with a little less weight and a little more possibility?
Have you started some new ways of being lately? Or stopped some old ones? Some habits. Some patterns. Some life choices. Whatever you call them, they can be challenging to maintain sometimes. Harder, perhaps, to keep in place than it is to kick them off. So maybe you’ve stopped “emotional eating” (or wanted to). Or changed the rate at which you turn to certain substances for support. Maybe you’ve started a more nourishing routine in your life (adding more exercise or creativity or relaxation or fun). Or perhaps you’ve tried starting something like this a few times, only to “fail”. Started and then stopped again. Started and stopped. When you’ve “fallen off the wagon” like this, whatever your wagon of choice, it can feel like you have to start right back from the very beginning. From scratch. That you have to “start from zero,” like in the photo, above. (Only this time, with a heavier heart and the taste of discouragement and “failure” in your mouth). But is that actually true? The cycle of change model thinks it isn’t. Let’s have a closer look.
It’s so easy to take things for granted. We almost seem built to do it – wired to see the danger over the delight. To spot the problem floating on a sea of stuff that’s working. When this happens, all the enriching, joyful, sustaining things in your life – however fleeting they may be just now – get backgrounded. Lost. Instead, your foreground is filled with the close-up perspective of the things that bring pain and difficulties. And you get to feel all the anxiety and worry attached to them. Can you relate to that? What would happen if you could reverse the flow for a moment? Move the foreground into the background, and the background forward? What if you could deliberately set the inspiring and rejuvenating stuff up front for a moment? Let your mind and body remember them, and feel the relief they bring? Well, you can… And one of the simplest ways to do it is to harness the power of gratitude.