Archives for Externalising
A lot of therapy is about sort of stepping back and seeing things – seeing yourself – from a different perspective. Getting out of the weave and the warp of the moment and looking more at the whole fabric of the situation you’re in. Seeing if there’s any repeating motifs or themes that might help you unlock some solutions… or even unlock parts of you. And the wonderful thing is that you can do this without being in formal therapy. Don’t get me wrong, traditional therapy is a great way to get the hang of this pattern-spotting business. And it’s incredibly powerful to work with someone who’s got your back and can help you see any blindspots you might have. But once you’ve become a pattern watcher, you can use it anytime you like, to find deeper insights and often deeper healing, too. So what sort of things might you try to notice? What helps spot the patterns? Sometimes questions like these are a good place to start:
Anger. It’s got a pretty bad reputation. And we’re often told what to do with it: be careful with it. Suppress it. Vent it. Override it. It’s like anger’s some kind of volatile, toxic force to be harnessed or defused. But maybe there’s another way of looking at it altogether. Maybe you can actually learn from anger. Listen to it. See what it has to tell you. Get curious about it. The sticker in the photo (above), in a cleverly vandalised train carriage I travelled in recently, has another suggestion for how to respond to anger: “If anger is present rove to another age” So let’s take another look at anger for a moment.
In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the concept of safety in relationships, and drawing a boundary around the damaging behaviour in them (the axe in the forest). So what about your relationship with your self? Are there parts of that relationship that are potentially damaging to you, too? Parts where you’re sharpening your own blade against yourself? Are there thoughts you catch yourself thinking that seem to do more harm than good? That leave you feeling depleted? Cut down? Maybe there’s a harsh sense of self-judgment? Maybe there’s self-doubt? Maybe there’s just an overwhelming sense of not being any good? Feeling defective somehow. If so, then could it be possible to draw a boundary around that stuff as well? To protect your inner forest from the blades of those axes.
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?
This sign is supposed to be about protecting your material possessions. Yet the deft work of someone’s pen has opened up a whole new meaning here… Passion theft. And with that notion, the one of passion thieves - and what they might look like - and how to stop them. The whole thing reminds me of a technique which is often used in narrative therapy: externalising. Externalising is the (strangely revolutionary) idea that you are not the problem. That, in fact, the problem is the problem. So what? you might think. It seems a pretty self-evident truth. Yet, initially, the field of psychology saw things differently. For a long time, the overwhelming thought was that the flaw lay within people themselves, and so it was people (not problems) that needed ‘fixing’. Yet, as our friend with the passionate pen outlined, there are other ways of seeing this stuff. Ways that stop the blame game (and the guilt game and all that shaming and self-doubt that can come with the idea of personally being the problem). So how does this externalising thing work?