Have you ever tried to make up your mind about something and then found yourself lost in a never-ending argument of pros and cons? Looking for “the right” answer… Where you catch yourself thinking: “On this hand…” and “On the other hand…” until it’s all completely out of hand?
And now you’re feeling even more lost than when you started. Swamped. Confused.
I know I have.
Yet maybe there’s another way through all of this. For if world class thinking theorist Edward de Bono is right, the way you explore an issue is key. In fact, he thinks that:
“If you explore well, a decision makes itself.”
(And how handy would that be?)
So what’s he actually on about? And how might you be able to try some of it out?
Cloudy days will come.
For you. For your family. For your friends.
And not just the kind that dominate the skies above you. But also the ones that help set the weather within you. The internal cloudy days that send your mental and emotional landscape into overcast sadness.
Cloudy days will come…
I was thinking this the other day, when some of my family came to Sydney to visit. Even now, in spring, it was suddenly cold and wet again. And even though it was sun that we wanted, it was cloud and some rain that we got (as you can see in the photo).
So what do you do when the internal cloudy days come to visit? How can you get through them? Or maybe even prepare for them? On this year’s Mental Health Day, perhaps it’s worth getting mentally meteorological and taking a look at what you’ll do when your weather changes.
I couldn’t help but smile when I walked past this building in my neighbourhood recently. There’s something beautifully absurd about a sign announcing “OFFICE” above a doorway that’s then been completely bricked-in. I wonder if they get much business…?
Yet what’s not so funny is how you might be doing this to yourself, to your life, at times. How you might be walling-off the very opportunities or happenings you’d like to take place. How you might be sending messages out there – to others, to yourself – that completely, unwittingly, contradict your dreams. And maybe even stop them from having a chance.
So let’s take a look behind the brickwork for a moment and see what’s going on…
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?
Have you cast a glance within yourself lately? The world outside, with all its splendour and pain, all its surprises and change, can be so compelling that it’s easy to forget that you are a part of that picture, too.
What’s in you can impact how you respond to what’s out there. It can affect how – and even what – you see in the world… how the world is for you.
So what’s in there, inside you, right now?
It’s winter here in Australia, but the fern in my garden doesn’t care. It’s putting out another new frond, unfurling, unfolding, even though it’s cold and the sun’s not out.
And the thing with these larger ferns is that, if you look closely, it’s as if you can see the whole frond already in there, just wrapped tight and waiting. Waiting for the plant to let go. To uncurl. All the fern has to do is just let itself be itself.
So how does this relate to you?
Well, what if, like the fern, the things you yearn for in your life were already inside you? Just waiting.
In the town where I grew up, a giant fig tree perched on a hill overlooking the river below. It was massive; its gnarled roots seemed to be almost woven across the soil, and entering the dense shade it cast felt like walking into velvet. It must have stood there for eons, watching the water and the years flow by. (That’s it in the photo.)
I read a saying today that reminded me of that tree:
“Praise and blame,
gain and loss,
pleasure and sorrow
come and go like the wind.
To be happy,
Rest like a great tree
In the midst of them all.”*
How incredible to think about resting in all of that. Not resisting the turbulence. Not trying to control the weather. Just resting back into whatever happens to be. (And even growing in it.)
Do you think that’s possible?
There’s a well-known existential exercise that’s supposed to really ‘bring death home’ to you. And in so doing, really bring life home…
You might already know it. Basically, you take a moment to imagine your own headstone in a cemetery. And then you write what it would say about you. How it would capture a snapshot of your life as it is (which can sometimes highlight the gap between there and where you might yearn for it to be).
Or maybe you’ve heard of the other idea of writing your own eulogy?
Or perhaps you’ve felt moved by the Canadian blogger Derek Miller’s last blog post, which he wrote to be published after his death (of colon cancer, last week).
But have you ever done these sorts of things?
Personally, I’ve only ever thought about them (which is so different than actually putting pen to paper, or fingers to the keys, and making it all more ‘real’). They always seemed too ‘big’ somehow – too involved or something.
Until the other day…
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.
This photo captures one of those weird, inexplicable moments of synchronicity.
At the time it was taken, I was actually in my own therapy, feeling particularly lost and hurt, and trying to find a way back out of those dark places.
I remember I was on a bus on the way home, wrestling (again) with the same old stuff.
I recall asking myself:
“What do I need to get through this?”
And then suddenly, this giant hot pink neon sign swung into view as the bus turned a corner:
(Serendipity isn’t always subtle, it seems…)