Here’s an audio that gets at one of my persistent themes: learning isn’t as easy as folks wish it was, but it’s crucial to getting on top of things.
Here’s a summary of the audio:
It’s not as if there’s a ton of really bad advice out there for the overwhelmed. As I read and listen to experts and pundits I’m struck by a growing consensus which consistently boils down to advocating for reasonable self-care while also doing things (tasks) which, even in tiny ways, help move a situation forward. The value of doing has clearly risen to the top and contrasts with the now fairly discredited idea that you first need to examine introspectively, understand, and even agonize over the fears and hurts underneath everything that are hanging us up and keeping us from engaging life wholeheartedly.
Not only is it very much the common sense advice your grandmother might give, credentialed professionals like me also propose “doing” because it’s so often precisely the thing that works, that breaks the logjam, and heads things in a better direction.
But, not always.
Some situations have morphed into persistent problems because the doing, and some of the habits of mind connected to that doing, aren’t working anymore and are also now embedded in ways of looking at an ongoing situation, seeing one’s own reality that people can be fiercely, but stubbornly attached to – despite clear as day evidence it’s no longer working.
Here’s a quick, concrete example: a divorced mom realizes now it took way too long for her to recognize how much her own anger and anxiety were seriously affecting her children. Specifically, it was causing mom to avoid direct conflict, let things go, pull her punches, and not convey minimal expectations that would both help her children – truly – and help there be more peace under that roof. The advice she was choosing to selectively hear was: be good to yourself, don’t be too hard on yourself, “pick your battles,” and don’t let sniping from the ex, or negative interaction with the school, make you doubt yourself.
Of course there are people, and circumstances, for whom that advice may well be right, but for this divorced mom the opposite was true. Fortunately, with help, she arrived at her own conclusion that, by thinking she was “doing the best I can,” protecting her sanity and her self-esteem, she was actually avoiding seeing the real truth (which of course she’d actually sensed all along.) She’d thought she was justified to ration her emotional energy for work, housework, and parenting – and was supporting the family by being that way. Instead, the family was receiving a daily dose of her desperation and rage via her passivity and exhaustion.
Once she realized it, it’s not as if all of those things just melted away. They were still there, but they weren’t in charge anymore, and her focus shifted to consciously interacting effectively as the parent-on-duty to those children. She really did “free myself,” and became much more effective by being brave enough, honest enough to “see,” – to truly shift her view of – her situation.
Sometimes you have to learn things you’d rather not learn, but doing that really does change things. It’s an actual emotional shift. It helps you escape the anxiety-driven hamster wheel, and being afraid that anything new or different will just add another item to the “to do” list you’re already – just barely – pulling off.
But that’s where real learning, allowing yourself to see more clearly your particular piece of a multi-part situation, helps you – and the people counting on you.