A Thing or Two
Just a couple of things. I’m expecting to publish 2 books this year, and one of them is at the final review stage. I’ve even got an excellent cover ready to go. I think I’ll post about that when things are a bit further along, but stay tuned!
Dar and I stopped for dinner at our favourite Jerk Chicken restaurant the other day, and it’s sandwiched between a sex shop and a massage parlour. In a nice neighbourhood, btw, as this is Canada, after all.
Anyway, after dinner, I was just about to back out of the parking space, and I noticed a sign in the massage place’s window:
Nothing like a good shiatus on a cold night
I didn’t rush right in, needless to say. I’m not even sure where my shiatus is. (And yes, I do know what it’s supposed to say…)
Many moons ago, I wrote a list of 12 Principles that were the basis of my understanding, both of my life and of my counselling practice. I’ve been thinking about pulling them together into a small book that I could give to new clients.
I’ve decided that I’d, at least for now, tackle each of the topics here, in the blog. We’ll see how it goes.
5. The usefulness or validity of an action is always determined by the result. If it ain’t working, doing more of it isn’t going to work either. If you’re hammering on some issue and no one else is interested, maybe you need to let the thing go. If you’re ignoring something and hoping it will go away, and it isn’t, maybe you have to deal with it. If you find yourself saying, “It always turns out like that,” maybe you need to try another approach.
Redneck Fire Alarm — the King of bad results
I’ve written countless posts and articles (and mentioned this last week) about what I call the “Utility Test.” What I mean is, the only determination of the value of an action (or a thought, for that matter) is, “Does it work?”
In other words, does what I am thinking or doing
get me the results I say I want?
This test seems perfectly logical, until you apply it to one of your sacred cow beliefs or actions. Then, things get interesting. Let me tell you a couple of stories.
I subscribe to several Flickr feeds, and one person issued a photo titled “I’d rather be dead than conform.” What’s interesting about her is how often she expresses this sentiment. It seems to arise from her dislike of either negative assessments of, or sexual comments about, some of her photos, notably the nude ones. She starts by toughing it out and arguing ‘artistic freedom,’ and then ends up angry, sad, or bitchy.
And, her photos are great.
So, it begs the question, “What does she want?” Obviously, she wants an ideal world where all she receives are complements on her excellent photos, no sleazeball remarks, and no one, no one, questioning her motives or intent. She wants this, really badly. But the cosmos is kind, and always provides what we fear, just to help us learn. So, quite regularly, she upsets herself that people are not following her “rules.”
It seems to me that she has two real choices:
1) get over offending herself when people comment or criticize, or
2) stop posting nude photos of herself.
Her option of choice, demanding that others leave her alone, is magical, wishful thinking.
To say it again, the only thing that matters is the result.
Clients are typically stuck in one-note thinking and acting. Often the chosen thought path and action can be traced back to childhood—either something the person learned from a parent, and/or a behaviour the client created in response to a stressor. In either case, a thought/response comes from the mind of a child. Or a teen. And we know how smart kids and teens are.
Now, admittedly, some of that stuff might have actually worked.
I remember one client—and her dad was also a client. She mentioned how well “guilting him” worked—he was often overseas, and when he got home, she batted her baby blues, and whined.
He then gave her stuff, and also let her off the hook for all of the “Just wait until your father gets home!” threats mom delivered.
At 35, she could still make this work with dad—bat, bat, bat, and out would come the chequebook. With the men in her life, not so much. They’d initially give in, only to discover that what she wanted from them was endless support, encouragement, and a gold plated pass to do whatever she wanted. So, they’d leave after a few months. She blamed it all on her dad.
I always focus on the result. I do not get into a debate about why something isn’t working.
In the above illustrations, I trust you can see that the reason their behaviour was getting them lousy results doesn’t matter. In both cases, the clients wanted others to change (to support them, no matter what,) and were devastated that they couldn’t get others to co-operate.
I refuse to move off of one of my favourite mantras:
If it ain’t working, doing more of it
isn’t going to work either.
Things that do not work… wait for it… do not work.
We teach a simple idea. Try another behaviour. And another, and another, until your results approximate what you say you want.
Remember: a framing goal is essential. So, in the photographer’s case, the only sensible goal is: “I will post my photos and learn from the criticisms of the photos, while deleting and ignoring the brain-dead comments.” In the case of the client, it’s, “I will ask for what I want without manipulation, and without expectation that others will always go along with me.” Or something similar.
If you’re hammering on some issue and no one else is interested, maybe you need to let the thing go.
I remember one woman who ended her marriage because her husband refused to admit that always wiping up water stains from a stainless steel sink was essential for harmony and world peace. No, really. He forgot to wipe out the sink, and she came to therapy, and ended the marriage. Examples like this abound.
Clients provide lists of how they see the world failing them, and endlessly go on and on about their take on things.
- I watch their partner’s eyes glaze over, and they don’t even notice.
- They expect others to change, all the while saying, “I need you to agree that I am right,” and they get angry when their partner asks them to change.
- It’s difficult for them to see that how they see the world is exactly and specifically the way they see it, and others see things differently.
The way out is to learn to dialogue with others, and, with curiosity, to get to know more about the other person’s perspective.
We’re big fans of curiosity.
If you’re ignoring something and hoping it will go away, and it isn’t, maybe you have to deal with it.
Many people are deeply in denial. I bring up a topic, and they laugh and change the subject, or won’t discuss it at all. We do Bodywork, and some feeling or emotion comes up, and they stuff it back down. Clients get feedback that something they are doing is annoying, or not working, or ineffective, and they refuse to examine it.
Ignoring problems and dilemmas, typically by providing endless plausible justifications, is a huge issue.
I’ve had my share of clients who have ignored odd behaviours and physical symptoms, and have eventually made themselves sick. It might be back pain, or heart disease, or cancer. My sense is that the repressed information wants “out”—wants to be taken seriously, and the only way the body has to express itself is through physical symptoms. If you won’t pay attention to a twinge, perhaps a charley-horse will get the message across.
The point of doing therapy is to be brutally honest about what you are ignoring, what you are doing, and what is not working. The only way past what isn’t working is shining a light on the belief/action pattern, without flinching, turning away, or repressing any of it.
If you find yourself saying, “It always turns out like that,” maybe you need to try another approach.
And we repeat, “It always turns out that way,” because you set in motion the same thing. The common denominator of all of your issues with all of those people is… you!
Many people try changing partners, jobs, situations, and get the same thing. They actually think that if they change often enough, they’ll finally find their “soul mate,” which is shorthand for,
“Some moron who will put up with my crap.”
Endlessly searching for the perfect someone who will compensate for the things about you that you are ignoring, or the things that aren’t working, is a great way to waste your life.
We propose relentless self-examination and self knowing, coupled with a willingness to be endlessly flexible with your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.