Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Next Step

Life can be hard. Brutal at times. At times, I have ended up convulsing with tears, a dull throb in the pit of my stomach and then momentary pauses when my body simply has no more energy left to feed my pain. An overwhelming, visceral, physical domination by life. So I stared blankly. Wondering what next. Wondering why. In 'The Happiness Hypothesis' Jonathan Haidt says there is very little evidence that catharsis works. Simply being angry at the world for anger's sake. In my experience this is true. Anger feeds anger. What does help, and what may involve anger, is communication. And time.

Whenever I feel a deep injustice has been done, I desperately want to be able to tell someone about it. Even if it is a little injustice that I know isn't worth getting upset about. I try to be all mature and breathe and all that stuff, but the thing that helps me let it go is often when I get to retell the story. A friend nodding, and saying 'what an idiot' is the best muti. What Haidt says is one of the best forms of therapy is effectively sense making. Get angry. Write it down. Speak. Then again. Again. Add time.

People are remarkably resilient at taking something that goes wrong and twisting it into a story that makes sense. When things go properly wrong for me, I try and do something really awesome that I wouldn't have been able to do if those things had gone right. Something going right means a constraint. Constraints force us to think in novel, creative ways. We do wonderful things, but we aren't defined by those constraints. When something awful happens, we often get to recreate the rules. Step back and choose new constraints in a world that could not possibly have existed if the other things had gone the way we wanted.

I like the metaphor of a loving parent and a brave, exploring child. The parent offers safe, unconditional love and knowing this, the child is able to go out, get hurt, learn, and prosper. They can always call on that unconditional love. My worst case scenario is full of this love, and that makes me feel incredibly confident.

If I was to wake up tomorrow in a parallel world where all the people I knew were gone, I had no money, I was naked, I was in a country that didn't speak English, and no one looked like me - I like to think I would be ok. That base is something that can't be taken away. It's mine. I would be able to find help. Perhaps after a stint in jail while they understood why I was wandering around naked. I think I would be ok because I have been lucky in that unconditional love. Over my life, I have come in contact with so many wonderful people that have provided that secure base to recreate the story if things go wrong.

What matters, the only thing that matters, is the next step.
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