A Beginning Part 3

I don’t know anywhere as much about my paternal grandparents. I know that my grandmother was from England, but I don’t know what part, family or other miscellaneous information. What I do know is that she raised two boys and a girl without a husband present. She worked three jobs to make the money to clothe and feed them. This is going to launch into a slightly feminist rant.


In those days, women were looked after. They were either at home, being looked after by their fathers, or they were married and looked after by their husbands. Either way, they didn’t need a real income and so they were paid at two thirds, on average, the wage a man got for the same work. If you couldn’t get a mans job, you got a womans job, which paid even less. If you did get a mans job, then you got passed over for promotion and responsibility, because you don’t really need the job. The men, after all, have a family to feed. Thus three jobs.


My grandfather was missing in action. Not to do with a war, such as world war one or two, but more to do with the war on alcohol, which he was loosing. He also had a gambling war, which he also tended to loose at to. And his attitude to women stank.


My grandmother and aunt were killed when my father was 13. They were run over by a young, rich, drunk driver. He was never prosecuted, I was informed, because his father knew the right people. My grandfather was left with two boys to look after, and had no parenting skills. It was difficult to do as he still had a strong gambling and alcohol addiction.


My grandfather was the kind of man who really enjoyed hanging out at chess cafe’s, drinking and playing chess. Why don’t we have those here anymore, I would like to know. Sitting down to a nice soy chai late and playing an embracing game of chess, or something else, sounds like a fantastic afternoon to me.


My grandfather did have some troubles with the war around the time my father was born. He was in a business, a grocery business, just as the war broke out. His surname was very Austrian-Jewish, so his business dried up and no one would by vegetables from him. His solution to this was to change the name of the business to something more English. Business boomed. At this time, my father was born, and was given this new name. As the war ended, my grandfather changed his name back and my uncle was born. He got the new old name, while my father got the old new name. This made it quite tricky for me to find my grandfather in hospital one time, as I thought he still had my fathers surname.


That most of what I know of the history of my paternal grandparents.


The next bit of history is my parents. You may be surprised to here this, but I have two parents, and some other add in’s on the way.

Despair, dreams and opportunity

Despair is knowing that nothing you can do can move you to another, better, place, and the place you are in now is not good. At this point you stop trying to improve your situation and just coast, collapse, or stop trying. One the one hand, this is deadly to recovery and on the other, it is an important opportunity.


The deadliness lies in the stopping of trying and the death of the hope that your dreams can be achieved, in part or in full. The loss of motivation is also the loss of momentum in moving anywhere you choose to move. To escape/defeat this, revisit your dreams and stop worrying if they are achievable or not, or how it can be achieved. Just discover your dream. A quick and dirty way to do this is to imagine what the world would be like if there was nothing wrong with anything. Now consider the defining difference/differences in this world. Why does this difference make the world better and what about this difference makes the world better? This abstraction is your dream. I’ll cover this in more depth another time.


The important opportunity is recognising that all of the things you have done are not working. This opens you up to trying new things. This is akin to Crisis Theory. When all the things you have done fail, then you are open to trying new things to actually fix the problem instead of just compensating for it.


New ways of solving problems often come from talking to other people – people you don’t normally talk to – or reading books you don’t normally read, or thinking about things you don’t normally think about. Keep in mind safety, but don’t be frozen by fear. Accept reasonable risks and discard the dangerous. More on this another time.

Metamind – Self examination

Another step to knowing the self is to use your meta mind to watch what you are trying to say to others. This is not exclusive to the words you use, but when you say them, what you say, how you say, how you stand, how you dress, who you talk to and who you are trying to influence.

Metamind – Social relationships

To begin to know who you are, begin looking at your social contacts. Use a meta mind – what would an outside observer see, are these people actually good for you, how balanced is the relationship (give vs take), are these the people you wish to be like and so on. This will tell you a bit about yourself. Don’t ask their opinion of you – it doesn’t really inform you of who you are.

Depression

Depression is often brought on by suppression. Discovery what you are suppressing and do something about it. Often this will lead to anger, and we will instinctively do 1 of 2 things.
1) Become aggressive to reclaim our perceived loss of power
2) Suppress our anger because it is uncivilised
Instead, recognise what is suppressing your power and dispassionately plan how to affect it such that your power is rebalanced.


Sometimes dispassion is not possible


Suppression can also be pulling back from some stimuli other than anger that is seemingly too powerful or complicated to deal with. This too must be understood and a dispassionate plan to deal with this must be created and acted upon.


There is always a way.

Definitions, limit problems, and solutions

When we define problems, we often focus more on what we can’t do than what our solution could be. We narrowly define why we can’t instead of opening up the solution space to what we can. Working on understanding a problem means changing how we define the problem such that it includes a solution – whether that solution is direct change, adapting to an unchangeable aspect or completely bypassing the problem.

Defining what the problem is in terms of what is stopping you is an important first step. If you don’t know what the obstacle is and why that prevents progress, you can’t factor into your solution something that addresses that issue. However if this is where our defining the problem stops, we have only defined half of the problem. The interferes with finding a solution.

Looking at what a solution can look like allows the problem to be defined in terms of outcomes and possibilities. For example, I can’t move forwards. Ok, that is good to know. Why? What does forwards look like? How will you know that you have progressed? Is forwards the only way to get to your destination? The first definition – I can’t move forwards – is accurate but limiting. Incorporating these follow up questions into the definition of the problem allows scope for finding a solution that gets the outcome you are after.

Considering the scope of the definition is similarly important. If your definition is too broad, you can paralyze yourself in your analysis of the situation. If you don’t define enough, you limit the space landscape to find a solution. If you can figure out which way you have limited yourself, then you can adjust and compensate.

Feeling your way through an obstacle

Often we are hindered in our progress by an obstacle of some kind. Obstacles come in all kinds of forms, which can make it difficult to identify what has gone wrong. Indirect methods for understanding the obstacle are needed to help us plan how to adapt to that obstacle.

Blindfolded person running a race tied to a sighted person
Unseen challenges can tether us.

If we can’t easily directly identify what that obstacle is, then we need to know how to  indirectly learn about the obstacle. This is where the idea of Feeling the obstacle comes in.

Emotion

Identify what feeling is attached to the obstacle that is hindering you – you are probably feeling frustrated that you are not progressing, but that is secondary to how you feel about the thing that is stopping you. Often fear is attached to the obstacle we can’t identify, or sadness or some other primary feeling.

Missing Step

Identify what point in the obstacle is in your plan. If you know the step preceding where the obstacle is, it makes it easier to identify what is supposed to come next, which facilitates you to identify what the obstruction is. It could be a person, a resource, knowledge or yourself.

Analyse and plan

Combine the emotion you have identified with the missing step to help get a sense of the shape of the obstacle. If you have identified what it is and how you feel about it, you can now start to create a plan to overcome this obstacle.

Sometimes the thing we identify is a symptom of a more complex obstacle which may need a bigger solution.

If you are still stuck, it may be time to call in an expert. Talk through with someone you trust – a friend or therapist – where you got up to, what the wanted outcome is and where you got stuck. Brainstorm what it may be that is stalling your progress and ways to get past it.

Flexibility

We make plans built on poor information and best guesses using techniques that are poorly streamlined and hopefully good enough to reach goals that we think might do. When we rigidly stick to these plans we are dooming ourselves to a poor outcome. Flexibility is the key to being able to evolve our dynamic plan as we go for better outcomes.

Bent pencil indicating flexibility
Making a dynamic plan by being a flexible person

Ignorance

First, recognise that there is a hell of a lot you don’t know.

It is okay to be ignorant – no one knows everything.

Ignorance comes in several flavours –

Known unknowns – what you do know that you don’t know. Often it is worth pursuing more information about these before making your plan. However sometimes the resources to do this are beyond your current ability, so make a good enough guess to get moving and update later as greater information becomes known. Check out the section below “Uncertainty”.

Unknown unknowns – what you don’t know that you don’t know. This is much harder as there will become holes in your plan and knowledge that you become aware of later. If you weren’t prepared for the likelihood that there were unknown unknowns this hole may blindside you, taking you longer to recover and adapt.

Knowing that you are ignorant is a first step to allowing new information in. Denial of one’s own ignorance is a quick way to keep bullying ahead into disaster.

Errors

Next, accept that most of what you do know you will find out later is wrong.

Some of this error will be 100% wrong. We thought black was white and white was black. Most of the time the error will be only partial – it turns out what we thought was black was mostly just dark grey.

Complete errors will usually require a larger update to the plan, while partial errors will require a smaller adaptation.

Uncertainty

We can identify things that we have a high confidence is correct and things that we have a lower confidence with. Using this, we can begin to construct our plan, leaning mostly on the things we are more confident with. Critical phases of the plan need to have confidence, so that may require investigating low confidence things in critical places to gain more knowledge and certainty.

It is inevitable that you cannot know all the things you need to know to make a concrete and perfect plan. Accept the uncertainty of what you know and make a plan anyway.

Making a dynamic plan

As you travel along your plan you will learn more about your situation, gain resources and find holes in your plan that you didn’t and couldn’t account for. Being able to adjust the plan based on newer information is really powerful.

Concrete plans often end in failure, while dynamic plans often end in success. Being flexible allows you to change your plan without it being about you.

Do not be afraid to begin to plan, knowing that you don’t know. Just accept that the plan will change as you learn and experience more.

Evil thoughts?

It is not the thoughts you have, or the intention you mean, or the outcome that counts. Only the actions you choose and the acts you do which move you that count.

When challenged by a problem we reflect on what we have learned to see if there is an answer to this problem. This reflection may include ideas that are very incorrect for logistical, moral or ethical reasons. We will also have ideas that are excellent or just good enough for the same logistical, moral and ethical reasons.  Sometimes our dilema is pickign the least harmful bad choice.

The solutions that go through our mind for consideration do not define us. These thoughts do show the journey we have taken. What defines us is the choices we make from these solutions.

Sometimes we make a choice and the outcome doesn’t happen as we hoped or planned for. While this is sometimes due to poor planning, often the bad outcome is due to external circumstances that were either beyond our control or beyond our prediction. These poor outcomes don’t define us either.

The only thing you have control over is the action you chose to take. This choice is what defines you.

It is rocket science

The phrase “It ain’t rocket science” tries to make out that rocket science is hard – and for everyone who isn’t a rocket scientist it is. Rocket scientist don’t find rocket science hard. For those who find recovery easy, they don’t call it recovery, they call it getting on with life, while those who find it hard are clearly struggling to overcome something. It is very easy for someone who finds life easy to belittle someone who is struggling.

If you are finding life hard, consider what your obstacle is – it may be someone, a lack of some kind of resource, ignorance about how to solve a thing, something you fear or many other possibilities. Until you can identify what your obstacle is, you can’t solve it or find a way around it.

Your struggle is real. Those who try to shrug it off as nothing clearly are not experiencing what you are experiencing.