To solve a complex maze, start at the end… Life is a complex maze

A simple maze can be solved from the beginning. You move through a few simple turns and find yourself at the exit. If the maze is more complex, it makes more sense to start at the end and track your way back to the beginning. Life is much the same.

When a problem is easy to solve, we can easily move forwards without having to have a clear idea of what the exit looks like. We make a few moves, a couple of turns in the maze of life, and we easily find the exit to our problem.We have solved it.

When life is more complex, sometimes we don’t really know where we are heading, what our exit looks like, what it is we hope to achieve. At this point, we don’t know anymore which turns are good, which decisions are beneficial and what to do. So, stop trying to make your way from the beginning and cheat. Look at the end you want and work backwards.

Math proofs do this too. You progress the left hand side of the equation to look more like the right, you progress the right to look more like the left. If you manage to get them meeting in the middle, you win.

Some mazes are so complex, much like life, that you need to set goal points in between the start and end. These are great steps to help you get to the end.

If you do not look at what where you want your life to go, then you may find that you are running away instead of heading towards. This can sometimes look similar. The difference is that running away means all of your present decisions are made in fear, while heading towards means your present decisions are made in hope. This can significantly shape the feel and end result of your life. Thus I recommend you consider your destination.

Shopping for Therapists

There are many good therapists out there in the wide world, the tricky thing is how to identify them.

First, let’s get you into the right mind frame. If you take your car to a mechanic and you don’t like the way they treat you or your car, you don’t go back to that mechanic, you find a new one. If you don’t like the way the shop feels, the language of the mechanic, the attitude, you don’t even leave your car there, you leave. Finding a therapist is a similar process. If you don’t like what they do to your mind and body, find a new one. If you don’t like the feel of their shop, find a new one.

There are circumstances where you have little choice, such as locked ward, community treatment order and other government sanctioned loss of freedom. Even still, you can go through the following questions to help you determine if the person you are working with is receptive to your benefit.

These questions have mostly been developed by Thomas Proud, a Peer worker.

1) What are your qualifications for helping me?

2) What experience have you got for helping me?

3) How many of your patients/clients have recovered their lives back?

4) Do you believe I can thrive?

5) What methods are you likely to employ in supporting my recovery?

6) Are you happy? If not, what are you doing about it? If nothing, what makes you qualified to help me?

If you like the sound of the answers you get, then this therapist may be able to help you. If you don’t, it is time to move on. If you can’t, perhaps you may have triggered the therapist to think about what they can and will do more so than usual.

If everyone begins to ask their therapists these questions, perhaps therapy will return to the old ways – that of a midwife of health.

Moving through anger

Emotions can exist in three states. Basic, secondary and complex.

When anger is basic, it simply states that your boundaries have been crossed. When it is secondary, it usually means you don’t know how to respond to other emotions, so you feel out of control. Anger is then used to regain your perceived loss of power such that you can feel in control again.

When anger is complex, it’s source is hard to grasp, often leaving you guilty/shamed that you feel angry or you find yourself trapped in your anger. For example, you may be angry that a loved one has passed on, leaving you in a mess. You feel guilty that you are angry at the deceased, which complicates your ability to do anything about your situation. In this scenario, what you are really angry about is that you feel trapped in your situation, not that your loved one escaped, or created the situation you are in. In effect, you are transferring your anger at something intangible to something tangible. You can’t affect the state of life/death of your loved one – thus you feel powerless and your anger emotion you raised to rebalance your power is misdirected and thus can’t help.

Complex anger is often mixed up with other complex emotions, such as complex guilt, leaving quite a maze of emotions and perceived causation of events for you to navigate before you can find a path to happiness.

Ceasing stagnation

Stagnation is not a country filled with male reindeer. It is where there is a lack of movement, such as your life going nowhere. This can be due to not doing anything, or doing the same things in a closed circle repeating loop.

It is all well and good finding that you have stagnated, but how do you break it? How do you start moving when you have stopped, and how to you find a direction so that you no longer travel in small circles?

The answer to this is to find a goal you want to achieve.

Let us pause to understand the goal. The point of the goal is to head you somewhere other than where you are. To achieve this goal, you will have to change those habits that have lead to stagnation, those aspects of your life that have lead to immobility, and probably some or all of your friends, who enable this lack of movement.

So this goal must be pretty impressive to make you want to put all this work in.

To find an impressive goal, an inspirational destination, it is important to include emotional elements in the goal. Each of us has a key emotion that we are trying to find – love, comfort, joy, safety, self importance and so on. The goal must be a physical means of attaining this emotion in abundance. Often when we talk about goals, it is things like “get a job” or “move out” or “be around more people”. These are often given to get people off our backs and look like we are doing something. Sometimes these are goals we actually want, but we don’t know why we want them.

To examine the goal “get a job”. What is it about the job that you want? Is it going to a work place? Is it the money? Is it the structure? Is it… and what about those aspects contains the feeling you are hoping to get? If it is the going to a work place, is it because you don’t want to be home? This may mean aspects of safety or discomfort. If it is the money, does money represent freedom, status, power…?

Understanding the emotion behind the stated goals can help us understand why these goals are important to us.

For some, there is no clear indication of what we might want. That is fine. Instead of working backwards from the goal to the emotion, we can start with the emotion and work forwards to the goal.

To begin this process, consider what you have now and it will tell you what you want. Part of this assessment includes physical things, such as shelter, availability of food, physical health and other very basic needs. There is little point talking to a dying person about there relationship with their mother when you should be putting pressure on a gaping wound! So addressing these basic needs is fundamental, but should not be the only focus.

The next focus in understanding where you are is to look at the people you rely on and those who rely on you. This can give you a good idea about balance, give and take, and if you actually like this part of your situation.

Once the shape of your current physical and social being is known, the next things to focus on is your current emotional being. I don’t mean current as in right this second, I mean as a trend over time. Consider the basic questions of “are you happy”? If you are happy and content, why change?

The odds are though, especially if you are reading this, you aren’t happy and content. You itch to change, and something is up that prompts you to do this. So look at yourself and work out what emotion is the dominant one. Do you feel safe? Do you feel loved? Do you feel worthy of receiving good things? Can you accept compliments? There are a whole stack of questions that can help elicit the fundamental emotions behind your current state of being. There is a fair chance that a negative emotions is dominant. It may even be hiding behind depression or some other confounding state. It is important to figure it out.

Once you have established the dominant emotion, this gives an indication of your goal. For example, if your dominant emotion is fear, then your goal is safety. If it is grief, then your goal is securing joy in what is here. If it is anger, then it is to change the status of power. If it is sadness, then your goal is to re-discover joy.

Sometimes it is hard to find a dominant emotion as there are no emotions. That is okay. Your goal is quite likely to be to find your emotions.

Once you have a basic idea of what your goal needs to feel like, you can start to create physical representations of those goals. That is, when I am safe, my world looks like… When I feel joy in what I have, I am … etc. This gives the basis for something to aim for, something to gauge the changes you are going to make. After all, if you want to change your life, you need to make changes in your life.

Complacency and Opportunity

My last post ran away from where I had intended it to go. Oh well, these things happen.

What I wanted to talk about was complacency and opportunity.

When life seems comfortable, we don’t often work to improve our lives. We become complacent. That is, we do not see the need to work on changing our lives because our lives seem to be in a good place. Why rock the boat? Why begin walking a path that will lead to discomfort?

Yet it is at these times that we are often the most resourced and capable of managing change.

On the flip side, when things are not going well, we are the most likely to change. This is reflected in crisis theory, which I have covered before (find it here). In short, we are most ready to change when we discover that all our usual methods have failed.

By it’s very nature, when things are not going well, we are usually under resourced for change and highly stressed and agitated. We tend to see the world as out to get us, that we are useless, incapable and not worthy of a good life. We become our own worst enemy.

In the book “Global Brain” by Howard Bloom, he points out that people can be seen as cells in the body made up of the network of humanity. Much like cells in our own personal bodies, if we deem ourselves as ‘surplus population’ we begin apoptosis, that is programmed cell death. We see ourselves as ‘surplus population’ when we feel unneeded, unwanted, unworthy and unlovable.

The most common method of apoptosis for humans is isolation (not seeing people), abusing our own resource use (not eating /over eating, not sleeping / over sleeping etc) and damaging relationship with other cells that can help us. This will then lead to illness and/or risk taking activities. These can then lead to death.

[I have noticed that this blog has got away from me again. Time to bring it back to where I wanted it to go.]

To change course from apoptosis, one must begin to over rule the temptation to minimise ourselves. We must look embrace our importance in the world. I will cover ontological security in the future. We must learn to love ourselves again.

To avoid going down this path at all, we must change the way we see adversity. Life not going well for us is not an indication of our worthlessness, nor a sign that we only deserve bad things. Instead see adversity as evidence that we have opportunities to become greater than we ever dreamed we could be. Adversity is a challenge to live and to grow.

Complacency, then, is the enemy of recovery. It prompts us to feel that we have reached the peek of what we can be.

By all means, when you feel complacent, enjoy life. You deserve it, you deserve the break. Just don’t mistake this life as the best, and don’t be afraid to expand and extend your life at the risk of ending this streak of comfort.

The rules of the game

In times of peace and prosperity, most humans relax and enjoy themselves. It is only those who were born in conflict that find it hard to sit still. It isn’t because we don’t like peace, it is because we don’t really feel comfortable with the rules. Often we will choose the rules we know over the peaceful situation with rules we don’t know.

As we humans grow up, we learn rules that allow us to survive. In effect, life is a game and those who learn the rules the best survive the best. We don’t all play the same game though. Some of us are playing tic-tac-toe, others are playing chess and others are playing real life mine sweeper. The game we grow up in has a large say in  the rules we learn and how well we can do whilst still playing the same game.

The game is not fixed and we can hop from one game to another. Sometimes that is not necessarily our choice, and sometimes it is our choice. The hardest shift isn’t the change of game, but learning the new rules. Frequently we will prefer to hop back to the old game, even if that game is unpleasant, rather than learn new rules.

You may have noticed in your travels in your life repeats of the same pattern, or avoidance of things that are new. When you do something new, you feel uncomfortable and look for ways to use your old rule set to make the new system easier to comprehend, or look like the game you are use to. When that can’t be done, you feel very uncomfortable and try to escape.

It is learning how to adapt to new games, learn new rules and feel comfortable with those rules for that game that denotes good recovery practice.

Just cause

Events happen. They are the things that are perceivable, detectable and observable. Events are physical changes in the world around us.

The fact of an event happening is not related to why it happened. Why is a story we create to help us predict what will come next. We create the idea of causation, suggesting that one event leads to another, and that the second event was “caused” by the first.

Even if this is true, it does not tell us why. It just dictates a string of events.

Why is a far harder concept to grapple with. If “why” is a story, then the story can change. We humans often pick a story that tells us we are bad. Sometimes we tell stories that tell us we are good. Events do not define us as good or bad, only our actions based on our intentions.

The Miracle of Insanity

When sudden irrevocable change happens to an individuals personality, we call this insanity. Unless friends and society deems it a good change, then we call it a miracle.

Why is this?

If we like a change, we often attribute the change to something beyond the person who changed, robbing them of the credit of the effort to be true to themselves, or the them they wish they were. Perhaps because it is a sudden change, we outsiders do not see the effort it has taken to continue the new trend.

If we don’t like the change, we blame the person for it. Why can’t you be nicer? Why are you being mean? Why are you talking to people who aren’t there? Why aren’t you getting out of bed and doing something? Why are you…

What we often want is a miracle to occur to those who we deem insane. Often those who are troubled are also looking for that miracle, whether it be in the shape of a pill, divine intervention or some guru/white knight who can fix it.

We done’t often see the “bad” radical change as a miracle, or the “good” radical change as insanity.

Sudden change is rare and should not be relied upon, any more than winning the lottery to save pay off the mortgage. Instead make a dramatic shift you can maintain, like getting a job re: the mortgage, then slowly improve upon this until it looks like the life you want to have.

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.