There’s a “Chicken and the Egg” scenario that seems to occur in people with therapeutic training. Part of being an insightful therapist is being perceptive, but that’s putting it kindly. What it really means is that good therapists have strong BS meters. They can sense bullshit, call others out on it, and do so with compassion and empathy. So the question is: Do therapists learn to develop good BS meters in training, or do they innately have good BS meters that draws them to the profession in the first place?
Perhaps the greatest flaw for those with strong BS meters is being unable to get whiff of our own BS. This seems to be one of the most profound human user errors; being able to see the errors in others, but not ourselves. Our good friend, the Ego, is responsible for this. The Ego is roof and umbrella, constantly sheltering us from our own BS. Ironically, the more sophisticated the BS meter palate, the more it’s seemingly unaware when focused on the self. The fools we suffer most end up being ourselves. Like any other conundrums, awareness is the first step in finding a solution. Focusing our BS meters inward towards the choices we control and accepting that’s where the primary problem lives.
Inquiry is the birthplace of any progress. As Einstein beautifully stated: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This is why therapy exists for most; to help us see our problems from different angles. Good therapists simply know how to ask the right questions to help us discover new levels of consciousness in ourselves. To wake the ability to see and think beyond our egos. Some people are fortunate enough to have minds gifted enough to do this through self-inquiry alone. Others may have strong enough trusting relationships with family, friends and/or loved ones to help them grow. There is no right way, but there is a wrong way. To choose not to do anything to help ourselves grow to be better people.
In the world of IT, human user errors are sometimes comically coded to the likes of IBM error (Idiot Behind Machine), PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer) or ID-10T (Idiot). It’s reserved for people who overlook the simplest solutions. They call for help frantically explaining that their computers won’t turn on, only to be asked the most obvious of questions first: “Is the computer plugged in?” After a brief moment of silence and unintelligible utterance, the phone line goes dead. Problem solved!
Taking time off from my routine for the past 16 days proved to be an interesting experiment. One that I would code as ID-10T. Over the past year, I’ve operated on a fairly strict Monday – Friday morning routine to set me up for my work days with mind, body and soul prepared for the day ahead. I’ve learned that I operate at my best when I stick to the routine. The struggle I experienced over my extended intermission was that when there was no “work” to get after, with 8+ hours of my day being spoken for, that I would become bored with all the hours ahead of me. So I opted to sleep in, not journal, not blog, not meditate, and not read. I exercised occasionally. I ate worse, and imbibed more.
Along the way I realized I have lost passion for all things outside of work. I realized that I felt no true motivation or purpose beyond my job. My days off were relaxing and productive, but mostly in form of errands and housework. I failed at doing any work on myself, actively seeking to get better, learning new things, reading more about what interests me, or being creative. I failed at maximizing the time and appreciating the freedom of more hours to get more done. I feared those unspoken for hours and let my fear drive me lazy.
The good news is that I don’t regret it. The good news is that I’m at peace with this failure. Why? Because it’s given me perspective. Every morning is a battle to get off on the right foot, and has been for as long as I can recall. However, knowing empirically that I am a better human when I am structured is wonderful data. Knowing that I serve the people around me better and am kinder to myself when I stay on a disciplined path is not my New Years Resolution. Being resolute is my solution for all my years ahead.
It’s funny how most words about taking a break from something often have negative connotations. Respite, a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant. Reprieve, to cancel or postpone the punishment of someone, especially someone condemned to death. Break and recess both mean to be temporarily suspended. Even rest, an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity, holds this idea that there needs to something difficult or stressful happening that requires some pause to recuperate. Vacation implies physically moving away from something or somewhere.
I tend to prefer intermission: a pause or break or an interval between parts of a play, movie, or concert. It doesn’t imply the break is needed for anything another that a moment to stretch and refresh. That said, my daily routine will be taking an intermission until January 7th. Well wishes to all through the holiday season and the new year!
Erratic means unpredictable. It comes from the Latin root errare which means to stray. When we think of erratic behavior, we think of behavior that strays from the norm for a person or how a person’s behavior differs from that of the social norm.
Err also comes from the same Latin root errare, but means to make a mistake or do wrong.
What’s interesting here is that one’s erratic behavior, a behavior that may seem to stray from what a collective “we” considers “normal” is typically seen as that person making a mistake. They are doing something wrong.
Perhaps in a given situation, this may seem true based on the exhibited behavior. For example, let’s say a teenager with a processing speed learning difficulty is acting out at school. The learning difficulty is known and shows up regularly in classroom behavior. That would be expected, and therefore “normal” in our eyes. When socializing, would the same difficulty with processing speed be considered if the student gets into arguments with peers? Or, if the student is deemed defiant by authorities because they perceive the delay in response time in order to process the request as an act of defiance? Would this then lead to repeated and more frustrated requests, which in turn would frustrate the student and perhaps result in erratic behaviors?
Repeat this process several times per day over the course of a young life and erratic behavior is now a norm for that child. Not directly because of the learning difficulty, but because how everyone else without the learning difficulty (the normies) are responding. We are hard-wired for self-preservation. In this type of situation, even though the student’s behaviors being addressed/disciplined may be erratic, who actually erred? The greatest mistake to make is the failure to be kind. We all too often over-complicate academic and/or social interventions thinking diagnostically. Kindness is the first intervention. That’s our choice and responsibility. Kindness, sadly, currently seems to be more of an erratic behavior than blame.
About five years ago, an albino deer was spotted in our town. With no commerce, two small schools, and one traffic light, the deer’s unique beauty quickly became the talk of our small community. What we do have in abundance though are deer. Deer are everywhere! It’s inevitable that almost every morning you will drive past several deer carcasses along the main road, and there’s some odd relief when you realize it’s not the albino deer. Every winter, there’s a weekend-long cull to help control the deer population. It largely goes unspoken, however, it’s always a relief to see the albino deer once again after those weekends. As if some faith in humanity is restored because we like to believe the deer’s life was spared because of its uniqueness. It would be like killing a unicorn!
Last year, after spotting the albino deer some weeks after the winter’s cull, and breathing a grateful sigh, something occurred to me. We, as humans, feel good about ourselves, knowing we have “saved” the life of this deer, “allowing” it to live on so we can marvel at its majesty. My perspective then shifted to that of the deer. Perhaps this deer wonders why every deer it’s ever known and traveled with – its family, friends and acquaintances – have all been shot. Year after year, she survives, never knowing why. She has perhaps never even seen her reflection to know what makes her unique. She was never alone, so perhaps the other deer never told her she was different. The last time I saw her, she was with her fawn. That was a beautiful moment. Not only was she alive, she now had a family of her own. Would they too be taken from her by human choice in a few years because they didn’t also possess her unique trait? Are we sparing her life allowing us to feel better, assuming she is incapable of feeling sorrow? Perhaps she feels like a pariah. What I do know is that when I see her, she makes me smile. What I don’t know is that she may be the saddest deer in the world, wondering why her sadness seemingly brings so much joy to us humans.
Santa – Perfection – Wisdom. What do all three of these things share in common? They can never be captured. They can only be pursued. A child’s innocence is in pursuit of capturing the idea of turning a belief into a truth. A fool’s confidence is in pursuit of capturing the apparition of what’s knowingly unattainable. A philosopher’s purpose is in the pursuit of capturing the essence of becoming wiser. ‘Tis always the season to be in the spirit of pursuing wisdom, knowing it is a gift we’ll never receive. The gift is in the chase.
The mind and the body are often in a managerial power struggle. Stephen Hawking had an incredible mind and was afflicted by an illness that betrayed his body. Those suffering with Alzheimer’s have able bodies afflicted by a terrible illness that betrays the mind. These are the extremes, however, what it demonstrates is that the body and mind are co-managers. Sadly, we take that granted most of the time. We take a great deal of things for granted in life, often waiting for tragedy to be the reason we examine and explore the depths of our gratitude. The trick is learning to separate our minds from our egos. Daily practice to detach from ego is the birthplace of fully appreciating the mind/body connection.
Comedian Emo Philips has a joke: “I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.” This brilliant phrase speaks to the ego. That little voice starving for constant praise and attention. That little voice that seeks so much validation that it also knows when to seek pity. This is why characters like Michael Scott from The Office are so maddening, yet somehow remain endearing. But do we really long for others to feel “bad for us”? Do we really want pity for what ails us? When we receive the pity we sought, what do we do with it when we have it? Nothing. The ego gets its validation and then, like the addict it is, simply seeks more. The ego’s greatest triumph is distracting us from the simplicity of being human: to be one in mind and body. Inner peace and/or inner strength does not come from being able in mind and body, it comes from being able to transcend the ego’s need for validation.