In the land of mindfulness-oriented behavioral health providers, how is it that the concept of Beginner’s Mind gets lost?
I’m specifically talking about my own experience with behavioral health folks, including friends who are psychotherapists, counselors I’ve seen, as well as my neuropsychologist. In all my years of seeking out help for my issues, I have but rarely encountered individuals who were really able to suspend judgment and not get stuck in the trap of continually seeking out ways to reconfirm their own world views.
And how many times have I sat across from someone who was professionally trained to help me, watching them not listen to me for what I was saying, rather for confirmation of what they believed…?
I think it’s wonderful that there are professional tracks for people to go down, to learn how to help others. At the same time, though, people also need to not get stuck in thinking they have it all figured out.
Because the behavioral health landscape is changing dramatically, especially compared to where it was just 10 years ago. We know so much more about the brain and its mechanisms than ever before. Yet we have just only begun to scratch the surface. So, let’s not get all hoity-toity about how much we know and how clued-in we are, thanks to our specialized skills and whatnot.
To me, orthodoxy (being convinced that you’ve got THE SECRET to how things work) and rigidity (never, ever changing your world view) are even worse liabilities than a brain injury. They make it extremely hard to adapt — which is precisely what we need to do as TBI / concussion survivors. We may be changing and growing and whatnot, while our providers are still stuck in their own versions of reality — which may or may not be useful to us.
It really is a problem. But I’m not the one to run around telling people that they’re too stuck in their ways. They have to see and realize it for themselves, and let go of their pride, arrogance, hubris. I’m sure it can be very, very difficult, dealing with brain-injured folks and their families/loved-ones, not to mention the healthcare system. It can put you into a state of perpetual fight-flight, which makes you even more susceptible to egotistical tendencies, arrogance, and prideful blindness.
I think especially for those folks who have been on the leading edge for many years, who were ridiculed and marginalized and made to feel “less than” because of their forward-looking stance. When you’re continually attacked and thwarted, it can do a number on you. I know how that is, and it’s no fun.
So, that cannot help but affect you. It cannot help but color your world view and make you biochemically and neurologically inclined to behave in ways that are defensive and self-supporting. Especially if you’ve had to shore up your own self-confidence and self-image and professional reputation, lo these many years, that can train you to be a certain way… a way which is intent on finding proof that you’re right, that you were right all along, and “they” were all wrong to doubt and thwart you.
Yes, I get how that shapes and conditions you.
At the same time, the higher purpose (of being of genuine help to others) needs to trump the hunger of your ego.
In the end, isn’t it more fulfilling to continue to learn and grow, rather than being someone whose main purpose is to ease the pain of the daily stresses of life and prove their “rightness” to themself and others?
I’m not a behavioral health provider, but personally I think I’d rather be learning and growing than constantly being on the defensive about my own convictions.
In the end, it can much more interesting to find out you’re wrong… and expand your concept of what’s right. There is so much more to discover about the human systems, the brain, and how they all interact.
I’ve got two more days of work before my vacation. A real vacation. I’ve been sick and so has my spouse, so we are staying home and foregoing the Christmas-New Years journey this year. Doing all that driving does not do it for us. Not this year. At some point, you just have to say “enough” and do the most healthy thing, which is Just. Stay. Home.
In the midst of all the national debate on gun control, in the midst of the grief over those 20 kids and 6 teachers who were killed, in the midst of all the talk about how autistic/mentally ill kids need to be locked up, in the midst of it all, I come back to the fact that I really need to take care of myself in all this — and do the things that I know will keep me on solid ground:
Good company and not a lot of “social filler”
Plenty of down/alone time
Good. Just good.
This is the holiday season. A time traditionally devoted to helping those less fortunate and celebrating the Light in our lives. Whether you’re celebrating the lengthening days, or a miracle of Light, or the birth of a carrier of Light, or traditions that enLighten your life, this is a time of reflection and renewal all over the world. Just biologically speaking, it is very much a time of renewal, as the days begin to lengthen again, and spring is literally just a handful of months away. It’s hard-wired into our systems. Our very bodies know, something is changing for the better.
In the midst of all… this, I do remember what matters most to me — staying centered and calm, even when things are going south. I had a bit of a meltdown the other night. I wasn’t feeling well, I’d been “off” all day, struggling with my balance and nausea, and I blew up over some little thing that needed to be done in the kitchen that wasn’t getting done.
I tried to avert it, but it escalated, and it felt like crap. I felt like crap. Everything felt like crap.
I went to bed early, and I woke up feeling a little better. Did the same thing last night, too — went to bed early… and woke up early this morning. I still feel a little “off”, but I am getting used to it, so it’s not so terrible right now. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, so I’m hoping that will help. My ears seem to be better, but I want to get them checked. Now there’s more pain than lack of balance. And pain in my ears is never good.
I sometimes have a hard time detecting when I am in pain, so I sometimes let myself go longer than I should in reporting and addressing these issues. My doctor says I’m a “risk-taker”. I think I just have trouble figuring out how much my system is compromised. I am so accustomed to things being not-right with me — sensitive to sound and light and touch… headache, neck-ache, dizzy, foggy — I have learned to adjust and accommodate and not let it stop me from doing what I need to do. But when I’m genuinely sick, that old habit can get in my way. So, I’ll have to have a talk with my doctor, when I see them tomorrow. I don’t want them to have the wrong idea that it’s a sign of mental issues or deliberate risk-taking behaviors. Seriously, we need to have that talk.
It’s not that I am consciously taking risks. I just don’t perceive risks the same way that others do. It’s just another bit of information my doctor should use to better understand me. And I need to find a way to communicate this to them, that doesn’t make me sound mentally deficient. They already wonder about me, thanks to the TBI info.
Anyway, it’s all a process… an unfolding and evolving process, which isn’t some cut-and-dried step-by-step thing. It’s a winding path through the woods that I have to continually walk, to keep it passable and keep the proverbial undergrowth from taking over. It’s about practice, about tending to the basics, keeping myself on track, day in and day out. It’s about never quitting and always looking for some sign of progress, to keep myself going.
And it’s about taking good care of myself, so I can keep on keepin’ on, so I have the strength and the resources to look for the good and act on it. It’s about not letting the world pull me down and pull me even more off-base than I am already… so that I can think clearly and interact with the rest of the world at my best.
I have a week and a half of vacation ahead of me — just around the corner. Time to relax and rest and unwind… to recharge the batteries and do the things I don’t have time for on in my normal life. Walk in the woods for hours. Read a book I’ve been wanting to read. Work around the house. Clear and clean out some things. Write about what matters to me most, as long as I like each day. Tend to my state of body and mind and spirit. And sleep. Long and deep and often.
There may never be an end to terrible things happening in the world, but that’s all the more reason to take good care… so that I can respond appropriately — if a response is indeed required.
I’m going to do something today I have not done in a long time – I’m taking a sick day. I feel achey and weak and shaky, and my head hurts. This is one of those days when adrenaline alone won’t take me through the day. I just need to step away from the expected and do the unexpected — rest.
I have one phone call in an hour that I need to take, then I’m checking out and I’m doing what I need to do, to take care of myself. At some point, too, I am going back to bed. To just lie there. Read. Sleep. But rest. I may watch a movie later on, but for all intents and purposes, I am out of commission, work-wise, for the day.
It’s a difficult nearly impossible thing for me to do, to sideline myself for even a day. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to read and learn and experience and write about. There is so much that the world offers, just waiting for us to discover it. Granted, it’s not always wine and roses, but even the hard lessons are good lessons, and they all add up to good things.
Those hard lessons, like today, can include the brutal facts that there is only so much I can push myself without adequate rest. Try as I might, I have not been successful at getting more than 6-1/2 to 7 hours of sleep a night… for months, if not years. I recall getting a full 8 hours of sleep some time back, but that was weeks (if not months) ago, and to be honest, I’ve all but given up trying to set that right. I will have to do something about this, and today is a good day to do so.
Not only today… but each day. Getting proper rest, especially in times of transition and change (which for many of us, these days, is all the time), requires a bit of a re-think about lifestyle and schedule. I’m happy to say that for the past two days, I ate dinner before 7 p.m., which needs to be a priority. Eating after 8 p.m. — sometimes as late as 9:30 or 10:00 — and then going to sleep shortly after that, is no way to sustain health and well-being. Over the past year, with the job change and the longer commute, my eating and exercising have gone way off the rails, and I need to turn it around. I need to turn a lot of things around, which is hard work.
And hard work requires rest. Additional stress requires adequate recovery time, and I have not been providing myself with the latter. It’s all out of whack, and I feel so very different now, than I did 18 months ago. Little by little, I feel as though I’ve been drained by both my environment and the choices I’ve made in response to environment challenges. And I know I’ve got to turn things around, or I’m going to have some serious health consequences. No job is worth that, quite frankly. I’ve watched loved ones die early deaths because they pushed themselves too hard and didn’t take care of their health. I have no interest in following in their footsteps — although my behavior over the past years says something quite different 😉
Anyway, I find it really interesting how we can get into certain situations and fall into routines with the people around us, that really undermine our health and happiness. At work, everyone shares in this overwork ethos, pushing each other to do more, work harder, party more, work longer, and stay caught up in this whirlpool of activity. It’s like a collective addiction that everyone gets swept into, spinning us around and getting us to the point where we’re just happy to keep our heads above water. This is not a high-performance model, from where I’m sitting. When your criterion for success is not-failing, well, that’s no criterion for success. That’s just a formula for maintenance and survival.
What I want is something entirely different. And that difference is what I’m going to focus on today. Just taking myself out of that crazy spin-cycle is a start. And really focusing on the type of work experience I do want to have, is a next step. Ultimately, I believe that in addition to workplace culture and internal and external criteria for success, the quality of experience you have at work everyday, is a big determiner of how satisfied and fulfilled you are at work. I disagree with the business thinkers who proclaim that every worker is responsible for his or her own happiness in the workplace, and that each and every one of us is capable of making a purse out of a sow’s ear.
Look, sometimes a shitty workplace environment is just that — and no matter how ruggedly individualistic a person may be, there’s no avoiding the fact that some workplace configurations simply do not work (no matter what the furniture salespeople told you). My workplace configuration is sheer hell for anyone who needs to sustain concentration more than 10 minutes at a time. And it’s sheer hell for anyone who doesn’t need to know the details of their co-workers’ lives and work in blow-by-blow detail. It’s hell for anyone who places productivity at the top of their list.
What I hear happening in many corners of the business thinker world, is the focus on the empowerment of the individual — to manage themselves (and their boss) as well as their workload, workspace, and work/play time. That’s all very well and good, but too often it seems to devolve into an abdication by senior leadership from their positions of leadership — by stepping away from “micro-management” roles, they seem to step away from leadership, as well. What’s worse, a lot of them seem unwilling to accept responsibility for the decisions they make which so dreadfully affect those who report to them, as though failure by their minions to adapt to their capricious and theoretical approaches were a sign that we had done something wrong. It’s all backwards, like the out-sourcing fad of ten years ago. It’s based on a sheet of numbers and a concept that sounds great to MBA folks. But in practice, it simply does not work. And we’ve seen that, up close and personal, over the past decade.
Now yet more ridiculousness is being pandered about “empowerment and engagement” — probably originating in some MBA think-tank filled with academicians who are so specialized, they metaphorically see no connection between eating habits and constipation — being either nutrition experts or upper GI experts of colon experts or sphincter experts, and never the gaggle of experts shall meet (except at some annual conference when everybody sits in rooms listening to motivational speakers, until they go out and get drunk together each evening). Supposedly, each employee is responsible for their own survival, and they need to build a system of “supports” at work that benefit first their boss, then them, in the eternal quest for efficiency and productivity. Each individual is responsible for their own engagement level, and if you’re not fully on board with everything that’s decreed and devised by upper management, then it’s your own damn’ fault for not properly managing your energy and/or your time. And if you should find yourself overwhelmed by an unstemmed workflow, and completely exhausted by the deluge of interruptions and changes in direction by executive management who are in love with the latest MBA-related fad, then you’re not “fully embracing change” and resisting the “creative chaos” of the modern dynamic workplace and rapidly evolving job market.
It’s just so lame. I’m not seeing any self-criticism, any introspection, any brutal honesty about the ways that management overwhelms and undermines and generally sabotages the workforce with a basic unfamiliarity with what it takes to get the job done. Everybody is so busy being important, that coherence, integrity and basic workability go right out the window. But at least people are quoting the Harvard Business Review, and that’s what really matters, right?
But wait, I’m supposed to be resting right now. Not venting. Have to say, though, venting is taking some of the pressure off my head, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. I’m still exhausted, still weak, still shaky and in pain, but lo and behold, my headache is a little less brutal than it was 45 minutes ago.
So, I have one more thing I need to do for work, then after that I am done for the day, work-wise. I’ll probably go back to bed to read and rest and take it easy, which I haven’t let myself do in a number of months — and certainly not on a weekday. I can’t remember the last time It’s been over a year and a half (December, 2010, when I was deathly ill) since I last interrupted my weekly routine to just take care of myself and not push through feeling like sh*t. I usually just push through… Put my discomfort out of my mind and just muscle on through.