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Showing posts with label avoidance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label avoidance. Show all posts

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed.

On my wedding day, my best man and I were driving around I think headed back to my apartment, but that's not important.  Anyway, traffic in front of us stopped with little or no notice.  To avoid rear-ending the car ahead of me I zig-zagged a bit.

I didn't think of it immediately, but it occurred to me shortly thereafter that in way that's exactly what we do when we try to avoid "running into" the painful truth--even when we need to face the reality of our situation and/or work through our decisions/issues/problems.   Just like with the momentum or energy of my car, life's momentum often pushes or carries us directly into path of our problems.  As I didn't want my best man or I to face the impact of rear-ending the car in front of us, so do we not want to face the impact of problems.  So, we come up with diversions or ways of avoiding having to deal.  Sometimes, these diversions are destructive like Alcoholism and out of control gambling.  Other times, they are just unproductive like keeping glued to the TV.  But, the common thread is that we use the diversions to deal.  In others we are 'zig-zagging' or moving sideways to absorb the energy we would otherwise be focusing on our problems.

For example, in my first marriage, when we had disagreements or when something was bothering me and I felt like I couldn't discuss it with her, I would shut down, push it aside and find another outlet to avoid having to deal (and possibly avoid a fight).  Sometimes, it was a 'productive' outlet like cleaning the house, other times it wasn't necessarily a productive or healthy outlet.  The main point is that I was 'zig-zagging' or finding a diversion from the problem that lie head on.   Now, this wasn't a new way of dealing for me.  It really was an extension of my childhood and early adulthood in which I felt like I couldn't speak freely with my dad or effectively stand up for what was important to me.  But, I digress.  The point was that I didn't want to face the impact of dealing head-on with problems.
That all changed with the passing of my brother Bill.  I have a blog in progress that I'm not finished with about him called Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day.  Anyway, I realized with his passing the ultimate cost of avoiding dealing with issues.

What I've written above at some points might suggest that it is a bad thing to 'zig zag' or divert.  However, as I've learned over the years, life isn't necessarily always clear cut.  As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 indicates, there is a time for everything.  This included dealing head on with issues vs. pushing aside the issues for a time.  Here are a couple circumstances which zig-zagging might not be a bad idea. 
  • Sometimes, the issue/problem is too large to face directly.  For example, when mourning the death of a close relative, we can't get our grief out in one day.  We can sometimes only face what we need to in small stages: dealing, then turning away, then dealing, then turning away...
  • Sometimes, the timing isn't right.  For example, if we are hosting out-of-town family for the holidays we don't want to air our dirty laundry and cause humiliation in front of our guests.
Anyway, just my thoughts for the night.  Hopefully, you get something useful from my musings.  God bless and good night.

-- Rich

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Low-hanging fruit: A starting point or a block?

In honor of the upcoming new year and the tradition of setting goals and resolutions, I decided to blog on a concept has been rolling around in my mind for a while.  I think it is appropriate to determine what the purpose of low-hanging fruit we are going after in this context.  Here goes: defines low-hanging fruit as:

  • a course of action that can be undertaken quickly and easily as part of a wider range of changes or solutions to a problem.
I've heard/seen this phrase used in multiple context.  One winter I heard Cardinals management talking about there off-season efforts to build a winning team for the next year.   The phrase "low-hanging fruit" was used to describe their initial efforts.   For impatient fans it appeared that management was rewarding their loyalty by going after the inexpensive, easy to sign, and apparently
mediocre talent at the expense of trading for/signing the greater impact, harder to get players.  It appeared as if the front office was letting possible free agents/trades go by under their nose, while they picked up questionable help.

In my own personal life and from what I've seen in others, going after low-hanging fruit can serve one of two purposes:
  • It can be a way to ramp up, to gear up, to get in the spirit of or to build momentum towards accomplishing a larger goal or a circumstance.
    • When working on a large project at work, sometimes working on the most difficult part of the it can cause discouragement.  Working on and/or solving a smaller part of the puzzle can give momentum or ideas on how to proceed on the larger piece(s).  
    • When cleaning around the house, cleaning out one room at a time or even one portion of one room at a time can make the job seem less intractable.
    • When processing a major loss (such as a death), it can simply to difficult to decompress the whole loss at once.  Sometimes, it helps just to deal with the aspects of it immediately in front of you rather than get paralyzed dealing with the whole ramifications of the loss.
  • It can be a way to avoid dealing with the larger goal or circumstance.
    • Denial - If you are focused on some aspect of the goal or circumstance, then you can pretend to yourself that you are dealing with the problem.  After all, "you are making progress" or so you tell yourself.
      • Paying on time.  Having a 12 month interest free loan and making the minimum payment for the first 10 months, telling yourself that you are going to pay it off in full before the end of the year.  Sure you are making some progress, but you still have most of the bill to pay off.
      • Working on the perfect eulogy, when you haven't picked the mortuary or burial location.  Words are helpful in facing a death, but they don't create the same finality in your mind as discussing where to hold a funeral or bury the body of your loved one.
    • Avoidance - Picking a route to a goal that doesn't fit or explanation that doesn't make sense.  In other words, creating a diversion or to give the appearance of facing what you need to.
      • In dieting this might take the shape of switching to diet soda while not changing your larger eating habits.  Making the small switch will not by itself lead to the larger goal.
      • In counseling, an example might take the shape of griping about a new friend when you have been dealing with the pain/guilt of a close relative for a long time.  While problems with your friendship probably are causing you some consternation, it really isn't addressing the deeper hurt you are facing.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether you are addressing a goal or issue one step at a team, easing into it or you are just throwing out obstacles to dealing with what you need to.  Sometimes, this takes reflection.  Sometimes this takes a close friend to determine.   Sometimes, the difference is so subtle that it can take a trained professional to spot.  Either way, it is best to figure out early on.

Just some thoughts for the day.  Hope this helps someone.


(Originally written 12/31/15, but still hold true today)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Forgiveness: The steps we go through for our own benefit.

As my dad's life draws to a close, I have felt the need to come to terms with what at times has not been the most comfortable or easiest relationship. In some ways, the most difficult relationship of my life. Part of what helps me come to terms with people and circumstances is writing about them.  In other words, allowing my thoughts and feelings see the light of day.  So, over time I have come to some conclusions about forgiveness.  (originally written 3/27/15 - he has since passed away)

About forgiveness:
I've heard it said that forgiveness is not something we do for others, but rather ourselves.   In a way, I see this as true.  This is especially true when the person whom is the object of our forgiveness either doesn't realize that he or she needs to be forgiven or doesn't care about being forgiven.  

We can confront the one who has wronged us and if he/she is ready they might even own up to their offense.  However, there is always a distinct possibility of them them not being recognizing or caring about the wrong they've done to us.  So,what then are we left with at that point: perhaps more resentment.

So, what do we do?  It's believe it's healthiest to forgive them.  I don't mean forgive and accept continued abuse. I mean to forgive them for what they have done and if necessary forgive them for their hurtful tendencies.

I believe the process to forgiveness can be a 4-step process: avoidance, acceptance, understanding and forgiveness  I will elaborate on that:
  • Avoidance 
    • We might have to pull away from the person who wronged us to prevent further hurt.  
    • Alternatively, we might have to pull away to avoid trying the temptation to 'settle the score'.
  • Acceptance
    • We still get irritated with or by the other person, but we accept that it is time to start trying to forgive our offender. 
    • They may not have stopped wronging or trying to wrong us, but we accept at this point that we cannot control them. They may be incapable or unwilling to change, but with avoidance, we've minimized their ability to hurt us.
    • This step is characterized by showing outward signs of forgiveness--going through the motions of forgiveness--but not necessarily internally being forgiving.
    • This is an important step as it shows we are moving beyond being the victim and worked towards forgiving them.
  • Understanding 
    • For our peace of mind we are trying to find reasons for why our offender is the way he or she is.  Is it personal or are we just the one in the line of fire?
    • This isn't meant to accept or condone their behavior but to understand it better.  That is to say we don't agree with, but understand how our offender could get to the place they are in their thinking or behavior.
    • In some cases, we may start to empathize with our offender, depending on what brought them to hurting us.
      • Perhaps, he or she had a tough childhood--abuse/neglect/tragedy.
      • His or her behavior, while not at all acceptable, may be a coping mechanism.  For example, if he/she did not have any control over rough circumstances during childhood, he/she might exhibit harmful controlling behavior in adulthood as a misplaced defense mechanism.
    • In other cases, we may just have to understand that perhaps our offender is wired differently.  Not everyone is wired the same.  We may on some level start to appreciate our offender is just wired differently and doesn't have the capacity to understand how they hurt us nor the capacity to avoid hurting us.  In the worst case, we might be left with understanding that they are (or have become wired to be selfish).  That's not very comforting, but understanding that some people are just that way can at least allow us to move to the forgiveness level.
  • Forgiveness
    • In this stage, we have pretty well let our anger and resentment go.  That's not to say we don't have 'flare-ups' of anger and resentment, but instead that it doesn't rule us.
    • This stage may be characterized by sadness.  Sadness that the relationship in question 'has to be' like it is.
    • We may forgive, but that doesn't mean we forget or put ourselves at risk in the situation again.
      • It may mean having the person involved--sometimes heavily--in our life.
      • It may mean forgiving from afar and for our own sake keeping a safe distance.
    • Sometimes forgiveness is expressed directly to the person.  In other cases, it may be implied or unspoken as we no longer showing resentment or anger in their direction.

I will close this by reminding my readers that forgiveness is an age old practice Jesus himself set the bar on this when he said:

...Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.   (Luke 23:24)

 I feel like if He, having committed no sin could do it, then perhaps the rest of us might do well to work on it.