Hi there, friends. So, how has your first week of Summer Vacation gone?
If I had to classify mine, I’d go with “mixed results.”
Ever have a conflict with someone you love that starts smallish and manageable, but slowly grows into a monster? It becomes like a giant balloon, quietly inflating until you and your person are pressed up against the walls. You can’t move. You can barely breath. You aren’t talking about it. You’re not even talking about the fact that you’re not talking about it.
I had one of those. I tried a few times to broach the subject with my person, but he basically did the adult version of covering your ears and singing loudly. So it kept growing. It swallowed our conversations up in silence. Till finally, I told the truth whether he wanted to hear it or not, and POP! The balloon deflated, and we could move, and breath, and figure out a way forward.
But in the extremely uncomfortable period earlier this week, when the Balloon of Unresolved Conflict had me wedged up against a wall and gasping for breath, I had a Moment of Useful Pondering. (I’m not sure what exactly is up with the bolded and capped phrases. I am either channeling Havi Brooks, or Winnie the Pooh today. Let’s just go with it for now, m’kay?)
I remembered some stuff that had been helpful for me a while back. You could call it a therapy, a philosophy, or a “way of life” (if you are that sort of person.) At any rate, it’s called Constructive Living. An American therapist named David K. Reynolds developed it based on two complementary Japanese therapies, morita and naikon.
Basically, to boil it down to its simplest parts, it’s about:
- doing what needs to be done, regardless of your feelings; and
- readjusting your perspective to be less self-centered and provide a more accurate view of reality.
Which sounds all fancy-schmancy zen and enlightened, but is in reality beautifully simple. Not easy, but simple.
At any rate, one important lesson from Constructive Living is that when we are not thinking about our neurotic problems, we’re not feeling them. “Feelings follow behavior,” is a good shorthand for this.
Basically, you can’t change your feelings by force of will. (Try it sometime. It’s a wonderful exercise in futility.) Sometimes, “exploring your feelings” like you do in typical talk therapy doesn’t resolve them; it just adds more layers of detail onto the existing layer cake of angst. So what the morita half of CL proposes is just do whatever needs doing at the moment. And often, in just doing whatever tasks present themselves, you find that you end up feeling calmer, stronger and less overwhelmed. Your feelings follow your behavior.
It’s a form of healthy forgetting.
Sometimes we forget (or in therapy-speak, repress) stuff we’d rather not think about. So some of the junk that trips us up in life ends up being stuff we buried, and then forgot to mark or map.
What I’m learning right now that some of our personal garbage is compostable, and some of it’s not. When we bury stuff that isn’t going to just return to the earth, it makes a mess we’re eventually going to have to deal with. That’s unhealthy forgetting. It’s like forgetting to pay your bills. The bills don’t go away, and you just make the situation worse by not thinking about it.
But there’s a lot of personal garbage that we keep carrying around with us that frankly, isn’t that big a deal, except for the fact that we keep thinking about it. Stuff we could safely bury and forget about. Like the argument I had with my person. Or the guy who cut you off in traffic. Or the weenie who posted something mean on your blog.
If something like that is bugging you, I highly recommend looking up from your navel, and searching for something that needs to be done. The cups that need to go to the sink. The files that need to be returned to the cabinet. The car that needs washing.
At a minimum, you’ll have a neater space or a cleaner car. Possibly, you’ll have a lighter spirit, as well.