A client was in the other day, and we were talking about what he should do re. his relationship with his daughter. We’ve talked a lot, and most of his drama circulated around his confusion about why everything we’ve talked about hasn’t provided him with a predictable course of action. He said, “I should know what to do. I’ve been working with you for 2 years!”
I thought about that for a moment, and then I came up with a brand new analogy.
Think about how you learned to read. You learned the alphabet, then to make words, then to make sentences. Finally, you began to take that skill set and apply it to reading books.
Now, here’s the interesting part: knowing how to read does not prepare you for the next thing you are going to read.
Knowing how to read is a skill. Dealing with the implications of a new book, which, in addition to having words, contains meaning (which the author writes about, but which you actually provide) is another story altogether -because meaning is subjective. Thus, knowing how to read provides to tools – but each “reading” is a totally new experience.
I have several books I really like, and have read several times. I have a habit of “word-picking” important concepts. When I re-read, I often change word-picker colours. I have some books that have rainbow pages. Each “read” happens with me coming from a different place and different understanding. What stood out for me one time is not what stands out for me the next read. I can never be prepared for the experience of the present reading. It gets so interesting that sometimes I read something I’m sure wasn’t there the last time.
Now, if that’s so regarding reading, how much more complicated would you expect real life and real communication and real situations to be? A book is consistent, even if you aren’t. When two people are involved, all bets are off.
What this really means is that learning, for example, a communication model gives us tools, but absolutely no preparation for the next time an interpersonal drama arises. Because each drama is “new.”
Thus, the real skill in communication is not the technique learned, but rather the ability to suspend freaking out the next time there is an issue to discuss. I know people that lose it completely if something unexpected comes up. They run in circles, flapping their arms like headless chickens. Amusing to see, but not very effective (read lousy) communication.
My client had been thinking about re-starting his relationship with his daughter for a year. Now that there is a potential for this to actually happen outside of his head, all of the unknowns are scaring the bejesus out of him. My goal was to calm him enough to suggest that he simply set a date and go hang out with his daughter, to see what actually happens.
If you’ve been working on any of the skills we’ve described in Into the Centre over the years, and still have moments of annoying yourself or scaring yourself, relax. This stuff doesn’t work on its own, and each and every situation is different. What worked last week might not work today. Any moron can do this stuff when nothing is wrong. The real test of “getting it” is being able to stay centred when the walls are falling in.
Keep working at it, and remember, there is never only one way, one explanation or one “right answer.”
But you knew that, right?