Learning to 'Ride The Waves'

28 April, 2013

When does problem solving become unhealthy dwelling? When does healthy absorption in something pleasant become a form of numbing or avoidance?

My fiancÚ helped me realise something this week. When I have a problem - especially a not-so-easily-solveable one - I can get quite immersed in it. So much so it's hard to think about much else until a way forward becomes clear.

For better or for worse, I am an entrenched problem solver, a 'fixer'. I am futuristic in orientation and value improvement and making things better. Nothing gets me more more excited then finding a solution and moving on to something better, brighter, improved, lighter, easier. It's no surprise that I am an effective therapist and coach - positive outcomes and the steps towards them is exactly what people 'purchase' when they sign up to coaching.

One downside of this tendency in my personal life is never being quite satisfied with the present moment; there's always something better to move on to, some kind of self-improvement project is usually underway. My biggest personal practice over the last year has been to practise being comfortable with discomfort. To sit with, accept and lean-in to uncomfortable feelings, situations and problems. It's about 'being OK with things not being entirely OK' - if you can wrap your head around that. The other downside is when a problem seems insolvable, it feels very hard.

Nigel Marsh
-work-life balance author/expert - highlights this in his main message; as soon as you stop expecting life to be perfect, and learn to actually expect the waves and the storms to come, you can relax. You can remain solid and strong and in touch with yourself all the while, instead of letting the waves shake your sense of self and wellbeing. In order to do this, one must accept inevitable discomfort and find ways of being comfortable with it, and hell, not just comfortable but even anticipate it as an opportunity.

It brings up some interesting questions for me: when does problem solving become unhealthy dwelling? When does putting the problem aside and immersing yourself in something pleasant - a walk, a movie, lunch with friends - become inauthentic, or even a form of numbing and avoidance?

I am not sure I know the answers to these questions yet, but I know that there is a resilience message in there somewhere in learning to 'ride the waves'.

One of the things I find helpful and reassuring is to remind myself of my pillars, or my tools that I have to stay healthy and strong, and that they will be there no matter what: journaling, yoga class, meditation class, walking, animals, supportive people, authentic relationships, community, food, warmth, love, self-awareness. Immersing oneself in energy-creating activities can become part of a resilience 'armour' and therefore enhance our ability to ride the waves when they come.

If an activity becomes energy sapping, instead of energy creating (e.g. spending 3 hours 'killing time' on Facebook) it's probably of the numbing or avoidance variety.

How could you pay attention this week: what do you do that's energy creating? What do you do that's energy sapping? How could you start to identify the difference?

As always, I am interested in your thoughts. Charlotte.

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