Put it down: Sometimes, we just need time.
Put it down was a piece of advice I was given which, at the time, thoroughly rubbed me up the wrong way. In fact, it was more than that, I felt misunderstood and utterly let down by this person. I had sought them out in their professional capacity and although I knew they could not tell me the answer, I was confident that they would facilitate me reaching it for myself. It was a terribly painful experience, I felt abandoned.
It remains to this day, one of the wisest, the most knowing things anyone has said to me.
My problem had become all consuming. It dominated every waking, and often sleeping hour of my life for a significant period (we’re talking years). If I was distracted from it for even a short time, the return of it into my consciousness felt like a wave of nausea.
I was terrified of “getting it wrong” and I was conscious that I had become sucked in a cyclone of repetitive thoughts and behaviour and yet I felt unable to step out of it. Indeed, to some perverse extent I was determined to ride it out, until I had figured it out, and reached the answer.
It is not an understatement to say I was utterly miserable; it was the time I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and sorting it all out couldn’t come fast enough or feel further away from me. I was totally exhausted in every sense, and it is not surprising to me now, that it was the time I additionally burnt out.
Too close. The absolute dictionary definition of not being able to see the wood for the trees. I had picked over every tiny detail multiple times, I had run through every scenario I could imagine, running an entire lifetime in my head to seek the clues I needed to solve it all. Nothing I had tried in terms of thinking my way to a solution had worked, or even come close. All the thinking had actually made me ill, and just as I couldn’t run if I broke my leg, I couldn’t think my way through this – because my brain was currently similarly afflicted.
Put it down meant give it time, give it space, come back to it. That potentially goes against our instinct to solve, to seek to alleviate the pain now – it absolutely went against my instincts – I was a doer and a thinker, and I was unspeakably cruel to myself during this because my usual methods came up with nothing. But in this case, I didn’t really have a choice – so I put it down, or at least I tried to.
Space can give nourishment out of nowhere. Unknown
Isn’t this ignoring the problem, I hear you ask? Aren’t you just in denial? Won’t it just be there, unresolved, and smack you in the face all over again? Perhaps. But I didn’t ignore it, I sat with it, sometimes it felt it sat with me (or on me!). I had help, here’s another plug for the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (I wish I was on commission), they helped me with the concept of observing the difficulty of it all, to be with the fact that this was really, really shit, and to not rush to try and do anything. To acknowledge that this was here, and this was my reality.
So here I am today, and I haven’t found the answer to my problem, but I liken it to when a tree suffers damage in a storm, eventually the tree grows up and around it and the wound is swallowed by the trunk. Sometimes there isn’t an answer – I’m still learning this skill and I do not claim to have mastered it, so I get that I won’t have all of you onboard here. Over time the pain has eased, my brain has got better, so I can think again and new information: facts, thoughts, experiences and feelings have been able to come into play, because now there is room for them.
Time is the wisest counsellor of all. Pericles.
I see some clients in the cyclone and sometimes the ‘answer’, the perspective they crave is time, space, to be ok with the unknown, to be able to say “I don’t know, and that is ok for now”.
So, can you put it down?
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