Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Deconstruction: letting go  

“Start where the client is”.

I learned that motto from a consultant I once had some dealing with. It seems to make sound sense – where else can you start from, other than where you already are? Even though the archetypal caricature consultants, and plenty of real ones too, seem to start from somewhere completely different and never once touch the point where the client is. Instead they seize the hapless client by the scruff of the neck to drag them, uncomprehending, into a Brave New World, then dump them there, dazed and confused, wondering what planet said consultants hailed from. But that’s another story…

So where do you go next? Towards the goal, obviously. Obviously? But in which direction do you set out to reach it? With 360 degrees of movement possible, who says a straight line is the quickest route between two points in life-space? After all, a straight line can lead you over a cliff in real-space, so might not similar unseen hazards lie in wait in life-space too?.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but maybe backwards is the way to go to begin with. Unlearn the unhelpful ways of being that have been learned over the years, the things that stand in the way of the direct approach. The way things have stood for many months now, tension locks everything rigid, leaving me unable to move in any direction because of the pulls in every other direction. But it’s no good straining against the leash; as a climber I know you can’t free a knot under tension, you have to take the tension off the ropes first, let them go loose so you can examine the kinks and turns and twists and unravel them.

Christy left me a comment which set me thinking on a new track, about personal development not as an ever onwards-leading path, but as a cycle of deconstruction and reconstruction. Conventional wisdom says “If it doesn’t work, try harder, you can’t be doing it right”. But if it doesn’t work after concerted effort, why should it work after more concerted effort? Keeping on attacking the bits of life that don’t seem to be working, doggedly ploughing on down the same road, banging harder at the wall in the way, isn’t an effective strategy. Stop straining, stop fighting, and try something else.

So let’s back-pedal. Life is filled with too many conflicting pulls, some tugging violently, some persistently, some intermittently, but always in all directions. Let those pulls go, one by one, the ones that don’t matter, the ones that wont cause the world to end if they cease, the ones that aren’t essential to ongoing life support. Let them go, at least for a while, whilst we untangle the knot. We can always pick them up again later if we want. Reduce life to a simpler equation. Attend to those matters at the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, and let the rest pass on by for now. Appreciate the simple exchange of labour for food and shelter, and stop worrying about the whys and wherefores of it all..

Or to put it another way, be deliciously, gloriously, rebelliously, selfishly lazy. Be a slob even, just for a day… or two…

It doesn’t necessarily mean I stop doing things that sit higher up in Maslow’s hierarchy, but I release myself from the need to do them. The need for example to blog, to write, to play piano, to walk in the hills, to find meaning through work. These are all good things, until they start to bind me. Not only do I get tangled in the cords that bind, but I become bound to the very angst itself. Let it all go… I don’t have to feel hard done by if life’s schedule has no place for activities such as these. They aren’t essential. I’m trying it and it already feels much more comfortable this way. I’m more relaxed; I smile more; I have more time for people around me.

I suppose I should be careful; I shouldn’t release myself from all needs – the need to stay fit, eat a healthy diet… or should I? Suppose I lived off Big Macs (yuk!!) and grew a paunch; would it matter? Maybe, I suppose, if as a result I died young from heart disease, that wouldn’t be so good for my family…

I get the feeling too that the more I back pedal, the more things become possible. Maybe those were the kinds of things that “other me” in the dream had in mind.

A word of clarification, since this may all sound suspiciously like giving in to circumstance. Deconstruction isn’t about me giving up my needs for the sake of others, about me abandoning my dreams in order to fit in with the expectations and desires of those around me – it may look like it, but it’s almost the opposite to that. It’s about giving up my needs for the sake of me – giving up being bound by my wants and desires. It’s the bonds that are the source of the trouble, whether they tie me to other’s wishes or to my own, they are bonds nonetheless. Everywhere I go, like Spiderman I leave behind a sticky but strong thread, tying me here, there and everywhere. I get hopelessly trapped in the twisted, tangled web I create. I need to release myself from these bonds. Not by slashing and cutting, but by gently dissolving them. Neither do I mean to abandon anything that I’ve been tied to. But rather than standing in a forest, bound fast by threads and chains that run to every tree, I want to be able to move freely among these trees.

These trees aren’t results, aren’t “things” at all; they’re the attitudes and beliefs that I’m bound to – bound to ways of thinking. Even apparently opposite attitudes can meet around the circle and prove to be the same thing – I can be bound to the notion of seeking to do things to help others; I can equally be bound to the notion of needing to do things to benefit myself. The one may seem to balance the other, but they can both trap and restrain if they become an “ought to”.

Funny things words. I wrote to a friend a couple of weeks ago that I was finding a new balance in life, but I couldn’t explain much more than that at the time. I had a feeling in my soul, nothing more, but it was the word ‘deconstruct’ in the quote that provided the seed around which these words here crystallised out.

I’m thinking deconstruction then. Deconstruct it all - tease it apart, figure out which bits matter, which bits can be discarded. To do that I have to release the tension first, and curiously it seems that my illness this last week has done just that - the mind-body connection is mysterious indeed. And I also should accept that all beliefs are up for the trash can, and so be very careful before I figure out how to reconstruct.

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