Thursday, September 9, 2010

Run Faster (Part 2)

Teflon made a great comment on my last post (please read it, otherwise, you won't know what I'm talking about):

Faith, Perhaps the difference between analysis and second-guessing is the motivation: one is looking for the best path through and the other is looking for something that could go wrong?

That was perfect!  I don't encourage Zach to run faster (or myself for that matter) because of the avoid pain strategy. Let's take the scenario of Zach running through the kitchen door.  In the avoid pain strategy (a.k.a. run away! ), I look for the possible things that can cause pain, focus on them, problem solve around them and give out advice to myself or others, according to my conclusions: Hard objects cause pain, if hit by the human body with enough force.  I want to avoid having pain-filled human bodies in the kitchen. Solution: Don't hit hard objects with force.  Fast moving bodies are likely to hit hard objects with force.  Stop fast moving bodies.

The go after what you want strategy says I want everyone to move safely. Zach is moving pretty quickly.  What can I adjust in the door the help him be safe?  What information can I give him to help him be more accurate?... Focussing on what I want opens up a world of options.  There are truly multiple ways to skin the cat. Avoiding pain, on the other hand, seems to converge in on a pin point of immobility.  I don't feel very flexible in avoid pain mode.  Instead of evaluating thoughts and ideas based on how far ahead they may take me, I look for the chance of discomfort and I remain frozen.   Like the deer in the headlights.

I think avoiding pain is a useful strategy sometimes.  Sometimes the pain is an obstacle in the way of what you want and so avoiding it is part of a bigger strategy.  Let's say you are driving on 214th street at a moderate speed towards the traffic light when suddenly, a taxi pulls out from a parked spot beside you and aims for your car.  An evasive maneuver would probably be very helpful in avoiding the pain (an accident) and so keeping you on the path of doing what you wanted (getting home).  Let's say you are out in the woods and encounter a lion or a bear. Avoid!

The thing is that most times, the perceived pain isn't that serious.  The worst case scenario isn't all that tragic.  If Zach hits his ear on the door, very few things are really shifted.  He actually runs off to do whatever else in less than 30 seconds.  He probably learns that he may need to adjust something to reduce his pain.  It may actually be very instructive for him.

Many of us are second guessing ourselves trying to avoid things we don't even understand. We've spent so much time avoiding them that we don't know what they look like, how they would act, how they would feel... What is that worse case scenario anyway?  What if that really happened?  Can I stare it in the face and fully understand it, become intimate with it?  What is it about this worse case scenario that flips my switch?  Stopping and doing that 'about face' is the first step to really understanding what we are trying to avoid.

Actually, that isn't really the first step.  My first step is being comfortable with the discomfort that has me running scared in the first place!  I'm really learning that is isn't "Arggg!! Here I go again!!!" but "Imagine that!  How come I'm thinking, feeling, that right now?"  I couldn't even look at the thing I was uncomfortable with because I was so busy being uncomfortable with my discomfort.

I spent so much time panicking because Jaedon was getting older and he isn't done with autism yet.   I have him in this really untraditional home program, not focussing on 'functional skills'.  What if one day he has to live in a group home for disabled people and he suffers because they don't....Maybe I should put him back in school because he would be more prepared to handle....bad treatment?  Sigh. Then one day, in a great conversation with a friend, the question came up (again!)  So why are you scaring yourself with this picture of Jaedon in an institution? 

I don't remember what I answered, but I started to look at the thing I was running away from.  My friend provided such a loving, safe place that I could even put aside my discomfort with the discomfort.  Right there, in the middle of my answer it hit me: I'm not going to do anything that I don't think would be good for Jaedon.  I wouldn't put him somewhere that I felt was unsupportive of my values and philosophies!   Just shifting from the thought of  avoiding painful longterm care to facilitating a wonderful future for my son opened up so many ideas.  We indulged ourselves in decadent brainstorming of what I wanted for my son and ways that I could make that happen.  It was delicious.

So sometimes the thing we are running away from is really a figment of our imagination.  Actually, as real as it looks, it's always a figment of your imagination.  You can always imagine something else.  If you have spent a lot of time imagining the scary stuff, it may take some practice imagining the things you really want to move towards.  Sometimes that practice may feel a little uncomfortable.  Don't worry about the discomfort.  You are just learning a new skill, a new thought process.

Today, Isaiah took up the guitar we have had for at least 8 years.  He taught himself to play keyboards as a teen, using what he knew from guitar.  He promptly dropped the guitar.  Today he decided he wanted guitar accompaniment with a song he'd been learning.  He came into the kitchen groaning.  Every joint in his fingers and hand hurt.  He said his brain remembers but his hands!  The beautiful thing about being at just that spot is that the discomfort is secondary to what he wants, so he kept playing (and groaning).  After almost an hour, he was groaning less.

So here's my advice (suggestion?).  Go in the direction of what you want. Don't judge yourself for going more slowly than you had hoped you would.  Do cut yourself some slack for being on the road.  Do curiously examine the obstacles that appear along the way.  The more you understand them, the more like mirages they may become.  Don't let the door hit you as you run through it, but do take a minute to hold your ear if it's been hit, and to think curiously about what just happened.  You might be surprised how much faster you can run as you steadily engage this journey of going after and getting what you want. 

I really liked this clip so I'll share it with you: I Will.


  1. just wandering:
    Does "bad treatment" prepare you for more "bad treatment", or will a lot of love build you stronger and more suitable for coping with whatever you'll meet...
    - I don't have the answer but I do know which direction I'll chose.

  2. so do I. So much of what I heard growing up was along the lines of deliberate deprivation toughening you up for the deprivation you can't plan for. Even now, people will ask if I'm preparing my children for the 'real world' or have i thought about how Jay will cope with other situations. I'm only recently clear on this. I have no absolute answers, I just know clearer what I want and I'm going after it. I'm getting to lose my need for external verification, especially since there isn't much for the path I'm on. Jay doesn't act 'schooled' and somedays I think it might be easier if he did. Only some, though. Other people's input to that effect has me asking questions, sometimes.

    The 'bad treatment' toughening strategy feels like the same as the 'avoid pain' strategy, except it uses small doses of what we don't really want as a vaccine to inoculate us from the 'big pain'. I'm doing the 'fortify and build resources' strategy.

    Thanks for the comment, Joy. I got to think about this some more.

  3. Thanks for the reflection - the "I'm getting to lose my need for external verification" - made me smile. I feel happy that you are getting there - trusting your way. GREAT!

    Thanks for being a source for inspiration.



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