It is by no means exclusive to childcare to find ourselves in a situation to which there appears to be no ready answer, a situation in which our entire storehouse of experience has nothing to offer by way of a solution. Robert M Persig in his excellent book, 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' describes these situations as gumption traps, it's a good name, where you can feel all your energy draining out through the bottom of your shoes.
The person centred place is to first acknowledge being stuck, if you are in the habit of keeping a journal or diary, 'I am
stuck'. is as good an entry as any, rather than being a stopping point it becomes a starting point. Being stuck in itself isn't a bad place to be, it is the feelings of desperation, agonizing over the situation and needing answers that create all the discomfort.
In many ways the modern nuclear family, a direct result of the Industrial Revolution for bringing about the break up of communities in its rapacious need for a mobile workforce, has led to a degree of insularity that is not helpful when we're stuck. Where once there might have been a network of friends and extended family available, there is now often a sense of isolation and shame in needing to seek help.
The next natural step is to look at options, people we might approach for advice or to discuss the situation, and that necessarily involves trust. There is no shortage of information out there nor people with an opinion, often ranging from not very helpful to downright nonsense.
A word about 'telling', the kind of advice where we are told what we should or ought to do. The advice may actually be good, but the act of telling disempowers us. The decision on how to act should always reside with the person who will bear the consequences. The writer treats shoulds and oughts with the gravest suspicion.
Any decision we take should be tailored to our particular circumstances. In seeking advice there are some crucial questions to bear in mind.
• Am I being listened to?
• Am I being heard (which is not the same thing)?
• In discussion, are we discussing my options, or am I being given pre-potted answers?
• Is the decision being left up to me or am I being persuaded to someone elses point of view?
If we feel uncomfortable, wary, unsure, suspicious, there is no shame in walking away and going elsewhere.
Another word, this time on being upset. It is common to say, 'such and such has upset me.' Thereby blaming the person or situation for us being upset. This is a very deceptive untruth, the upset is entirely our own. To place the responsibility for our feelings on another person or object (a late bus for example) is to make ourselves into victims and thus to completely disempower ourselves. There is also a big payoff to being a victim, self justification, a proclamation to oneself of aggrieved innocence. This does nothing to resolve the feelings, indeed it tends to stoke them and places the power to resolve them entirely in the hands of the person or situation that we are holding responsible. To make this even more questionable, our motive for blaming may be that we are being controlling and seeking appeasement. Few people have a problem owning happiness, being upset is merely the obverse, if a little more difficult to own.
The back burner
Some problems can be long term to which no ready solution presents itself. The writer has what he calls a back burner where he relegates such problems out of mind but not out of sight. Over the years he has discovered that the great storehouse of information we carry in our subconscious minds has a way of working on such problems and often, almost always, coming up with sudden and unexpected solutions.
Lastly, if in doubt, sleep on it. Sleep is the world of the subconscious and it's remarkable what can come out of it.
2011 Keith Lindsay-Cameron.