Several posts back I mentioned some wisdom from Shannon Thomas, who wrote about how to heal from psychological abuse. Although her topic is so subtle and tricky that it needs a good book like hers to define, identify, and give strategies to keep from being led into mental chaos, much of what she says can apply to other challenges of life—especially about what she gives as her second step.
After presenting what she labels “despair” as the first step toward recovery, she doesn’t dive into talking about “stepping” forward yet at all, but advises first to do your homework: get informed, get educated, even get savvy, about the challenge that you have to deal with:—in other words, prepare to step forward and become more certain about which way your feet (or knees!) should move you.
Now, it’s only too true that we can get stuck in this stage, but it seems to me we need it initially, no matter what the challenge. Otherwise all our actions can simply amount to flailing around, getting nowhere—or even making disastrous mistakes.
As I read her second-step chapter, I recalled how true that had been for me when I had to deal with alcoholism and began attending Al Anon meetings. The motto so important to me then was “listen and learn.” In fact, in my little introductory gathering with two members to get me started on the right path, they simply exhorted me not to make any major decisions/changes for six months and just keep coming to meetings.
At the time I reacted in a sort of verbal “flailing about.”
“I can’t do that!” I protested, then listed all the “what-ifs” that could and might happen if I just did nothing.
But they were right. Just understanding the usual thinking, behavior, and (yes) tactics of the alcoholic helped me keep from making many typical mistakes and assured me I wasn’t the cause of the mess I was in. And above all, over that six months’ time I became equipped to deal with the challenges that lay ahead for me—by, yes, getting informed.
I guess that may be why when some difficulty looms up before me, one of the first things I try to do is get as fully educated as I can about what I’m dealing with, what will help, what will hurt, and what’s just wasted effort and time.
What follows as Thomas’s third step is “Awakening.” This is what flows out of thorough learning. So…
“If you can’t fly run.
If you can’t run walk.
If you can’t walk crawl.”
And if you can’t crawl yet because you haven’t even gotten your bearings, start getting them. “Get educated.”