Patti Digh and David Robinson recently offered an audioconference on the subject of “playing with blocks“, which was kind of a riff on the issues I’ve been talking about recently in my posts on the fictitious stories we tell ourselves and the emotions they evoke, learning to live in ‘now time’, and about the need to slow down and know and appreciate yourself for who you are.
Part of the problem is that in our busy modern life, we are often unconscious of why we do and think what we do, and what is ‘blocking’ us, holding us back. There is just not enough time to reflect on this, so we end up, Patti and David explain, following the path of least resistance. In the process, we start to create our own stories about ourselves, which include falsehoods and excuses that block us from being who we are and doing what we can do. When we pay attention to the language we use in describing our lives and situation, they say, we start to notice how we use self-description to abdicate responsibility for our blocks, lower our self-expecations, and resign ourselves to having fewer choices than we really do. We convince ourselves that we’re ‘broken’ and need to be ‘fixed’ (hence the popularity of the self-help section of the bookstore). What we need to do, they suggest, is to apply the power of attention and participation, to become the expert of our own self-management process, to become more conscious of and attentive to who we are and what is really holding us back, which is, often, our own stories about ourselves, stories we have the capacity to change.
The original block in all our lives, they explain, comes from the experience in each of our childhoods when we first separated ourselves from ourselves — when we first judged ourselves (probably critically) in the third person. This separation then becomes the frame for all the stories we subsequently tell ourselves about ourselves.
The blocks that stem from this original block are of three main types, they propose:
They then go on to describe some of the many stories we tell ourselves that limit us, needlessly, falsely, and block us, hold us back. See how many of these you recognize in yourself:
Patti cites James Barrie’s famous quote about our stories:
“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”
If we want to move from the story we are living to the one we mean to live, we must first have the humility and wisdom to understand both stories and the differences between them, and the reasons for those differences.
Patti and David go on to suggest things that can be done to ‘play with’ and work through these blocks, these false comparisons, false self-expectations and beliefs in false stories. Here are several ideas they noted:
When I think about what’s holding me back, I think most of all that it is my reluctance to accept myself as I really am, and to acknowledge my false expectations of myself. I’ve described myself often as a procrastinator, a person who is always disappointing others, letting them down (usually because I raise others’ expectations of me in the course of publicly raising unreasonable expectations of myself). As a result I am blocked by my accursed idealism, the same idealism that makes me an exceptional imaginer of possibilities, a writer, an artist. I picture myself as sitting on a ledge, ready to soar, but holding myself back because I’m not quite ready.
Pete McGregor told me that, often, as soon as he has identified something that seems to make real sense, ring true, hold great promise, be the right thing to do, he confounds and stymies himself by doubting, by seeing all the reasons why it might not be right. I am the same way. On the one hand, I think too much and too long, before taking action, before just starting. On the other hand, I don’t allow myself enough time to really think, reflect, slow down and do nothing and let ideas percolate and flow and emerge and take form.
In recognizing myself, acknowledging and understanding who I am (not who I would ideally like or hope to be, just who I really am, nobody-but-myself), it seems to me that I need to do five things, more or less simultaneously:
Sounds like a plan.
The important message from Patti and David, I think, is that we should stop trying to “self-improve” to be better or other than all we are, and focus on doing instead of being, and that key to that is to understand what is blocking us from acting.
They have planned a 12-part series of audioconferences that you can sign up for, that dive much deeper than the one-hour teaser this article summarizes. I intend to sign up, mostly because I think these two people are brilliant and I really enjoy their ideas, but also because I think this series would be a great capacity-builder. The purpose of the course ostensibly is to teach you how to ‘play with blocks’ and move through them for yourself, but my guess is that the higher value of the course could be to teach participants how to help others, one-on-one, to do so. We need millions of competent facilitators to make this world a better place, and it seems to me that teaching people how to facilitate others to understand and move past what is blocking them from acting, would be a priceless gift.
Maybe I’ll ‘meet’ you at Patti and David’s class, and we can grow our capacities together.
Category: Human Nature