Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What's In Your Back-pack?

Once upon a time a little girl was born. On that day her mother gave her an invisible back-pack very similar to the one her mother was carrying. The mother reached into her own back-pack and pulled out two large invisible stones, one was named "My Self-worth" and the other was named "My Life Purpose". She put these two stones in the little baby girl's back-pack.

Now the little girl may have struggled at first to carry those stones for her mother, but since they had been there from the day she was born she really never knew what life would have been like without them. It was almost like a test: once her mother realized she could carry those stones, she continued to add more as the years went by. Some of those stones were given to her mother by other people and society, like "Do Well In School", and "Be a Good Christian", but then there were some unusual ones that were fairly unique, like a Really Big Stone called "Be a Prophet (with me) and Help 'Save the World'"!

Eventually her mother's stones included, "My Fear that the Mafia and Your Dad are Out to Kill Us (and stop us from carrying out our 'Mission from God')", and "My Need to 'Protect' You by Not Letting You Have any Kind of Close Interpersonal Relationships with Anyone But Me", and later "My Physical Health and Well-Being", "My Happiness", and "Food, Clothing, and Shelter Needs for My Life (as well as your own)". It's really amazing that the little girl did not crumble under the weight of all of those stones!

However, after the little girl had grown into a young woman and started going to college, still looking after but not actually living with her mother anymore, she came in contact with a "mentor" instructor who took the time to really listen to her, and (at least indirectly) notice that she was carrying this really heavy back-pack full of her mother's stones. This person suggested that she see a school counselor as he would help her take a closer look at all that she was carrying and decide what really belonged to her and what did not.

Eventually, under the counselor's direction, this young woman confronted her mother and showed her the stones and said, "These belong to you, not me, or any of the other people you've blamed for the problems in your life." A few weeks later, the mother had a "break-down", and was found by the police wandering around outside her house. Since the mother had spoken about trying to kill herself, and had at least managed to bruise the back of her neck really badly, the police and other "authorities" were able to commit her to a mental hospital shortly thereafter.

However, it was that long-night in the emergency room with her mother when this young woman was finally able to empty out many of the stones from her back-pack, especially "Be a Good Christian", "Be a Prophet and Save the World", and "My Fear that the Mafia and Your Dad are Out to Kill Us". She also set aside the ones named "My Self-Worth", "My Happiness", and "My Life Purpose" that had all come from her mother.

Nevertheless, she kept the one for "Food, Clothing, and Shelter (for herself)" as well as "Do Well in School" and "Keep Up with Your Minimum Credit Card Payments". She had also added another since being on her own in college called, "Be Attractive and Sexually Available to Men in Order to Get them to Like you and Care About You." And finally, she inadvertently replaced the "Be a Prophet and Save the World" stone with another very large stone called: "With Little to No Understanding or Support from Anyone Else, Especially Your Other Family Members, Continue to BE STRONG and Just Learn to GET OVER all of the Emotional Trauma and Lack of Functional Parenting of Your Childhood, ON YOUR OWN, Even If It Takes You the Rest of Your Life, and Maybe Somewhere Down the Road You can Write a Book about It".

Now, needless to say, that was still a Really Heavy Load for this young woman to carry, and interestingly enough, her back frequently hurt from it - for real! And she stumbled around a lot, and when she did try to connect with potential friends or partners, this huge load on her back always got in the way (especially when it bumped into the heavy loads those people were often carrying as well).

The problem for everyone was that these back-packs and their heavy stones were INVISIBLE! And how can you really deal with all these things when they're INVISIBLE!?

* * * *

Many, many years later, as this now much more mature woman was continuing to try to "GET OVER" the emotional and practical challenges of her early life; after she had piled-on and then dropped other various expectations that she had for herself, her relationships, and her life purpose; after she had stumbled around and ALMOST fallen, over and over again; after she had learned unconsciously that one of the few ways to not Fall Down was just too KEEP MOVING - she had a Break Through!! ... While continuing her education studying neuroscience, her instructor offered up an image and a concept that she had never considered before: Demands and Expectations vs. Means and Resources...!

The instructor explained that when "Demands and Expectations" far outweigh "Means and Resources" (for meeting those "Demands and Expectations") this can cause a great deal of psychological stress. (Duh!) Furthermore, although it is possible to build a larger "resource base" to support meeting "Demands and Expectations", it is actually a lot easier just to reduce expectations first! The instructor illustrated these ideas with two pyramid-like structures that looked something like this:

Upon seeing these images, it was as if a bright light were turned on in her head. This now much more mature woman finally realized that when "Means and Resources" do not match or exceed "Demands and Expectations" instability is inevitable! And it was in this simple illustration that she was finally able to SEE the biggest problem of her own life (and possibly that of many, many others as well)! Her "invisible back-pack" was Way Too Full of "Demands and Expectations" compared with the "Means and Resources" she had ever had available to her or managed to gather together for herself to help her "carry the load". (In fact, she had never even really thought practically about "Means and Resources", maybe in part because she had had so few of them most of her life.) And furthermore, she realized she was now the single person Most Responsible for keeping that back-pack overfilled with Her Own Expectations of Herself and, therefore, distancing the very people who could help her because they would feel threatened by her self-created instability!

Being a fairly intelligent woman, she knew what she had to do, and so she went right to work Emptying That "Back-pack"!! She also took some time to "inventory" her "resource base". As a consequence, she made much more conscious decisions about what stones she could keep - what expectations she actually could fulfill for herself, and her present life circumstances, and with the people she cared about.

(Now here's the cool thing: Since this woman had been struggling to carry that Really Heavy Load all of her life, her legs and back were actually still pretty strong. And when she shouldered the now Much Lighter Back-pack it was really no great surprise that it was Much Easier for her to carry!)

Furthermore, she learned how to see and talk to her friends better about the loads that they were carrying, and to help them do an inventory of their own "resource base" for carrying those loads. And finally, she started focusing more and more on building up her own resources so that, when the time is right, she can get back to those Really Great Things that she wants to accomplish with her life.

With renewed gratitude for all of the help and support she did actually receive through the course of her life, and especially for the instructor who created the neuroscience course she was taking that allowed her to make this critical discovery, and with the increased understanding of how it was Her responsibility not to overburden herself in the future, this woman now lives her life more happily, freely, stably, and productively, than she ever has before!

* * * *

There's a credit card company out there that asks in its commercials: "What's in Your wallet?" Maybe, where your overall well-being and "life balance" is concerned, the far more important question to ask is, "What's in Your Back-Pack?" And "Can you really afford to be carrying all of Your 'stones'?"

No comments:

Post a Comment