Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Recently, within a twelve-month period, my three children moved out of the family home (for a while at least!!). It was a significant life change. One day there were four of us in the house, the next day, one. When you have a long term established routine with others in your life, pretty much everything revolves around it. Sudden change brings an array of emotions and insights.
Change brings about change. I began to realize that I no longer had excuses to “not” do things in life. Being in the position of having a blank canvas to suddenly do what you want brought about its own uncertainty. I began to slow down and really question what it was I wanted to do for the next phase of my journey? What did I want out of life? This of course had a spiraling effect - the slowing down also became a challenge. I began to feel an internal push/pull situation going on. There was the perceived societal pressure to be able to account for “what are you doing” and the conflicting internal compass pleading patience, patience, patience.
We use our life circumstances as a reason for doing or not doing life itself. Family therapist Michael White (1990) explains that our lives are packed with lived experiences and that only a fraction of these experiences are expressed and form what he calls our “dominant story”. An example, when you are introduced to somebody new that you have never met before and you begin to share information about “yourself” you might state your marital status, children status, work status, situational status (what brought you to this meeting). We “present” ourselves with a brief summary of just a tiny number of life experiences that have brought us to this very moment. A multitude of experiences are never shared, therefore often fall away from our conscious memory. White explains how these aspects of our lives that fall away are a “rich and fertile source for the generation, or regeneration, of alternative stories” and they may become what Goffman (1961) termed “unique outcomes”.
In a time when our “dominant story” is arrested, we may experience significant confusion about ourselves as individuals. We may ask, what now? External restriction and isolation may provide opportunities to regenerate some “unique outcomes”. Creative exercises can help cope with the many emotions that we may experience with forced change in our lives. Key words to keep in mind are awareness, accountability and responsibility – that is personal awareness, personal accountability and personal responsibility. This requires connection. The connection called for is connection with the self. We can do this by externalizing our emotions in a safe way through scribbling, writing, sketching, composing -engaging in creative tools that may provide valuable insights into our inner musings. In times of uncertainty and confusion, developing new daily routines, changing small things in our space like rearranging furniture, doing that threatened Spring clean, sorting the book shelves, painting your nails, changing where you sit in the evenings are just a few tiny examples of things that may have a significant impact on well-being. How we view and interact in our newly confined “space” can reveal a multitude of insights for us to work with.
"The taming of the mind, the desolation of the ego and the letting go of all fears can only evolve through patient practice. There is nothing worth attaining on this or any other planet that doesn’t take practice. As you do this, you become aware of another space." (Werner, 1996, p.75)
Perhaps today is the ideal time to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is that one creative thing I’ve always dreamed of doing?
2. I would love to have the guts to……?
Let the current uncertainties bring us back to an infantile crawl, where we are willing to explore our most immediate circumference – ourselves.
Donnellan, C. (2018) The Phenomenology of Evaluative, Live Performance Experiences for Irish Traditional Musicians in a Third Level Context. Unpublished thesis. University of Limerick.
Goffman, E., (1956)The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Contemporary Sociological Theory, (2012) 3rd. ed. Chapter 2, p.46 United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.
Werner, K., (1996) Effortless Mastery. New Albany, IN: Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc.
White, M., (1990) Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.