Resilience, Flow, and give me a break

by | Feb 17, 2006

My best bud, Jennifer Louden just figured out that I’m blogging and sent me a note to say she’d mentioned my blog in hers. I surfed over to see what she’d said, and one of the comments to the post got me going.

The commenter, whom I am sure is a lovely person (after all, she praised this blog), opined that perhaps Jen was “fighting the flow rather than going with it.” This kind of well meaning feedback is common in the pop-psychology-saturated, Oprah-ized, New Age, and post-EST maelstrom in which what Sherry Ruth Anderson and Paul Ray refer to as Cultural Creatives live. (Ken Wilber writes about the dark side of the cultural creatives in his almost unbearably bad novel Boomeritis. I love Wilber; the Lit major in me just can’t abide his novel.)

Back to my point. There’s value in the principles and practices that get tossed around the Cultural Creative playing field, but often the value is dulled by lack of context or precision. In other words, let’s be careful about what we attribute to our friends, acquaintances, and distant relations. It is all too easy to reduce a complex life to one-dimensional causes and effects unless we take care.

What do I mean by “one dimensional causes and effects”? Consider medicine. Many in the Cultural Creative cohort naturally consult alternative healthcare practitioners instead of or in addition to traditional allopathic docs. They feel (and I agree) that there can be more to illness or injury than meets the eye, that psychological, spiritual, even cultural and systemic factors may play an important role in the disease process and in recovery. In other words, one-dimensional medicine: yuk.

Where we sometimes go wrong is in thinking that the alternative, adjunct, intuitive, and “holistic” approaches we’ve learned to value have ALL the answers. I’m here to say they don’t.

If your boss is psychotic, your good attitude is unlikely to be enough to save the department from chaos. Can it help? Sure. Can it shift the boss? Not unless you’re Mahatma Gandhi. I hope you aspire to Gandhi-hood, but let’s not confuse aspiration with reality (see my previous post on the top two time wasters. If you’re parent is dying, your husband has been diagnosed with leukemia, your daughter is pubescent, and you have a deadline, getting to the surface of the river so you can go with the flow without being drowned is quite a trick. Yes, I think it can be done. But no, I do not think it is a realistic or even beneficial standard to hold for each other.

Let me hasten to say again that sue did not say that Jennifer was doing anything wrong. She did not accuse her of fighting the flow; she merely posed the question. I jumped on it as it touches a sore point with me, having coached many clients through sophisticated variations on the self hatred theme because they were not living up to all they knew they could be.

We might each do well to ask, “If I’m so wise, why is life still happening to me?”

Because it is.