|by Nicholas Wolff, |
LCSW, BCD, TEP
Therapists and trainers are constantly engaged with people having to reshape their goals and redefine their identity because of unpredictable circumstances. When life redirects our course and there is no going back, letting go of the person we used to be is the pivot upon which a successful future turns. Another New York Times article ("When Injuries to the Brain Tear at Hearts") speaks to this through a story about interventions with couples when one partner has a traumatic brain injury, which often results in personality changes that dramatically alters the emotional landscape of a marriage. Quoting Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy psychologist Emilie Godwin, the article states that although some familiar tools in the therapeutic toolbox for couples are useful in these situations – like communication skills, focusing on the positive in one another, taking time for fun and romance – the core of the work is “asking people to just look forward, to not look back at all. To try to recreate a relationship.”
When a paradigm shifts, and “everything goes back to zero,” we bring all that we are and have developed within ourselves to the challenge of reinventing our dreams and our attitudes. Shackleton brought his emotional intelligence, personal courage and strength to the task of improvising a structure of activity that kept his men engaged with life and with each other rather than sinking into despair for 2 long years in catastrophic conditions. Living with a life-changing injury or catastrophic loss that redefines our roles is a similar process of improvisation.
We can develop and maintain the psychological “muscle” needed for thinking on the fly and effective responses to uncertainty through the practice of letting go. Let go of old, unrealized dream. Take a hard look at habits of thinking or action that are familiar but futile. Release what is no longer working. The creative tension produced by unloading the past prepares us to deal with the unexpected. We become more flexible and adaptable. We can shape our future rather than wait to be shaped by it.
Nicholas Wolff facilitates a weekly professional training group in Experiential/Action Methods for therapists, counselors, educators and trainers. Contact him about participation in this visionary group by calling 631-366-4265 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org