Map Reading Vs Slogging Through the Swamp

Map Reading Vs Slogging Through the Swamp

I talk through a crucial oversight when doing your own spiritual or mental health work as well as an oversight that is common when supporting others involving the ability to read the map of how things work and where they might be going, versus really understanding that someone is in a swamp or climbing a mountain and respecting that the difficulty they face is not always served by someone who can see the map.

Episode Transcript:

Good afternoon, everybody. Jon Sorensen your fellow wonderer and wanderer. And I just had a brief thought for the day. I am lacking quite a bit of sleep, so bear with me. I've been thinking about this concept for a couple of days. Obviously, as a therapist, I spend a lot of time listening to people's stories and after a while it gets pretty obvious. Individuals can be different, but in general human beings behavior and the things that bother us and the way we struggle with it and the blindnesses that we have, et cetera, are pretty consistent. However, I noticed in myself over the past three to six months, but really in the last week, I really noticed something that I have to watch that I think maybe it's possible that men have to watch more than women, but I don't know. That's a generalization. And that is the idea of acknowledging when you are the map reader versus the person struggling on the journey. And what I mean by that is that as I've talked about before my entire life, I've been fascinated with philosophy. I've been fascinated with psychology, with the human condition. I've always loved epic stories of humanity. I was raised on the stories of the Old Testament, these epic stories of struggle and religion and connection and community. And I continue to love this sort of epic stories like Lord of the Rings and things like that. And so I developed some ability to sit down with people and listen to what they talked about and have a pretty good idea of how they arrived at what they're struggling with, of what it looks like, at maybe what are some ways for them to improve their situation. But there's one really, huge weakness in there that I've been recognizing. And that is there's a huge difference between being good at reading the map and knowing what's on the map and being able to estimate how many miles something is from here to there. Being able to look and go, you know, what you're describing to me, it sounds like you're in a bit of a valley and I think there's a river there that you're going to need to traverse. So make sure that you're dry and that you've rested up and, you know, don't push yourself too hard. And do you know how to swim? And if you run out of water, then this could be a good opportunity for you to get water, and then you're going to cross the river. And there's actually a mountain on the other side. So make sure that you don't get too ambitious because it's not the end. The fact that you can do that. Is not the same thing. As being in it. It's not necessarily the same thing as being helpful, that can be helpful. But it's not the same thing as the person who's actually in it. So let's say we think about it. Let's say we think about someone slogging through a bog, and they're confused, and they feel lost, and they feel scared because they take a step in one direction, and they sink a little deeper, and they take a step in another direction. And maybe it's a little firmer or maybe there's a snake or a reptile that they have to navigate. You know, whatever it is, and you can sit there and read the map and go, oh, you know, this might look really hard, but they only have a quarter of a mile and there's nothing actually that's going to really hurt them in this bog. And very quickly, if they would just listen to me, I could direct them to the driest areas. And once they get on the drier areas, it leads to even drier areas. And in fact, way, way faster, like maybe if they go one direction, it's going to be a mile before they get out. And if they go the direction I tell them, it's only going to be an eighth of a mile and a lot of it dry and firm. There's an arrogance in this because people who are in a bog are in fact there to learn how to identify the dry areas and to identify the things not to rely on, and also just their human beings struggling with to overwhelm of actually being in it. And you're sitting there reading a map going, well, just do this. If you'll just listen to me, I can help you get to the next dry area. Yeah, that's super easy to say if you're just reading the map. And again, maybe this is an overgeneralization. I don't know. Maybe it's just true about me that there's more of a tendency in men to go, well, I know how this looks. I know what this looks like and how to walk your way out of it. The first and most important thing that people need is for someone to acknowledge that they truly know what it is to be lost in a bog and a swamp and to not know where the next step is. That in fact, in the end, what most people really want and really need is to know that they have the skill and that they have the calmness and that someone has helped them calm and ground enough that they can take in information and go, oh, no, no, no, it's fine. Like, leave me alone for a second. I can take a step this way, a step that way, a step that way. I can identify which step is drier and firmer. And then I can crawl onto that portion, and I'm going to be okay. So stop telling me it's just an eighth of a mile this direction. Like, just support me. Listen to me. Listen to the fact that I'm scared, and I'm lost here in this situation. And what every human being on the face of the planet wants is not for someone just to tell them how to get out of it. They want to know that they can learn how to get out of it and how to not get into it again, or that if they get into it, they have the skills that they can trust themselves. That's what they want. They don't want you to convince them that. In fact, if they would just listen to the guy with the map, that they can be out of this and then just listen to the guy with the map or the woman with the map or whomever, and then you'll never be in that. That is not inherently what every human animal on the face of the planet wants. We all want to know that. I have the wherewithal and the learning skills. And what we're all craving is someone to A), acknowledge that we're in a bog and however we got there, that that's really difficult and confusing and frightening. And that B), that that person will ground with us and reassure us and say, hey, you're going to be OK, and I got your back, and I'm here with you, and I see that you're in that position. But most importantly, that that person say, I'm here with you. I see that you're in that position. And also, if you really, really, really want me to say, hey, I think there's a dry spot to your right, I'll do it. But I also respect your ability to try two or three things. And then for you to identify, for that person in the situation to identify, hey, this feels a little drier and a little firmer here. I think this might be a good direction. And for the person reading the map, what if the person reading the map, because I'm not in the bog, maybe I know that that's a false dry area. Maybe I should shut up and go test it. Test it. I'm not there. I don't know for sure what your experience is and what your skill set is. Test it. I trust your ability to test it. If it ends up collapsing under you, then I can say, you know, I'm sorry I didn't share this with you. It looked like on the map that that might dead end, but that's cool. You tried it and it didn't kill you. So just really expressing the knowledge for myself, for my own work, right? That in my relationship to myself, I am often a map reader and just go, well, as long as I understand, as long as I know the, the, the map, like I can, I've academically, I figured out the map. I've studied psychology. I know all this stuff works. Furthermore, I know what it looks like. Furthermore, I know what I'm doing. Furthermore, I understand my own behavior. That doesn't mean anything. If you're not slogging through the bog, the swamp, and then fording the river, and then climbing the mountain, and then finding some beautiful valley with enough food and resting there. Maybe for a long time, if that's what you choose to do, and then deciding to continue on your journey because you're a human being and that's what we're here to do is a journey and to learn. If I'm just sitting there knowing the map and being able to describe my own experience, that's not the point, right? And so Again, that's my relationship with myself, but also if you're being of support of others, and you find yourself feeling frustrated because you're like, I know how this works. I could just tell this person, like, I know how this works. I've seen this a thousand times before. Remember that that just being able to read the map doesn't help anybody. Unless you want to make that person dependent on you for the rest of their lives where they're like, well, I have a personal map reader, and they just tell me what's coming up. You should be really, really conservative on the amount of time that you spend telling people what's coming up. This is what's coming up in your trajectory. This is how this works. If you want to support people, A, acknowledge that they are in the swamp, or they are struggling up the side of a mountain. And that's real. However, they got there, that's where they are right now. And it's real, and it's beautiful, but also can be very painful and can feel very dangerous and maybe is very dangerous. I see you. I know that you are there. Furthermore, I know when you tell me that you're there, I know you are. Furthermore, I know it. And I'm here, and I'll share the road with you. At least I will listen as you share where you are on the road. I will trust you to take steps to have missteps. And if you want a reality test with me, then you can be like, Hey, I did this, and I think this is what happened. What do you see? Like, what are you saying? And I can tell you. That it looks like on the map that that tracks. It looks like that that would be a direction to go that's going to be safer for you and healthier for you. But in the end, the map reader is just looking at a piece of paper where someone has plotted out what they think reality is. And that rarely fits exactly with who you are and what you're doing. And so just offering a little insight for what it is to be in support of friends, family, significant others, to be in relationship to self. And to really examine, am I somebody who's just gotten good at reading the map and describing, well, this road or this path leads to that, and that's going to cross a mountain. Okay, that's great. But in the end, what we're all doing here is traversing the countryside, the topography. We are traversing, and we are journeying, and we're testing our own resiliency, and we're testing our own presence of mind and ability to navigate - at the moment, in the actual experience, ability to navigate. And if I'm going to support someone, I need to start there with that strength that is inherent to them. And if I need to continue my own work, I need to ensure that I am in the actual landscape doing the work. And if you're seeking support from someone, be careful, be aware of whether they're offering you map reading only, and you're just reassuring yourself that somebody knows, not me. If you're reassuring yourself that somebody knows not me, you're going to weaken yourself. It's going to feel good in the short term, but you're going to weaken yourself in the long term. Take some steps, test some things, and then if you need someone in support, make sure that they see you, that they see that you're struggling, and they see, but that they also believe that you're capable, that you're equal to the task that you're taking on, and that they spend as much time listening to you reality test and go, this is what I did, this is what I got back, this is what I think I should do. And then ask them, what do you think? What are you seeing? That's great. But in the end, if it becomes tilted towards them just telling you how it works, it's going to weaken you over time. So that's my message for the day. Map reading is an important skill, but in the end, we are all slogging it out. And in our own work and in relationship to supporting others, If we're just standing in the capacity of map reader and not aware that that's all we're doing, then we have our own work to do. And also we're not offering true support, companionship and respect to people who are struggling, who come to us for support. So for all of us, If you have the skill of being a map reader, God bless, congratulations, but just take very seriously that that is not the same thing as being down on the countryside traversing whatever challenges and obstacles are coming up. All right, guys, it's great to see you, and I'll see you next time. Take care.

Meet your hosts:

Jon Sorensen


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