Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 19:

“Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics, that it can never be fully learnt.”  Izaak Walton, 1653

I know it seems a bit off from fishing metaphors, but bear with me when I say I love the Wizard of Oz story, and why. It turns out the brilliant Wizard does not give Dorothy, the Tinman, the Lion, or Mr. Scarecrow, anything. He gets each one to discover that what they want they already have. Each already has everything they are looking for; they only needed to look within.

So the Wizard sends them out onto the “Yellow Brick Road” in order to discover this truth. The Wizard knew that if he told them this he would not have convinced them at all. Some things – usually important things – “can never be fully learnt.” 

I spent an inordinate amount of my formative years learning, mostly through formal education – high school, college, and post-graduate school – so I could then go and get a real education. You cannot teach maturity. You cannot teach wisdom. Reading books and instructions manuals won’t do it. I’m not claiming I have achieved these things, but I do know that experience, including many of my failures, were key to my growth in the wisdom and maturity department.

After graduate school I was disheartened to realize how little I knew about actually counseling folks. The little I knew, however, made me humble, and also hungry to learn what I still needed. My ignorance turned out to be a blessing. It motivated me to deal with people and their real issues. Most importantly, it helped me to not attempt to solve these issues for them. I learned how to facilitate their own self-discovery to solutions – solutions that would prove best in serving them for the long haul. This approach provided them skills and insights they could bring into their own future. It fostered people taking personal ownership and responsibility.  This is critical for gaining wisdom and maturity – something any “quick-fix” solution can’t provide growth.

 Having children also furthered me along in my school of learning. As each of our kids got older they invariably sought out our advice. Often they wanted some “quick fix” for whatever they were dealing with in life.

 Eventually I would give some variation of this response:

“I have every confidence in you, that you will figure what is the best solution for you.”

 I would try very hard to refrain from offering my sage opinion. I knew my opinions may or may not help in any particular moment. But my conviction was that each one contained insights and resourcefulness within her/his own inner Self. I encouraged each to draw from this part of one’s self; and to cultivate it. I still know very little about helping others. This humility has been useful in attempting to assist others to discover the counselor within.

 Each of us is born with an immature auto-immune system that requires development and strengthening. This can only come about through our body confronting and building resistance against whatever attacks it; things such as germs and illnesses.

 By the way: If you take any literature written about the human physical auto-immune system, and you substitute the word “Self” wherever it reads “immune,” the document reads perfectly.

 Developing our immune system is literally parallel to the development of the Self.

If everything comes easily to us, we learn very little; the Self grows even less. We literally need to push against, and to find coping strategies for the stresses and problems that are a part of life, in order to grow into capable adults.

 A parent sometimes finds it difficult to NOT step in and intervene for their children. We want to protect them from potential distress. Unless there is a real danger when responsible adults must intervene, it is usually best to allow children to occasionally fall down and scrap a knee or two.  We learn so much more from these experiences.

 There is a huge difference between risk assessment and actual danger. By constantly protecting our children we deprive them from learning this important distinction. We undermine their capacity to develop risk assessment skills. Everything is then perceived as dangerous. Over-protection of children may be a new form of child abuse.

 One obstacle that can undermine our capacity to draw upon and enhance our own inner wisdom is the massive amount of information we are deluged with today. We are experiencing an information EXPLOSION! It has become a new major addiction. Like any addiction, we crave more and more of it until it overwhelms us. Then we need a fix from being overwhelmed, so we look for more information, and we continue the vicious cycle over again and remain stuck in a highly anxious state.

 I once joked that there are now more books about raising children than there are children in the United States. One expert will tell parents to do something a certain way, only to find another expert telling them to do the opposite. Then there is the anxiety that there may be a book yet to be published that will finally offer the definitive answer. Parents lose trust in their own instincts and common sense.

 We’ll spend 20% of our energy acquiring 80% of information about some matter we are attempting to address. Then we’ll spend 80% of our energy looking for the remaining 20% of the information. Most of the time we can make a very reasonable and solid decision based upon that original 80% of the information. What we also need to do is listen to our intuitive – our inner voice – that place within that knows more than we realize. This is difficult to do when we’re in a highly anxious state.

 The Wizard of Oz gave the central characters tasks to perform so that they might come to believe in their own solutions.  The Wizard was brilliant. No speeches, no lectures; no courses or workshops. He provided them with actions they went about doing. As the TV ad says, “Priceless!”

 There is an old Confucius adage:

I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember.

I do and I understand.

In other words, experience is the best teacher.

 Too often we want simple answers to complex questions. We are never going to get this, or if we do it is not any kind of sustainable solution. One’s very sanity requires a certain some capacity for living with ambiguity in life. Our anxiousness craves certainty.

Should you get married or not get married?

Should you travel or not travel?

Should you take this job or not take this job?

Whatever we choose we might later regret either decision. Whenever we give up something seemingly bad, we also give up something seemingly good. No decision is ever totally acceptable. In other words, there are always trade-offs.

The philosopher, Sartre, said this:

“It’s quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don’t do it.”  

Mathematics, angling, as well as, anyone attempting to learn to how to love masterfully needs a bit of skill, as well as, a bit of what I call artistry. Also, one requires courage.

Jumping across that abyss Sartre mentions takes real courage.

And it can “never be fully learnt.”