Keeping your Head Above Water

Keeping your Head Above Water

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Crazybot.

This is a term a friend used to describe something that doesn’t make sense and can only be termed by a nonsensical word like “crazybot.”

As a therapist who writes and fights her own demons I have of late struggled with contact with other bipolar people. Aware of my own foibles, I have decided that nobody who wants help can afford not to see their own part in life’s disappointments.  Taking personal responsibility for misfortune is essential to growth and change.  Regretfully, I work too often with bipolar women who are gung ho in nailing their own coffins.

And it is always somebody else’s fault.

To take it to another level, let’s look at some terms which are important in understanding how we deal with life.  Free will, the ability to make choices and take responsibility for them.  Predestination, a term usually associated with a God concept which frees the person from any responsibility for their fate.  And determinism, which suggests that outcomes are determined by external events.

I’ll add another concept which doesn’t have a name, as far as I know.  That is, the belief put forth by psychology professionals that you can predict the future by studying the past.  In other words, what happened before is likely to happen again.  Repeat itself.

Of all these phrases, free will seems to be the most attractive.  I can choose, I will make decisions, I am the master of my own destiny.  How many people can realistically engage in such a belief?

Too often it seems we are trapped in our own ignorance, mistakes, and deficits.  I have seen people struggle valiantly to be free of their own tendencies to repeat mistakes, mess up decisions and fall short of goals.  I have heard Christians call this “Missing the mark.”  No matter how hard we try, we are doomed to imperfection.

As a social service worker, I see people who are in situations which are not of their own making.  However, I will maintain that in every scenario, we have choices.  The problem is, even when a person genuinely tries to change their lives for the better, they are hampered by things beyond their control.

Life is a tightrope, a path of stones on treacherous waters.  Sometimes the answer is not in looking ahead, but looking back.  History too often is the way to understand a future not yet in focus.  And by changing our choices, we may be able to create a new history for ourselves as we move forward.

In therapy, this may look something like the following:  Help!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

Hey dipshit, you stepped in a hole. What did you expect to happen? Now regain your footing, and avoid holes in the future.

Look at yourself, look at yourself.  Did you step in the street without looking both ways?  Serves you right if you get hit by a car.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is stay right where you are, look around and avoid any sudden moves.  And maybe the best thing is not to even step off the curb, but turn around and go back where you came from.  No decisions.  No problem solving.  To hell with free will.  There are just too many cars on the road driven by reckless people to go out on the street today.

About the Author

Ember Manos Belle

Ember Manos Belle is a 'Systems Advocate' and Behavioral Health Therapist in the NYC area. Ember is the author of Climbing Towards November (2009), and Pause in the Western Rhythm (2019).
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