Psychological flexibility by Antoon Wellens
“Systems that are able to move toward maximal complexity are healthy systems. They are the most stable, adaptive, and flexible. What a wonderfully concise definition of well-being!”
(Solomon & Siegel, 2003, p.3)
Psychological flexibility and having a meaningful life means you can give yourself space to choose your behavior. You will not be led by feelings or thoughts, however you consciously choose a direction which is valuable. This means you can take perspective, you are able to perceive what works or actually works against you. What rules you impose yourself or were imposed on you help or impede? You have a choice if you want to listen to these rules, however you first have to see them. These norms (from the past) are in itself not wrong, they helped you, however do they still help you in what you find important now?
When you can take a perspective, when being attentive in the moment, it’s important to investigate your inner curiosity. That is, don’t avoid annoying feelings or thoughts, but accept these. Accepting is an activity, it is opening yourself up. This asks for a certain willingness, to be open for things that occur. By investigating this, the structures you’ve made yourself are exposed, and the interaction between you and the world will become apparent. It becomes clear how you and your social environment (friends, family, culture, society) can give stability to function better. Being attentive, to take perspective and opening yourself up is not for the sake of being open, but for the action, for ‘doing’. Does the present structure bring you closer to what you or we want to achieve?
The next question which comes into view is to ask yourself what you find important and valuable to take the next steps into that direction. Out of our comfort zone, of the known territory, and to set out on an adventure into the unknown. Do what you find important, with all insecurities that comes with it. We learn that we need to be positive and happy, however these are only labels and concepts. Without resistance there’s no fear or happiness. We do not only need to do what feels good, but we have to act on what we find desirable and what justifiably can be desired (Biesta, 2015, p.18).
By approaching the world from different truths, realities or perspectives you can research how to handle. This approach is functional, what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes we are consciously blind to things, because we don’t dare or want to face them. You need to learn to alter your viewpoint. If you simplify the complexity of what you see or you only want to look at it from one point of view, you deny yourself the opportunity to broaden your viewpoint. There are always more elements in play. To face your blind spots, you need to have courage, take responsibility, make yourself vulnerable. How you deal with a situation is a choice. And for that we need to take responsibility.
That’s why attention is important, what happens in this situation, how do I react? What values and principles determine this choice and how do I act on it? To take responsibility is the skill to react. How do we keep things workable together? To keep the conversation going together. By learning the skill to listen to each other and take responsibility to listen.
You can learn this skill by slowing down by looking at art. Through looking at art we can discuss the complexity of the world through dialogue. By sharing this experience and by sharing a meal on the same table in a shared safe space we can be made aware of our different views on the world.
- Biesta, G. (2015). Het prachtige risico van
onderwijs (4e ed.). Culemborg: Phronese.
- Hayes, S. C., & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind & into your life: The new acceptance & commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publ.
- Jansen, G., & Batink, T. (2017). Time to ACT!: Het basisboek voor professionals. Thema.
- Pollan, M. (2013). Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. The Penguin Press HC.
- Solomon, M. F., & Siegel, D. J. (2003). Healing trauma: Attachment, mind, body, and brain [Kindle Windows Version]. Retrieved from Amazon.nl