WHAT'S IN YOUR ESCAPE KIT?

I had an insight yesterday, a new way of looking at what it is I do. From the inside, I've always known that my activities as a writer who does work as a coach and trainer are connected. Part of that, I knew, was to do with creativity and language. Now though I see the potential those domains have as providing tools for liberation. Another way to say that is to acknowledge, whatever it is we're doing, we're constrained by what we believe our situation to be. As much freedom as our current condition gives us, sooner or later its limitations will become apparent, and at that point an escape kit is needed. And, there are a lot of occasions when life will get better quicker if you consult someone like me, with a knack for the kind of lock-picking needed to escape what Blake called our 'mind forg'd manacles'.

I worked with an artist once. She usually painted with whatever colours interested her. But for a while she'd just been painting in shades of blue. The work she was producing was great, but she wanted restored access to the full rainbow. As she talked about her experience, she touched her left arm, and that led me to ask how she saw her painting process work. She envisaged a pot of blue paint towards her elbow, which travelled through tubes into her hand to guide what she did with a brush. It made sense to her, and that's what matters. We all have interesting ways of coding our experience, and that was one of hers. I suggested that further up her arm, towards her shoulder, was a dial connected to a pipe that fed paint to her pot. And the dial could be set to whatever colour she wanted. Next day, she was painting with the whole spectrum as she had been before.

To help someone escape, you have to respect how they're boxed in. Telling the artist that she needed to just toughen up and splash other paints about wouldn't have acknowledged whatever internal conditions had led where she was at this point. I didn't need to know what those conditions were, but it made sense that if something in her came up with that solution, it would be wise to honour the wisdom of that choice.

There are ways to learn about how you function and using their logic is helpful if only because whatever within you came up with that logic clearly likes it, which makes it an elegant way to game the system. Naturally, I am my own guinea pig for these explorations. One time I saw someone I recognised but didn't know where from. I realised in attempting to figure that out I wanted to associate him with a place, so mentally inserted him in a variety of settings where I might know him based on how he was dressed. In each case I got a 'no' feeling in my gut.  Then I figured that 'how he was dressed' was itself a constraint. He was in a pretty snappy outfit at that point, so I imagined him in another outfit - straight away my mind produced an image of him in a white lab coat. Of course - it's the dude who works in the pharmacy I go to!

Those are two small examples of escapology - the artist from her blue period, me from my inability to recognise someone. I have bigger and more dramatic examples of this kind of approach. But it'd be easier then to be impressed by the content of the story and not pay attention to the details of how - as in these instances - a person's means of conceiving who they are and how they do what they do necessarily provides the clues needed to escape whatever limitations that model has built in.

Much of what I do in coaching and training is support people to consider the way they function in a new light. With that insight it's possible to transform those defaults we have into ones that offer us more scope to be who we'd like to be. That's where it overlaps with my writing - stories are often about how people go through a process of transformation of whatever sort and scale. In time, that new way of being will itself reveal limitations, and so on, and that's fine - there's always another Russian doll waiting to incorporate a bigger sense of our capabilities and possibilities.