I love the story about the ancient leader who had a really terrible case of leprosy. Someone who worked on his staff knew of a man who could possibly solve his problem and heal him. The leader packed up gifts, food, and other “wow” factors to win the favor and wisdom of the man with curative skills. A slight problem arose when the leader who had traveled far and wide finally arrived in the town of the healer. Instead of meeting the healer himself, he was greeted by the healer’s administrative assistant. What?! He was not going to walk outside of his office to greet this famous leader? No, he sent word instead. And the word was this: go to the local river and dip in the water seven times to be healed. This river was known for being filthy. The leader was furious and ready to head home disappointed, angry, insulted, and embarrassed. This wasn’t at all what he expected. However, his staff member asked him if he would have done a more difficult task than taking a plunge into a river in order to heal had he been asked? Maybe he thought that just because it seemed so simple meant that it couldn’t further him along in his healing. After thinking about that for a moment, the leader made his way to the dirty river, dipped seven times, and came out of the water completely well.
How many things do we avoid doing because they seem too simple to effect change? In reflecting on this, I came up with areas where simple might be a great solution to difficult.
Take Deep Breaths
Getting a fresh dose of oxygen to the brain can be a helpful tool when learning how to stop distorted thoughts, change thinking patterns, and manage anger and destructive responses. When we get angry or scared we have a tendency to take shallow breaths or even hold our breath slightly. This limits the oxygen available in the blood supply and thus to the brain. Our brains need rich oxygenated blood to fire more efficiently and effectively. It really is a simple way to help our brains function better as we process something difficult.
Connect and Join
So often we avoid connecting with or joining a group or friend for fear of being vulnerable. However, connecting authentically with someone creates an opportunity for empathy and deeper relating. Getting close to others can feel as though our fears and flaws are exposed. But avoiding community can hinder the change we desire in ourselves and in others. Connecting can be as simple as listening to someone’s uniqueness and finding a way to identify with them. As a mother of eight and grandmother to eighteen, I find that connecting to family members can be as simple as listening to their favorite song and talking about why they like that song. It is a pathway to communicating that is actually quite simple.
How we view a situation can be a simple pathway to healthier relationships. Recently I was delayed in the Denver airport with my daughter, her husband, and their nine year old, six year old, and four month old. Upon hearing about the delay, the nine year old burst into tears and began to fret about work that would be missed the next day at school. The six year old sat quietly for a moment while his brother worked himself into a frenzy. After about 15 minutes, the six year old announced that this was the “best day of his life!” He decided that the Denver airport was a GREAT place to have his next birthday. He wanted to entertain his friends at the smoothie store, the chocolate store, and the store where they sold bears, knives, and slingshots. He finished his party plans with the observation that the “moving sidewalks” were far better than a bounce house! The nine year old knew he would have make up work, but the six year old’s perspective helped relieve the immediate attention on the negative. Shortly after planning a fun birthday event, we all talked about the way to approach the work that would be missed. Perspective is a simple way to approach a difficult situation and begin the resolution process.
The next time something difficult presents itself, don’t hesitate to try a simple technique or tool to begin the journey to change. It may not be simple the whole way, but simple things can get us started and keep us focused on the big picture while we work to see change in our own lives and the lives of those around us. It only takes the first step, however simple the task may be….
Written by Lila Long Pond, M.A., LPC at Restoration in Fort Worth
Lila Long Pond is a therapist at Restoration in Fort Worth and Dallas. She and her late husband have raised eight children and blended a family over the past thirty-six years. She also has eighteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. As a mother of a blended family of eight, she is passionate about breaking the cycle of hurt that is so often generated in blended families.