The OPEN Mind

Limitation is so unnecessary.

open.jpgWhen we focus so tightly on a single issue or a single viewpoint, we limit ourselves and our outcomes.

You don’t need to do just “one thing” in your life when you can do many things. You needn’t “specialize” in a certain subject or a course of study unless you feel that “one thing” is the single guiding force of your life. Specialists in nature are often a rare, isolated species, and are the ones most prone to extinction because they limit their food sources.

While there are advantages to a tight mental focus, there are disadvantages to limiting your frame of reference so severely that you exclude other possibilities. When you zero in so tightly on a concept or even an ideology, you restrict any other explanation from penetrating your mind set.einstein quote.png

I don’t mean to be the judgmental finger-pointer here but in today’s world, being able to keep your mind OPEN to a problem’s solutions is an attribute, not a detriment.

Not only are we, the residents of this world we all share, still ignorant to the answers to all the world’s problems; we aren’t even aware of the best questions to ask pertaining to those problems.

That might sound critical of what is presently occurring in the world’s greatest problem spots, but world problem-solving depends on increasing your base knowledge of the issues, not restricting it; and single-point perspectives with limited options only create the same scenarios we’re trying to dig ourselves out from now.

Case in point: If you ever have the opportunity to go through Mediation Training please mediationtake it. Mediation is where a mediator helps two or more parties define their key problem issues; then she helps them to successfully resolve their problems in a mutually beneficial manner.  That training will help you realize how difficult it is to help two very different viewpoints find and accept common ground to build a better future outcome based on mutually beneficial goals.toddlers.jpg

It’s a lot like getting toddlers to share a slurpy even if they have two straws.

What you usually encounter in Mediation is that combatants are often like the two primary political parties mid-election year mayhem: There is the standard stalemate caused by “my way or the highway” thinking or the “you are so WRONG how could you ever be that stupid” viewpoint expressed by one or both participants in the mediation.

Emotion rules the disagreements, not rational thinking.

common groundBut the mediator’s goal is to find common ground between the two deadlocked camps, which means that if you are the mediator you have to dig deeper into each combatant’s wants/don’t wants to find out what the REAL issues are behind their immovable stances.

You’d be surprised what deeper wounds and hidden agendas are revealed in this process.

Sometimes the disagreement has nothing to do with the subject in question. The acrimony between the two camps is often pure, raw woundedness raging on whatever ground it can find to take its stand.  Those are tough situations to resolve amicably. A good mediator (not the same thing as a negotiator) earns every dollar s/he makes.

And the single most difficult task at hand for any mediator is to encourage the participants to come to the table with an OPEN mind—a mind willing to consider an option not previously proposed.

An OPEN mind recognizes that the “highway” is meant for two-way travel, and being “wrong” is often just a shift in perspective to being considered “not so wrong.”backyard.jpg

Common ground is the single unifier most sought by a good mediator. Once that is established then a mutually beneficial outcome can be defined for both parties. And once the emotional aspects of the arguments have dissipated, the warring parties are more willing to consider rational solutions to the dilemma.

But the key component to any problem resolution is that all participants must somehow achieve and maintain an OPEN mind state that is willing to simply consider ALL possibilities.kids.jpg

As dedicated as we are to our own viewpoints, stubbornness and intractability are less productive outside the nursery-school playground.

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The Couples Counselor

One day, the constantly-bickering Beebo and Boopikins decided that there was only one thing left to try before going their separate ways: couples counseling. So the sleek and fastidious Boopikins made the appointment marriage_counselor_all_alike_246055for them because if she had left it up to Beebo to do, it would never have been done.

In his defense, it wasn’t that Beebo didn’t want to make the appointment. It’s just that there were so many distractions in his life (squirrels, cars, and annoying kids) that he just couldn’t keep his focus long enough to remember to do it.

So the following week, they arrived together at the appointed time, and entered the counselor’s office with Boopikins coolly sauntering in first, and of course, that left Beebo trailing behind.

Boopikins immediately scanned the therapist’s messy room for possible items of interest to her before settling into the soft, cushy side-chair; while Beebo simply plopped down beside the other chair, with his muzzle on his paws.

The counselor, a middle-aged man of sizable girth with low-slung reading glasses saddled above his nostrils, welcomed them both and introduced himself as Mr. Mahler. He told them how happy he was to provide a controlled setting to discuss these “lingering disagreements” that they were experiencing between them; and if allowed, he would guide them in feeling comfortable enough to express what was really on their minds.Dog and cat on white background

Boopikins nodded with nose to the air catching the scent of Mr. Mahler’s corned beef lunch-breath; while Beebo sighed heavily. He knew where a crotch-sniffing-greeting would get him—a lightning-fast scratch on the nose from Boopikins for embarrassing them both, so he might as well just lie there and pass wind—one way or another.

“So, Ms. Boopikins,” the counselor began slowly then cleared his throat before continuing, “ah-h-h ….would you like to start the discussion by telling us what bothers you the most about Mr. Beebo?”

It was always wise to start with the female, as she would be the most anxious to be heard—REALLY heard by someone—anyone. Boopikins, gave a quick tail-flick which in cat body-language meant, “Of course, I’d be the first to start. I’m the one who has to put up with all of his …..WAYS!” And she wailed out a long “Yee-o-o-w-w-w.” (Have you ever noticed that cats never really say, “Meow”? They always say “Yeow.”)

Mr. Mahler nodded, wrote a few words on the legal pad in front of him, and said to Boopikins, “Is there more, or can we ask Mr. Beebo how he’d like to respond to that?”

An uninterested Boopikins yawned at him. This man was as boring as most men were. Same story, just a different day.

Mr. Mahler evidently understood “CAT,” and took that lack of interest as it was intended: “Like whatever, man…I could care less what you do.” So he bent far over his desk, with belly sliding atop it, and asked Beebo lying on the floor: “Would you like to respond to that ‘Yeow’ Mr. Beebo?”dogs and cats image

Beebo, seeing that suddenly everyone’s attention was on him—or at least Mr. Mahler’s attention was, began to pant open-mouthed, drooling a bit on the rug, and kind of grunted out a “boof.” (And dogs don’t “ruff” either.)

Then Beebo looked over to Boopikins, the love of his life who he could never understand in a million years—Boopikins, who was intently watching a pigeon prancing on the outside window sill of the counselor’s office. And seeing that once again, he couldn’t hold her attention even while at the therapist, he sighed heavily and dropped his muzzle back onto his hairy paws.

The counselor nodded, and wrote a few more words on his notepad before taking off his nose glasses to use as a flailing pointer between the differing pair before him.

“It’s unfortunate,” he began then deliberately paused for full effect, because that’s what counselors do—they pause for that dramatic impact. “Yes, I’ve seen this many times before, and I’m afraid it’s happening here between you two. The differences are too great, and the similarities are too few. I’m sorry. I think you’d be better off going your separate ways.”

Beebo lifted his head, hearing the dreaded words he feared the most—rejection and a tinge of sadness in the man’s voice. It was over. All done. They would part ways and never again would he sleep beside her on the cold floor while she claimed his dog pillow as her own. He was devastated. He slowly looked over to Boopikins who by now was preening her satiny fur, since she had all this down time and a soft chair to sit in, and the man was clearly as dumb as the stupid dog that she lived with, so why should she pay any attention to what he said anyway. If she wanted to keep that dumb dog around just to have something to annoy, she would. So there!

cat_and_dog_23And with that thought, she jumped down from the chair, teasingly bopped Beebo on the nose on the way by him, and invited him to chase her out. He jumped to his feet and off they dashed, back home together, to live unharmoniously ever after.

Moral to therapists: You never tell a cat what to do. You should know that by now Mr. Mahler.

Or …perhaps you already do!   Bravo sir!