seeing the wood for the trees


Few people who get into a habit of drinking to excess long term do so for the fun of it, or at least this is something I find when talking to people about the reasons why they drink or drank.  Mostly it was/is to blot out some kind of issue in their lives.  Drinking often starts out as fun/social then becomes a crutch as people get older.

Often having a ‘drink problem’ becomes the focus of the person’s life and they forget, or are not able to identify, what brought on the ‘drink problem’ in the first place.  All they can think of is the fact they are drinking, and the need to stop.  This thought process ‘I must stop drinking’ only ever acts as a superficial address of the real issues, and the original reason(s) for drinking can stay unresolved. The risk of going back to the drinking behaviour is still a factor. What I am trying to say is that often the drinking isn’t the original problem – it is the reasons behind the dependency that need to be tackled if any of us stand any chance of staying sober.

One way to tackle underlying reasons for drinking in my personal experience is to relentlessly focus on the competencies I do have, especially where some of the reasons I originally drank for cannot be changed any time soon (not at least, for now). Where am I doing good in my own life and in others? To think about what I CAN do and what I AM good at makes me stronger.  The smallest of things that work well in my life can be a great comfort when I feel the negatives crowding in.

Sometimes the problems we have in our lives, and we all have them, can seem insurmountable. It is not easy to notice or realise parts of our life where we are competent and doing good because our focus is our problems.  A tight focus on the negative can have a tendency to obscure and minimise everything else that is available to us in terms of feelings, thoughts, past and current experience.

There is a saying that:

‘the best way to hide a tree is to put it in a forest.’

Even the smallest competency can be seen as a basis for changing the apparently insurmountable and if we can realise this by ourselves, then we can and do have the capacity to make beneficial changes.

You may like to consider, like me, exploring that when you may be stuck or constantly recycling the content and meaning of your problems, your experience and perceptions are often confined within quite a tight frame or container.  What methods are available to reconnect to your competencies? In other words, seeing the tree in the forest.

Therapists and coaches often work with a client to ‘out frame’ a problem context and discover or more correctly uncover useful processes within a much larger frame. To facilitate the client developing a strategy enabling them to look at the ‘bigger picture’ or to ‘explore the territory, not just the map’.

They may encourage a client to explore ways to store a treasure trove of processes as resources to deal with perceived problem situations. So when X happens (again!) then I know if I do Y or even Z, I can deal with it.  I can recognise what is happening and bring forward the strategy which successfully worked before to deal with that thing, and use it again.  In terms of dealing with a craving for example, putting particular distraction techniques on repeat, because you know they resolved the cravings successfully in the past.