“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” ~ W. Clement Stone.
Metaphors and allegories. My father used some phrases that I grew up hearing, and often not understanding. “You have to box dicey” he would say. From the context I eventually realized it meant to be careful, watch your step. I don’t think he was a boxer, but then again you never know! Another phrase which he also used was ‘do-si-do’. I thought that also came from boxing, and I knew it had something to do with movements. Mr Google says it comes from a dance move! But as a story teller, he often flowered his messages with interesting metaphors and allegories. They say that is how we learn, that the brain retains things better when we relate new things to things we already understand.
It is easiest to teach anatomy and physiology by relating it to other structures, the heart to an electric pump that feeds water from one place to another. Blood vessels like pipes, the cardiovascular system as a whole to plumbing. Orthopedic surgery uses a lot of tools, just like carpentry! Some students this week amused us by using vegetables to portray different body parts. One made a cross section of a kidney from half an eggplant, some mushrooms and ginger root! The brain looks a lot like a walnut, or a cauliflower. Once you compare unfamiliar objects to familiar ones, they not only are more memorable, it also makes class more entertaining! And if you are very lucky, it is the student who makes the new connections.
The teacher actually has many jobs, and entertainer is definitely one of them. Stand-up comic, illustrator, mediator, facilitator are some of the facets of the role. But often the role of counselor is the most significant. I have written before of the many challenges for adult learners, from the obvious complications of family, jobs, and need for excellent time management. But the ones which can be the most detrimental are the voices within, the ones which bring doubt and fear and ultimately bring about self-sabotage.
What happens when we try to grow, to change the trajectory of our lives? It may be threatening to a relationship, but it may also bring back a host of childhood memories, of not being good enough, of not deserving better. It may be a bad relationship that has harmed your self-confidence, turned a bright future into threatening world. How can you overcome this?
I had the opportunity this week to try to show a student her amazing potential, to help her overcome the way she was obviously causing her own failure in exams by second guessing, doubting, fighting and messing up. This is a woman with one of those stories that make you wonder how she gets up each day and puts on her clothes to venture out into the world. In the space of a few years she lost a child, her husband (suddenly) and her mother. Yet here she is trying to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a nurse.
She also is a fan of mixed martial arts, and before she became embroiled in the school treadmill, she worked out. In order to try to help her get out of her head and silence the negative voices that were preventing her from being successful, I used a reference she could relate to. I told her that she was shadow boxing, fighting nothing but her own shadow. She was expending all this energy when the one who was the biggest threat to her success was herself. And all she had to do was turn around and face the light, then the shadows would fall behind her.
I have no idea if the story worked, or if it will help her the next time she gets worked up. I know I have to remind myself constantly when I am traveling down a self-destructive tunnel, or when I am guilty of committing the same mistakes as yesterday. Being more aware is not a destination, it is a journey, one which requires constant monitoring and adjustment. When we have a lifetime of bad habits; of worrying more than we should, of overthinking simple things, of preparing for the worst instead of hoping for the best; we have to actively practice new habits to replace them!
I also reminded the student mentioned above of her tremendous courage and strength. I suggested that she think of her story as if it were someone else’s life. How impressed would she be if it was someone else that had gone through all of that? We often undervalue our own experiences, discounting them as nothing, no big thing. Or else we become so in love with them that we don’t see them objectively and move beyond them. Perhaps if we turn them into stories, and place ourselves as the heroes or heroines, we can grow from them and put them on a shelf to reflect on from time to time.
This Friday morning I hope you can reflect on those things which have made you stronger and smile, even though they may have been very painful at the time. I hope you are not carrying hot coals of anger for some of the people or situations that tried to hold you back. If you can think of any good metaphors that confused you as a child, feel free to share them! I know Jamaica has a ton of them!
Have a wonderful weekend Family!