Have you ever heard of the expression, “arrival psychology?” I know the phrase as a counseling expression used within the Recovery community; especially those overcoming addictions. I have also heard it used to describe the kind of thinking common among people wrestling with shame and shame triggers. Not surprisingly, also people we see in the Recovery community. There’s a lot of overlap. The expression sets up within the individual’s mind a sense of well-being that is somewhere “out there,” hopefully, just down the road, where whatever is the pain point now will become alright. In fact, so the thinking goes, if this “thing” or “person” or “condition” manifests itself just as I imagine it, then everything will not just simply be “okay;” it will be “perfect.”
Example. In my counseling practice, I used to meet people who were in troubled relationships. No surprise. A woman who was being physically and emotionally abused might think that “all” her problems would go away, as soon as the man in her life (got a job, got a raise, started interacting with the children, pitched in around the house…) and of course stopped drinking. A certain “magical” sense permeated her thinking, as if a major change in behavior would be wrought by a single action. But there was also a sense of hope.
Rather than attack that thinking as wrong, stupid or misguided and thus shaming the person, I would capitalize on the embedded sense of hope. The person had a desire for change and knew that something better, less painful, was just around the corner, but was unsure how to get it. Avoiding “either/or” thinking was important to our conversations – challenging the idea that “everything” would be a “total disaster” unless stuff worked out exactly as imagined. Little steps of acknowledging competence and capability would grow into confidence. “You got this,” the Little League motto, would take root. In time, the individual would realize that right now was the time to be okay. Things don’t have to wait for some: one/thing/event (an external object) in order to enjoy today. Also, realizing that perfection is impossible (another baseball true-ism), allows the individual to accept “good enough” and be happy.
If someone’s happiness and well-being is dependent upon future conditions, then much of everyday opportunities for joy and satisfaction will be lost. Waiting until buying a house to be happy means missing the intimate conversations and connectedness available now within the tiny apartment. Perfection is illusive and impossible. If that’s one’s baseline for living a good life, I dare say that person will be miserable. Here, again, the wisdom of baseball is useful.
In baseball, it’s a matter of progress, not perfection. Getting a little bit better every day, every week, generates hits and runs. In baseball, successfully hitting three times out of ten at-bats is not only “good enough,” it can lead to games won and the batter entering the Baseball Hall of Fame. We play with the team we have, not the team we don’t have or “wish” we had. If the players support each other with Little League affirmation, and play hard, even average teams (by the numbers) can win the World Series. Keeping the line score at a game, meat-like substance in hand and cool one nearby, can help us focus on the here-and-now without worrying about the future or what we lack or how much better something would be “if only…” Keep swinging. You got this!