This is going to get worse before it gets better. That seems to be a hallmark of Difficulty I’m facing as I struggle with articulating my thoughts about Difficulty. The more I write, the messier it becomes. I know it when I see it, yet I can’t find the words to write about it. Creating Difficulty here with the fantasy that my writing will find a solution. I see a close association with my last post on fear. Is Difficulty the state of knowing that a capability exists in light of a series of obstacles, potentially thwarting that capability? Does a definition help?
It’s tempting to lead with the Nietzsche quote regarding Difficulty and strength. That feels trite, although I think I just did it. I’d prefer something less severe, at least to begin. A week ago, when asked my inclination to speak about “The Difficult Patient”, it was off to the races with the rush of thoughts and memories, the Difficulty fuse was lit. Was I inclined? Hell, I was already BASE jumping off El Capitan!
“Difficulty” caught me. Noting this, I paused. Querulously, internally I asked, “What is the nature of Difficulty? Where could I see it arise in relation to “patient”? Flashback to my second year of medical school, primed with a head full of “data”, factual abstractions that gave answers to specific questions, I face a human being with some Difficulty (actually an actor, posing as a patient, which I also knew to be the case). Difficulty squared. I’m terrified. My mind is spinning with this contrived scenario and it is only accelerating.
Needless to say, it didn’t go well. My introduction to clinical medicine revealed a huge gap in my ability to transfer this beautiful, scientific encyclopedia to a “real life” conflict. Inescapable Difficulty! Pulling the ripcord, I desperately sought safety in a place where I could minimize this necessity for person to person interaction. Anesthesiology worked for awhile. Basic manual and cerebral skills were developed and gradually, scripts learned for talking to people about their Difficulties in a specific context.
Later, that safe haven lost its protection and I eventually had to confront the source: me and my actions in relation to fear. Afraid of conflict in interacting with others, avoidance became the standard. When you have a big enough database, almost any situation can be obscured to the point that the other simply leaves. Except when the the other is me, there is nowhere to run.
Today the scripts have evolved and with the insight gained, I see Difficulty in a new light. I accept that eliminating Difficulty is unrealistic. How to find an alternative strategy? Where can I find this quality and approach it, taking responsibility for my part, making more skillful decisions? What is enough Difficulty? It is invigorating to take action, based on this knowledge and see the power. It’s exciting to see the possibilities at seemingly low levels of intensity. I started this blog with the intent to face a fear and it seems that the trigger is the “word”. One Difficulty with language lies in the conflict implicit in “words”.
I’ve done many “experiments” on the edge of changing a single word and observing the emotional effect. Lacking the rigor and motivation of pure scientific method, the benefit derived from these little exercises appears important. A simple favorite I pass along: For the next few days, become aware of using “but”, change it to “and”, notice what happens to your feeling state and perception. It feels awkward at first and then a shift begins.
What do you see as Difficulty? Just to articulate these occurrences seems to create more. This is one way that I make writing more onerous for myself. As soon as I “capture” a thought in words, a cornucopia of ideas appears. Questions pour forth about the audience, am I being heard?, what is being heard?, does this make any sense?… With each iteration I feel twinges of possible criticism or rejection and that familiar thought cascade which rarely, if ever, materializes. How do I catch that point of enough Difficulty to make it interesting and fluid, yet not so much to cause paralysis?
I saw this in the microcosm of weeding this morning. A few months ago I invested in what appeared to be an ergonomic, stout, aluminum weeding tool. I had seen an experienced gardener using one and they highly recommended it. Early experience with it confirmed and enhanced the enthusiasm for a useful tool. Difficulty arose in the conflict I faced with several clumps of grass at the edge of a brick lined flower bed. The tenacious grass root network proved unyielding to my initial efforts of persuasion and I began to gain leverage with my tool by loosening the soil. The conflict escalated with my internal stories of struggle and self admonishments for delaying this task. With a herculean thrust of leverage against a brick, the tool instantly broke in half. One Difficulty abruptly ended only to spawn a new series of difficulties as the result of unmindful application of force.
Difficulty, perhaps a path is forming, certainly more will be revealed.