Patiently Untie the Knots

A major life issue is like a large, tight knot. A difficult knot must be tugged at here, pulled on there, gradually loosened, bit by bit, until it unravels. Then at some point, the solution emerges. Issues reaching back into childhood or involving years to reach their present state of complexity are seldom resolved in a quick way. Instant answers are suspect.

You may recall the legend of Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot—a knot that no one had been able to untie. Alexander simply drew his sword and cut it right through. Problem solved. Some problems are like this. If we are not caught in a certain cognitive set—in this case, that knots are something to untie rather than cut—simple solutions will sometimes emerge. Yet for the most part, this is not the way we grow and change and solve complex human life dilemmas. The sword may cut the knot, but it may be at the expense of severing too much of our humanity.

Beverly once had the privilege of clinical supervision by the noted family therapist Braulio Montalvo. In one supervisory session, Mon-talvo crumpled a piece of paper loosely and threw it on the floor. Everyone watched as the paper unfolded itself, slowly, bit by bit. The point was clear: Progress in therapy, or any significant process of human growth, is often a slow and gentle unfolding. It cannot be rushed.

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