Why do we complicate everything?

Lesson in humility: Years ago, I was saying goodbye to a client who had made enormous changes in his life. I asked him for some constructive feedback about my work to help me better serve others. I was caught flatfooted when he thoughtfully replied,

“Remember when you told me Rome wasn’t built in a day? That really helped!”

I’ve had a lot of such moments when I chuckled and thought, “Well, thank God I went to grad school!”

One of the finest minds to ever work in the field of psychology is Mary Pipher. World famous for her writing and lectures, she nonetheless refers to herself as a “meat and potatoes therapist.” She reasons that most folks need to embrace simplicity and not be concerned with pathology until they’ve removed every known source of depression and anxiety from their lives.

That’s common sense, but in my experience, the more education a person gets, the less of it they tend to exhibit.

I continue to preach the Keep It Simple System (K.I.S.S.) to those I supervise, teach, and counsel. The problem with K.IS.S. is that it’s relatively infuriating to those of us who see ourselves as complicated people.

See, when we use K.I.S.S., we’re left with rapid onset of clarity, both in terms of how we really feel and what we really need to do. We most often find that we already knew the truth, but we complicated it because we hated the repercussions and responsibilities that knowing creates.

Now we have to go outside of our current comfort zone to get (as my friends in recovery say) out of the problem and into the solution.

The solutions are also infuriating. They’re easy to understand and hard to do.

I was talking with an amazing woman in recovery last night who bemoaned her inability to trust herself.  She asked me how to get to a point where she could.

Applying the K.I.S.S. system, I responded, “Don’t lie.”

This earned me an epic eye roll but I followed it up: “Not even white lies. In order to know whether you’re being honest with yourself, you’re going to have to do the opposite of what you’re used to. You’re going to have to pay attention to how you speak to yourself and how you treat yourself. “

Like many of us, she’d always understood that talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness.

In truth, we’re talking to ourselves all day, every day. We’re just not doing it aloud and worse, we’re doing it almost exclusively on a subconscious level.”

I say, do it out loud and then notice the contrast. Do you speak to people you respect with that tone? Do you talk to people you care about with that type of language? Chances are, the ways in which you criticize yourself and reign yourself in are unkind.

Change is a simple thing. The key is to recognize that the person you’re trying to change is someone you struggle to be patient with (to be patient is to be kind). The more we move away from shaming, punishing, and disrespecting ourselves, the more readily we make progress.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.