Us therapists talk about the map not being the territory. We carry around in our heads all these "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" and chastise ourselves because our models, the templates we have in our heads, were not good guides to our behavior and consequential experience.
What do you say to people who have made mistakes and messed up their lives because they have certain assumptions about how life should be and how life is that aren't accurate? As the teenagers used to say, "well, duh..........................!"
My gentle answer to disillusioned clients is to PAY ATTENTION, reflect, observe, and learn from your experience. Make your own maps, don't borrow or use other peoples. Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." How many people do you know are living examined lives? Most people are walking around in a fog trying to follow their maps and the map is wrong and they don't know it until life hits them up along the side of their head with a two by four.
Some wrong maps in our culture:
- Fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.
- Money will make you happy.
- Life, in the long run, is fair, or life is not fair, so stop your sniveling and suck it up.
- People in authority know what they are talking about.
- Be afraid, but don't worry, we'll protect you.
- You are a sinner and are going to hell if you don't believe and agree with what we tell you.
- You were born defective and inadequate and have to work very hard, be very smart, and please everyone to prove that deep down you're not the worthless person that you feel you are.
- Drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating, promiscuous and compulsive sex, religiosity, overworking, compulsive exercise, cutting, starving yourself to death will make everything OK.
- Taking a prescription drug advertised on TV for people who are unhappy will make everything OK.
There are many, many more maps that people mistakenly take for the territory but, perhaps this is a good start for now. Maybe I'll mention some more in future articles. If you have some of your own suggestions add them to the comments.