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What is helpful to you? – Catherine Blackwood

One of my favourite pastimes is paying attention to the wisdom that emerges from other people. I have taken this quote out of its original context, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it applies widely to the human experience.

When you break a leg and are forced to rest, you may discover that you heal something else within you during that time of reflection. But did you need the broken bone, or the rest and reflection time?

For me, the quote also conjures thoughts of the power of “secondary gains”. This is a term we use in psychology to explain why someone remains attached to a damaging belief or behaviour. If they drop it, they will lose the hidden benefit.

So you could stay with an abusive partner because when they hurt you, all your friends rush to comfort you and tell you soothing things about your worth. This can be easier than discovering your worth for yourself by leaving.

Or it feels safer, perhaps – better the devil you know. But safety always seems to be pitted against growth. We need to allow for both, of course, but getting stuck in so-called safety is a trap. It’s not as helpful as it appears. If you look to nature as a guide, you’ll see that it’s always shifting, growing, evolving, shedding and renewing. There is rarely a pause, although there are seasons where it appears not much is happening (and these tend to be valued less in our society obsessed with productivity).

As an aside though, a stagnant area is still creating conditions for future fertility, and so decay is important too. But this isn’t about the helpfulness of prioritising safety.

So today, I’m taking this wonderful insight (thank you, Paul Schoenmann), and pondering the various ways I could be kidding myself about what is and isn’t helpful in my life.