In the last post, I talked about the six steps people go through as they work through a significant life issue: Detect, Assess, Plan, Restore, Integrate, Monitor/Maintain. Think of these steps as the plot of the Battle for Balance story, an epic struggle in the age-old tradition of the Hero’s Journey.
Hero’s Journey stories, whether they are mythological epics like the Odyssey or contemporary ones like Star Wars, all have a similar structure. They tell the tale of the not-quite-hero who, through a series of potentially deadly adventures, rises to the level of hero, returning to his or her world a changed person and, often, also bearing an important benefit to society. On their journeys, all heroes face challenges that turn their worlds upside-down.
We have times like those, too. The story of losing, regaining, and maintaining balance is a Hero’s Journey each of us will experience many times throughout our lives.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell outlined the specific stages that define most Hero’s Journey stories. He called this structure the monomyth. The stages of recovery from the difficulties that unbalance us also have a structure. I call it the Balance Monomyth.
In my work as a therapist, and over the course of my life, I have seen the Balance Monomyth play out repeatedly, regardless of the type of unbalance people have found themselves suffering from. They are the stages we all go through when we move from victim to victor.
Like any story, the Balance Monomyth also has its cast of characters.
I’m sure that at some point in your life you’ve said something like, “A part of me feels this way, but another part feels that way.” That’s not just a figure of speech. Although we are all whole, integrated beings, we are also a collection of parts, and at any given time one part, or another, can be in charge.
The beauty of seeing yourself as a collection of parts with different ones in control at any given time is that when one part is in trouble — depressed, anxious, fearful, sad, bitter, stressed out, overwhelmed — all of you isn’t feeling that way. It’s just that one part. The rest of you is still available to help out the part that’s suffering.
This is worth repeating: When we’re going through a difficult problem, we are not only the part that’s in trouble. We are whole people who are mostly OK. Sometimes one part, or another, needs some help.
Allow me to introduce the characters — the “parts” — you’ll encounter in the Art of Balance system.
|Al and Alice|
We are the heroes of this saga, an epic battle not only for balance but literally for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Throughout the Art of Balance courses and books, Al and Alice serve as stand-ins for each of us as we work through our particular process of regaining and maintaining life balance.
The villain in our story is the nefarious UnBalancer.
UnBalancer represents all the internal and external forces that can upset our equilibrium, including chronic stresses that slowly wear us down and sudden, intense stresses that can knock us flat.
UnBalancer is a fearsome and sometimes deadly force. It strives single-mindedly to unseat us, and sometimes it wins the battle—but not, as we’ll see, the war.
Our chief ally in combating UnBalancer is Balancer.
Balancer is our internal stabilizer, the part that handles day-to-day stresses. Much like our immune systems, which work in the background, day and night, to keep our bodies healthy, our inner Balancer strives steadfastly and automatically to keep us sane and balanced. And, for the most part, it succeeds in holding UnBalancer at bay.
Emphasis on “for the most part.”
Balancer is not our only ally.
When UnBalancer gets the upper hand, Balancer’s trusty sidekick, ReBalancer, leaps into action.
ReBalancer is the part of us that we draw on to handle unusual stress. It’s the part that consciously takes us through the six steps described in the last post and guides us on the journey from unbalanced back to balance.
ReBalancer is a good friend to have in a crisis.
Balanced, UnBalanced, ReBalanced
| Here’s how these “parts” work to keep us sane:|
1. Balancer operates in the background to maintain our equilibrium.
2. UnBalancer trips us up!
3. ReBalancer comes to the rescue.
4. A stronger, wiser Balancer keeps us stable again.
After our inner ReBalancer had helped us recover our equilibrium, Balancer takes over again. But if we’ve played our cards right, our Balancer is now wiser, stronger, and more resilient because the skills we’ve acquired and the resources we’ve accessed that helped us recover have become part of our normal routine.
The Balancer, UnBalancer, and ReBalancer trio and the six steps are the theoretical underpinnings of the Art of Balance system, and of our responses to every problem we face. Understanding these steps and these parts sets us up for a more conscious life, one in which problems become challenges and feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed is no longer part of the equation.
This is the outline of the Art of Balance system. But, of course, as Nietzsche observed, the devil is in the details.
More soon –
Copyright 2021, David J. Bookbinder