A documentary on (German-language TV channel) SWR looked into “family constellations,” a
method which draws on elements of family systems therapy, existential phenomenology and Zulu attitudes to family…. a Family Constellation supposedly attempts to reveal a previously unrecognized systemic dynamic that spans multiple generations in a given family and to resolve the deleterious effects of that dynamic by encouraging the subject to accept the factual reality of the past. (Source: Wikipedia)
The documentary covers one session. It does not report on the substantial controversy surrounding the method and its proponents.
Self-help manuals are for the rest of us what the airport bookstore bestseller on the latest management fad is for businessmen. They promise novel perspectives on fundamental questions but typically leave the reader disappointed. Past the enticing introductory chapter with interesting examples, the novel perspectives all too often reduce to new semantics without substantive value added. But then, there might be exceptions.
To “simplify one’s life” is a prominent search term on the web and the topic of many websites, blog posts and books. If popular search engines identify the most relevant contributions then a handful of top ranked sites should contain most of the pertinent information. So here is a selection of top ranked sites and their suggestions for simplifying one’s life.
Perform a clutter bust; practice gratitude; rearrange your living room; add some life with indoor plants; keep your dining table surface clear; use the “good” tableware and glasses; create white space; prepare yourself for the morning; find storage for your kitchen appliances; create secondary storage for pantry items; meal plan!; make your bed each and every day; start an exit drawer; start a donate box; check your mindset; get your finances in order; be accountable by recording your simplifying efforts; declutter your wardrobe; daily meditation; start with acceptance; and unplug.
Other sites proceed more systematically and for that very reason, strike me as more convincing. wikiHow devotes a chapter to simplifying one’s life and lists four “methods” and corresponding actions:
Eliminating clutter: Decide what stuff is unnecessary; do quick cleans; do big cleans every season; shrink your wardrobe; stop buying new things you don’t need; downsize (have a small but comfortable home and learn to live with less); create white space; and make your bed every day.
Getting organized: Plan what you can, or embrace your inner chaos; split household chores evenly; streamline your finances; find a place for each thing; prepare quick meals; and simplify your parenting.
Simplifying Your Relationships: Identify bad relationships and end them; make the effort to spend time with people you like; learn to tell people “no;” spend more time alone; and spend less time on social networking.
mindbodygreen offers the most concise advice suggesting five simplifying steps:
Evaluate your relationships and those that are draining you; disconnect—fully—for one hour a day (at least); sweep every corner of your home; get really, really quiet; and shred your “To Do” list, and make an “I Want” list.
Philippa Perry’s short book provides a succinct perspective on mental health. Perry argues that mental disorders fall into two groups: one associated with behavior that displays a tendency to stray into chaos; the other with behavior that manifests itself in excessive rigidity. She discusses the structure of the brain and the role of nature vs. nurture in integrating emotions and reasoning. The former rules.
Perry points to several areas that are central to successfully navigating between chaos and rigidity:
Self-observation: Wisdom and sanity build on a non-judgemental, self-observing attitude that fosters self-awareness and avoids self-justification. Self-observation amounts to re-parenting oneself. It helps develop compassion (internal and external) and it grows the brain. It requires to use feelings rather than be used by them. Keeping a diary helps, as do prayers or meditation. “Toxic chatter” doesn’t.
Relating to others: Brains need brains; nurturing relationships are key to staying sane. True dialogue requires honesty and thus, vulnerability. “Adhering to strict guidelines about how to behave around others is a form of rigidity. Not being mindful of your impact upon others is a form of chaos.” The “daily temperature reading” fosters emotional honesty.
Stress: Positive stimulation is fruitful; it fosters learning, creativity and brain plasticity and it strengthens the immune system. But it must not become overwhelming as to trigger panic and brain dissociating. Physical activity generates good stress.
When things go wrong Perry recommends to aim at re-writing one’s narrative:
Personal narrative: Grasping one’s guiding beliefs helps developing new perspectives. Narratives are co-constructed and form minds. They pass down “identity, wisdom and experience” from generation to generation. Telling one’s own story helps gain distance and independence, and it creates “a place of freedom” (Perry refers to Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning). Narratives are self-reinforcing; a genogram can help uncover and trace their roots. But stories are flexible, they can be changed, and so can lives that build on them. “Creating a consistent self-narrative that makes sense and feels true to ourselves is a challenge at any stage in life.” Optimism is productive and self enforcing; but hearing good news must be learned. Fear of losing love comes with penny-pinching. Certainty is a trap.