I am awake at 4:00 a.m. and not able to fall back asleep. This happens fairly regularly. It is a great time for reading, and sometimes writing.
Speaking of reading, one of the best books I have ever read is People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflict, by Robert Bolton, Ph.D. This is a book you will wish you had come across earlier.
The book reminded me of how, at times, I desperately want to help people and yet everyone has to determine to make positive changes of their own will. I can be accepting, listen reflectively, help with problem solving, and even confront, but a lasting, positive change requires that a person is internally motivated to take action.
I recently saw someone on a downward trajectory, heading to crash and burn. I recognized the signs because I’ve been there, figuratively speaking. We all have resilience and insight and if we catch ourselves in time, sometimes we can pull ourselves out of a fatal spiral.
In flight language, a “death spiral,” happens when a pilot, “loses the ability to judge the orientation of his aircraft due to the brain’s misperception of spatial cues” (Wikipedia). He loses his sense of equilibrium and fails to recognize or respond to instrument readings which, if heeded, could correct his course.
This kind of spiral can occur when visibility is reduced, as while flying at night or during a storm, but it can also happen when conditions appear good. I experienced it once when I was with a new pilot flying in clear skies.
As a writer, I can be flying along, thinking I am doing fine, when unexpectedly I find myself losing altitude and beginning to spin. Usually I’ve taken on too much, sometimes I’ve encountered a road block, or I’ve received some backlash for something I’ve said or done. I begin to feel fatigued and discouraged and start to behave irrationally.
When I experience a heightened sense of anxiety and a lowered tolerance of small irritants, when I avoid routine duties and responsibilities, and feel controlled by an obsession, be it a deadline or a conflict or crisis, I am beginning to spiral. These signs are like lights flashing on an instrument panel. If I don’t take corrective action I will put myself, and possibly others, at risk.
A wise professor once reprimanded a student who handed in a superb paper because he knew the student had not slept or eaten properly and had skipped classes and shirked responsibilities to get the paper done. The instructor saw the importance of maintaining a consistent and healthy lifestyle. He was wanted to encourage the student along a path that he knew would be sustainable in the long term.
As writers we can lose sight of the big picture and become fixated. When this happens we need to take a step back and think of where we will end up if we continue on our current trajectory.
I find it necessary to keep reminding myself of my values so that I can orient myself and adjust my course for a safe flight and a happy landing. I need to stay tuned to my “instrument panel.”