A legitimate middle

I read a post by Havi recently which matched up with a couple of different threads of thought and led to a way to understand where I’m at right now. It was about being between beginner and expert, and how they deal with the challenge. The idea is that beginners can find challenge anywhere, and experts will bring a challenge to what they’re doing, but those in the middle can get caught in relying on others to provide the right amount of challenge, and thus lose their sovereignty. (Update: Havi’s written another post clarifying that my summary here is not really the point she’s making – but the thoughts it triggered for this post remain valid for me.)

Whilst I can see parallels that agree in my life, there have been times when I’ve wanted someone else to provide just the right dance class, just the Arabic language class, enough challenge to keep me interested but not too much that I have to work too hard! Yet for some things, I find myself unable to manage both the level of challenge and dealing with the challenge itself at the same time. In these areas, I would seem to be stuck in the middle ground, reliant on others to manage the challenge.

When stretching, I get a dramatically more satisfactory result if I have a partner who is applying the force of the stretch and I can focus on breathing through and relaxing into the stretch. When dealing with emotional & psychological upset I get a much better result if I have someone else guiding me towards the truth of the situation whilst I focus on being honest with myself and staying open and vulnerable. In both these situations, the amount of challenge needed to obtain the benefit is prohibitive to me both working through that challenge and managing the challenge, i.e. making sure I stay safe.

One of my stories is that I should be able to handle personal challenges like this on my own, that it is an unacceptable behavior to ask for help. It’s taken a long while for me to see that I really needed someone else’s support with my mental health, and I know that I’m not the only one with this story.

This doesn’t contradict Havi’s post, but rather add to it. Whilst someone may be giving away their power & sovereignty to avoid taking responsibility for their own progress, there is another situation where a person is neither beginner nor expert and genuinely needs help to progress.

Beginners need direction, advice on where to start, but can then get on with trying things out by themselves. Which textbook is good for beginners? What exercises are best for those new to pilates/yoga/ballet? How far should I go on my first run? What should I write about on Twitter?

Experts can navigate themselves and stretch themselves according to their own goals. I can study proper use of the subjunctive in French grammar, practice correctly engaging my core in downward dog, adjust my movement to take pressure off a sore knee, and decide to reveal more or less about a particular aspect in my writing online.

It is the addition of this element of navigation that I think is key to what I’m feeling here. A good partner will take instruction from me, it is still my choice where I go, but they navigate while I drive. They can even help me keep taking personal responsibility for my own choices through gentle reminder and feedback.

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