Overcomplification Series (2 of 5): Accessing the Inner Guinea Pig

Part one in this series can be found here

When I was a counselor, I played guinea pig. I was in my early-twenties— only a little older than the teens I was working with— and I hadn’t even finished my degree yet. I was still very green and it wasn’t easy… being green. I got challenged a lot by desperate parents in difficult situations, because I did not have enough life experience to understand them. I got challenged by the kids I was serving because my life experience, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status was different than theirs. My clinical supervisor broke me out of my frustration with a
too-the-point observation:

You don’t need to have been a drug addict to help someone recover, you just need to know what works. If you are successful, the results will speak for themselves.

To get up-to-speed in a short amount of time (between carrying a caseload, a course load, and a bit too much of a personal life) I immersed myself in every technique I could. I read everything I could, applied the techniques to myself, and evaluated the outcomes and results before applying them to my clients.

Deep relaxation, I practiced it.

Self-hypnosis, I practiced it.

Cognitive restructuring, I practiced it.

Meditation, biofeedback, time management, motivational interviewing techniques, (check, check, check, check) I practiced it. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy— from the classroom to my life to my clients— I practiced it. It was probably one of the single most explosive periods of personal growth second only to when my voice started cracking. And my clinical supervisor was right, it worked, I got results.

Flash forward a few years (& back a single entry). I am holding my first professional job as a writer. Overwhelmed, under deadline, up against the wall my mind automatically defaults to this approach. It sounds like a rather complicated strategy to be endorsing in a series about overcomplification, but it worked.

As the clock ticked rapidly toward a submission date for a workforce development project that needed funding, I had begun to assess, evaluate, and adjust my own work habits. The three of us tasked with the tall order of re-vamping the entire program and writing the proposal accordingly had to choose between several possible 8-week curriculums written for a very different population. The group we were writing for lacked basic life skills, they were young with no professional experience and in some cases, they had a serious record against them. We had less than a month to choose the curriculum, recreate it for this population, design a program and submit the proposal.

The workforce development director and I divided the curriculums and applied them to our own lives on an accelerated one-week timeline. We chose the best of each curriculum based off the exercises that were the most user-friendly, accessible, and relevant. We built our program around that framework, wrote the proposal, and made the deadline. It was guinea pig style to the rescue.

In Part 3,  the guinea pig style exercise is all but forgotten, until some unanticipated results occur. And, keep coming back for the rest of the series to find out how guinea pig style actually simplifies life. The term overcomplification comes from author Stephen Graham Jones, http://www.stephengrahamjones.net

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Overcomplification Series (3 of 5): Accidental Accomplishments of an Inadvertent Goal Setter « Digital Taoist

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