Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Dear reader,

Hope you are doing well. I feel really calm today. This week has been super exciting, as many imaginative plans have come down to concrete agreements.

After the movie I travelled to Germany for a week and had a conference in Stockholm, where I presented some theoretical research findings from my dissertation thesis. It was very well received. At the conference I’ve met a few wonderful new friends and I’m seeing some very soon again. Meanwhile, parallel to my journeys, I continued my research about SFBT and have done a lot of reading about it. For quite some time I’ve been thinking about how to propose what I do to my faculty and people in my environment. The idea is, while I’m still at the faculty and while I’m still learning, to run some sessions for our faculty students. My first attempt, proposing this idea to student council, was not very well received. Soon I realized it was my mistake and I didn’t propose the suggestion in a proper manner. It sounded too much like a psychological counselling, but SFBT is in fact not about that. Felt quite disappointed and down for a few days, but then again, it was only the first step and one closed doors doesn’t mean the end, perhaps there’s a window somewhere that’s opened. So I kept going – talking to people what has happened to me, what I do now and in what way we could all benefit enjoying solution focused practice.

The second step was the faculty leadership and president of our faculty tutor system. They were both pleased with the idea of Brief Coaching for the students. I talked to the student coordinators as well and they were also interested and cooperative. I also made some connections at other faculties of our university and youth syndicate. All successful. At the faculty commission for tutorship meeting (me being part of it) we discussed the idea and the members suggested I should make some contact to the head of the psychological counselling services at our faculty. Was this irony? No, but it made me realize that my first attempt was not denied because of the idea, but because of my rather poor approach.

So I improved 🙂 but was pretty nervous about the meeting. Not that my idea wasn’t good enough, but because I’m not a part of the psychological professional community. I can understand the “battle” about who counts as a competent therapist, counsellor, psychotherapist, there are also frequent arguments between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.. (This doesn’t have much to do with our topic, but just to illustrate the situation where sometimes opposite interests meet or view each other as a thread, but in fact they could often complement each other!). However I was nervous that he might see me as a “quasi” professional and might not be willing to listen to my suggestion, same as people in my first attempt weren’t.

But he was. In fact not just that, but he briefly already knew the approach, so I didn’t have to explain much. Very soon we found common language and began to talk about possibilities and strategies in order to launch Brief Coaching in collaboration with psychological counselling in autumn. He invited me to prepare a presentation about SFBT in his class. I was flattered. I’ve never given a presentation to psychology students and my confidence was way too low for something like that. But on the other hand, I believed in my idea and more than the fear, the wish for introducing it to more people was present.

So I started putting the presentation together. Really wanted to tell as much as I can and be as persuasive as possible. Also wanted to give real examples and do some exercises, as pure presentations are often being rather boring. So I’ve put it together. Didn’t feel quite right. I wrote to C. and told him about my progress and also about the presentation. Asked him for advice on the exercises. As always, his reply was immediate, as if he knew I would need him. His comments were that I wanted too much and should not try to squeeze the whole training day into half an hour. I needed to hear that, because he was right. Also the exercises I’ve chosen were too advanced and complicated. He suggested I run only two very basic ones. In order to do my best I wanted too much…

His words (cited) were: “The most difficult part of this will be to hold yourself back from being evangelistic – trying too hard to persuade. The XX exercise is an exercise in persuasion so don’t make too much of it – for most people Coca cola has a much better taste than carrot juice – it doesn’t mean that it is a better drink!”

I went out of the house to the garden and picked some weed. Went through his words again and again. Also did the exercise “imagine you were at your best on the day of presentation”, what will be the first thing to notice? Then suddenly, I realized it’s ok. It was one of these illumination moments. Ran back into the house and turned my presentation upside down. Had a goodnight sleep afterwards.

The next day was the presentation day (yesterday). It was a group of 1st year students at MA level of psychology. A really nice group. They were collaborative and showed interest. As the exercises part came, something weird happened. I gave the instructions and described the exercise. They looked at me, quietly. I looked back, saying nothing. Felt like this lasted for ages. My mind went wild, guessing what is going on and why are they just looking at me and not doing the exercise?? Was I not clear enough? Did I say something they didn’t understand?

C. advised me to trust the process. That it will do its job. I realized it was me who was on the test, whether I could do it or not. Well, didn’t have much choice anyway, so I relaxed and trusted. At the same time I figured that the quiet was because the students were thinking about what I’ve just said. Seconds went by, nothing happened. But then, some started talking to each other, really quietly at first. And after 20 seconds the whole classroom was loud, people were smiling and were full of ideas. It was a moment of bliss. And a lesson at the same time. Trusting the process, keeping myself uninvolved and keeping the situation as simple as possible, turned out to be the keys to solution.

The professor sent me an email afterwards and thanked me for the presentation (at the end it lasted for an hour and a half, instead of half an hour). He said he liked it and the students as well. So did I. Hope you did too, reading this post. I’m off to England now looking forward to another training. Can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Again, if someone asked me to imagine what my most vivid picture for the best future hopes would look like, I’d reply that reality turned out so much better… and I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible!

A word about simplicity to conclude with. I’ve always sympathized with the idea of minimalism and the idea that less is more. This is also one of the core principles of Solution Focused Brief Therapy. By the way, this blog is designed in a very simplistic and minimalistic style and I intend to keep it like that. But I don’t know why it is often the case that to put things simple requires more work than making things complicated. Maybe it’s a mind-set thing, Da Vinci should give some nice thoughts on that (see the title) and Einstein did as well, as he said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

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