No doubt you’ve heard the common phrase “garbage in, garbage out.” It originated, I believe, with computer scientists to explain how computers are dependent on the input we feed them to produce the quality results that we want.
Computers are logical devices. Their only “thinking” capability is hard wired into them. They operate with such reliability that any variability in the quality of output is easily explained by the differing value of the input. Thus, if you get a good analysis it’s because you inputted good data. Flawed results emerge when a computer is given something faulty to begin with.
This is a lot like us. There are rules to human psychology that govern the way the mind processes our experience of the world and shape the way that we operate within it. We have a kind of inborn program ourselves and we start at birth with sensing, judging, and interpreting what’s going on around us. When we can act independently, we create relationships and a lifestyle that reflect what we’ve been taught is good by the people around us.
Sadly, some of us get all sorts of bad input because we are told that we are of lesser value, or that we must accept poor treatment or even abuse. Some people are encouraged to believe that such treatment is deserved or normal, or even a good thing. Even short of outright abuse, we all have life experiences that can make us be suspicious of the world and doubtful of our place in it, or which convince us to relate to others in ways that are self-sabotaging or limit our potential.
This is the “garbage in” that creates the “garbage out” called dysfunctional relationships, personal distress, and disordered living, which limits us, complicates life, and undercuts our happiness. Lots of people struggle with it, but with something of a handicap – they are limited to only their own ideas as to how to live. Sometimes they work endlessly to make sense of their relationships and the direction they’re headed, but they’re spinning their wheels. They need something new and from outside their own frame of reference to break the cycle. They need a fresh perspective, different insights, and different ways of looking at things.
This is why I frequently recommend self-help literature. Good self-help books offer two things that help the person struggling with their life. First, they offer a new outlook and second, they offer good techniques and exercises to get you to think differently. You get both the new idea and some assistance in thinking it through. If you are working with a counselor, you should ask for some good recommendations. It’s ideal if you can work through the exercises with your counselor’s assistance. It will help to dig out the deepest insights your reading can lead you to.
In my own experience, I’ve seen how self-help literature has made a difference with lots of people. Claudia Black’s It Will Never Happen to Me has clarified for many the mystifying family dynamics in their alcoholic home (it applies to other troubled families as well). Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns’ is a classic on depression, and while The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey was originally written for business clientele, its insights on organizing your life and being proactive with goals apply to anyone who needs to move their life in a new direction. While I haven’t yet read them, a lot of people have recommended the popular works of Brene’ Brown.
There are, of course, other ways to let yourself be challenged by a different perspective. The advice of an experienced elder person with some years of living comes to mind. As mentioned, there is counseling (for which you may have EAP benefits) and also support groups, where you can share ideas and experiences with someone in a similar situation. YouTube has some good TED talks on issues like family dynamics and relationships (Brene’ Brown is on YouTube).
Essentially, we are all limited in our perspective to some degree and we can end up running in circles when we don’t transcend those limitations. Think about it and if this is you, you might make some real changes if you open up to ideas that give you new direction.