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Defending against distress

Often, a weekly reading will give me a general idea of something to pay attention to, and then something will come up during the week that gives me a much clearer and more specific idea of what to do. And of course, that ‘something’ that comes up stands out as if marked for me with a cosmic highlighter pen.

The text this happened for last week was the Image of Hexagram 63:

‘Stream dwells above fire. Already across.
In this way, noble one reflects on distress and is prepared to defend against it.’

Now, the general meaning of this is clear. Keep an eye on things: right now they are all poised in the right places, but they could easily go wrong. Think about ways in which this could happen and make your preparations. All this seems clear, obvious, unremarkable even. Of course I know things could go wrong, of course I’m prepared for that. How stupid does this oracle think I am?

(Don’t answer that.)

Actually, the characters for ‘reflect’ and ‘distress’ both contain the element for ‘heart’, indicating that this is about more than just an intellectual awareness of the obvious. It’s about a state of emotional preparation – and this is where I start learning from Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit. One of the reasons people procrastinate, he suggests, is that they worry about things going less than perfectly. (If you don’t start it, it can’t go wrong, can it?)

And so Fiore encourages people to do ‘the work of worrying.’ This is the reverse of the usual cliche about ‘thinking positive’, never letting the thought of failure enter your head. Instead, he says to ask yourself what the worst is that could happen, think out in detail what you would do and what choices you’d have if it did, and finally to work out what you can do now to increase your chances of avoiding it.

This, he says, is the way to establish true self-confidence:

“Most people wish for an illusory confidence that says, “I must know that I will win; I should have a guarantee that nothing will go wrong.” This leaves you at a severe disadvantage because you haven’t considered “What will I do if something goes wrong?” Trying to control things so they go just as you imagine them takes enormous energy, keeps you blind to what could go wrong, keeps you from planning for a strategic retreat, and drains you of the energy necessary for bouncing back.”

All this sounds to me like a blueprint for ‘reflecting on distress and preparing to defend against it.’

3 responses to Defending against distress

  1. Funny, I can see a parallel with something I wrote about a week and a half ago in my Spanish blog (http://www.sorocabana.net/bitacora/archivo/2006/11/la_depresion_co.html) I titled the entry as “Depression as a defense”.

    I was commenting on a friend’s blog, a published writer from Argentina, who has this series of “letters” to an imaginary friend that he calls “Cartas al Duque” (Letters to the Duke). I find them fascinating. In one of his recent “letters” he tells the Duke about a conversation he supposedly overhead (most likely he did…) I’ll translate the quoted text in my entry:

    “At the stairs where the journalists go to smoke, a woman says to another: ‘I prefer to be down rather than being well. When you are well, you are vulnerable. But when you are down, you are simply indestructible.”


  2. Hillary,

    Catching up on your blog…

    This entry raises a dilemma for me about weekly/daily readings – if I’d gotten this I’d assume it was for a specific and concrete reason and then I’d spend my week in fear waiting for the shoe to drop.

    But unless something happened to you that week that you didn’t mention, it appears – perhaps? – that it was simply pointing to an opportunity for insight that would come your way.

    True? And if so, is there any way around this dilemma, or is it just something inherent to the I Ching that we must try to live with?


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