“As a combat veteran, perhaps the healthiest psychological defense is sublimation.” (Hart, 2000, p. 127) Sublimation in psychological terms refers to turning my psychological energy to some useful (or, not destructive) activity. I remember it from UW Psych 201 as the most socially acceptable of Sigmund Freud’s ego defense mechanisms.
Reminder: For the past few months, this blog has been dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.
One of the VA’s psychologists told me that intelligence is a defense against PTSD. Yes and no. I believe she was half right—potentially. Intelligence applied to a problem can help to solve it. Turned inward, intelligence fuels dysfunction. Dang, another dilemma.
To piddle is to do something trivial or insignificant. Dr. Hart says that is good for us. In his experience, investing our time and energy in doing relatively unimportant things somehow helps us to channel our angst, dread, fear, and rage. Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
You sense a but, don’t you?
I have problems piddling, and no, it is not an Agent Orange symptom—at least, not as I mean it here. Maybe it is about survivor guilt; my time is too important to piddle. After all, I was one of the lucky ones. Don’t I owe it to my less lucky brothers to do something meaningful with my life? My life is made of time. Piddling just seems like a waste of life.
Then there is the other problem. I never learned how to piddle very well. I have a 1982 Honda CX 500 Custom motorcycle in my garage. My intention was to restore it to youth. Not happening. I’m not much of a fixer-upper guy.
Gardening is something I know how to do, and I can get into it. There have been many seasons where I managed a tidy and productive garden in Wisconsin. Things are different in the desert and I haven’t learned how, yet. I also have some back problems that make gardening a bit less fun. Poor me.
I think. Somewhere along the way I determined that thinking is something I am pretty good at doing. So, I do it almost all the time. Mm, mm, mm. Not good.
Dr. Hart simply says, “…too much introspection or rather self examination is not healthy.” (p. 127). Mulling over problems leads to stinkin’ thinkin’.
The question I must answer for myself is, “How do I use my aptitudes and attitudes to solve my problems rather than exacerbate them?” Okay, I think I am pretty smart and I have spent a lifetime studying all sorts of stuff. How can I use that for piddling?
Please, do not throw something at me. I like story problems. I love to solve problems (and I know some of my former students will not be surprised). Actually, I love to apply my talents to solving your problems.
That’s it. Helping others. That’s what I need to do.
Some years ago I completed a talent survey at church. Found out I’m a pastor more than a teacher. Yeah, it’s that missionary kind of attitude I have of trying to fix your problems. I call it coaching.
People scare me and I am shy, but teaching provides a way for me to help. I am a very lucky boy. I still have opportunities to teach, both professionally and socially.
If you know me, you may not be surprised by my next statement. More than caring for people through teaching and coaching, I love to care for land. In Wisconsin, I have twenty-seven acres to tend. That’s just about the right amount, but I still find ways to point out some things to my neighbors about their rocks, trees, flowers, and animals.
In Arizona, I own a city lot; however, I still have a volunteer affiliation with Yuma Conservation Garden where my efforts are appreciated. Yes, I can piddle at the Garden as much as I want. I just have to get over the notion that everything I do is of great importance.
I take myself too seriously. That is an obstacle to piddling. Yes. I believe I am getting it. I’m glad we had this little chat. Thanks for listening.
Oh, how can you help? Simple. Tolerate and encourage piddling.