Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Breaking Barriers for Good

Barrier – n. – a limit or boundary of any kind http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/barrier

Most people would agree that the choice of words in certain situations can make a difference. There are those situations where synonymous words can be used interchangeably without much variation in overall meaning. However there are other instances where one form of a word provides a much clearer picture than another. This is the case with the word barrier. Often when facing a problem such as an addiction or mental health issue, part of the recovery process is often described as identifying barriers to progress.

Barriers however in many people’s viewpoint, imply a sense of permanence and immovability. Walls and fences are barriers that designate the outer boundary of an area that is not supposed to be crossed, for instance as in a penitentiary. Another common barrier is a police barricade that usually has a sign on it that says “Do not Cross”. Barriers are often in place for our own protection. For example, most people would value and appreciate a barrier between themselves and a hungry lion. Therefore, when it comes to looking at “barriers to change” that concept may not be an appropriate way to view the real task at hand, which is to move forward and make progress in spite of what may get in our way.

Rather, in the case of looking at the change process with regard to addiction and mental health issues, perhaps a clearer way to view those things that can get in the way of progress is to use the term obstacle, as defined below –

Obstacle- something something that obstructs or hinders progress or action.

Obstacles may get in our way (obstruct) or slow us down (hinder) but often it is implied that if we put in enough effort we can get past them. An obstacle course is often viewed as an array of challenges that we must somehow maneuver through in order to get to the goal at the end. The change process involved with substance abuse and mental health issues and life in general at times in itself can be much like an obstacle course. There is a goal in mind and rather than a series of immovable barriers in our way, instead we encounter obstacles that we learn to go over, through, under, or around. A barrier is limited in that it usually suggests “stop and go another way!” but obstacles are viewed as requiring forethought, strategizing, maneuvering, using creativity, problem-solving, brainstorming and other positive, change-oriented skills and ideas.
Overcoming obstacles can include:

>Simply looking past an obstacle that is blocking your vision
>Climbing over, or going around an obstacle in your path
>Learning to skillfully maneuver your way right through an obstacle
>Adjusting your path to avoid an oncoming obstacle
>Removing the obstacle altogether
>Pushing right past or right through the obstacle
>Finding others to help us carry the load or guide us past an obstacle
>Being creative and thinking outside the box to “solve” a complex obstacle

Barrier or obstacle? Is it simply a matter of semantics? The main point actually is less about which word to use, but rather the focus that is of primary importance is the way we view and approach those things that get in the way of progress. When working toward changing for the better, is it critical to be both prepared, motivated and inspired to do what is necessary to keep moving forward and upward without giving up. Viewing life’s challenges as surmountable obstacles and establishing confidence in our ability to maneuver through these challenges is essential for lasting success in the obstacle course that is life.

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