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“How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man?” This iconic Bob Dylan anthem opens with a question of philosophical importance to our wellbeing. The response is equally as philosophical: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”.
For me, this is reminiscent of one of the most consistent paradoxes faced by most of us in life when it comes to improving our wellbeing. The Bob Dylan refrain has an ambiguity which can be interpreted as either obvious (the wind is blowing it in our face) or intangible (as the wind). Similarly, when most of us question what we need to do to improve our wellbeing, the answers are often both obvious, yet, apparently at least, unattainable.
Puzzled? Let me give you an example. If you’re trying to lose weight you will know it is likely you need to change your diet in some way. Obvious on the level of logic. Yet how difficult and unattainable does this feel in terms of our emotions and how we can actually achieve it?
Dylan’s questions demonstrate this paradox time and time again throughout this song. The answer to the questions being asked is really only of secondary importance. What’s more important is the questions are there for us to explore. So, it’s not knowing we need to change our diet which counts, but it’s working out what the implications are for our lives so we can process and implement this in a way which is achievable. Exploring the response as a step-by-step journey towards an answer.
Whether you’re working with someone as a therapist, or engaging in a journey of self-change, this teaches us that we need to have patience. Finding answers is easy, but living out answers often requires time, effort and an element of discipline. This helps us to realise the importance of self-understanding. Until we have explored the answer in a personal and contextual manner, the conclusions we will reach will be no more than a philosophical response of little real value. To rephrase Dylan, until then we’ll be turning our heads but just pretending we just don’t see.
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