Many trends flourished briefly in the seventies, and, in the therapy world, one of those was “strategic family therapy.” This therapy was great fun for the theorists and those practitioners who were able to work in teams (not sure about the families) because it was so much fun to plan out and talk about. They loved to look for the paradoxes and contradictions in family systems – like the way families would come for help and then not do anything the therapist says. One of their favourite paradoxes was to give out the command: “Be spontaneous.” Hard, of course, to be obediently spontaneous.
But can we be intentionally spontaneous? Most of us have learned that if we’re not intentional about doing the things that matter, we don’t do them. Instead we waste time on Facebook, watching mindless TV, or just plain worrying about stuff. So, when we can, we intentionally build things into our lives that we know are good – perhaps choosing one night a week to have friends over for supper.
These intentional celebrations of life are all well and good, but we also know that so many of the richest moments can’t be planned or scripted – they’re spontaneous and not likely to pop up on demand. So how do we be spontaneous intentionally?
I think there is a way that might work for many of us even though I’m not very good at it yet. We need to switch our “default settings” to “engage deeply whenever possible” instead of whatever alternative we might be currently set for (“protect myself at all costs,” “keep my head down,” “don’t waste energy, etc.). Fear, of course, is behind most of the unhelpful settings and is the enemy of enjoyable spontaneity.
Engage deeply. Listen for the inner whispers of what is possible this moment. When alone, look around with more curiosity and appreciation. Slow down. When with others, with thoughtful questions or your own vulnerability, take it deeper – yet lighter. Come on – be spontaneous.