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Living on the Fringe..... and we all live on the Fringe

Fringe definition:

  • an ornamental border consisting of short straight or twisted threads or strips hanging from cut or raveled edges

  • something resembling a fringe : edge, periphery

  • one of various light or dark bands produced by the interference or diffraction of light...something that is marginal, additional, or secondary to some activity or process

I listen to the 'life stories of others'. I have been working in the field of psychology, social work and human services for over 35 years. I have worked with adolescents and young adults who are residing in a College residence program. I have worked with individuals who are wrestling with the onslaught of Alzheimer's disease. I have worked with individuals, living in institutions and community-based settings, who have lifelong intellectual disabilities, individuals with psychiatric concern and/or a combination of both and I have worked in private practice for years with individuals and families. Although, each of these settings are different and each of the individuals are distinctly unique - there is an underlying commonality...and that is - everyone has a story... and there appears to be a universal underlying push: "to be better at something".

As I was driving to the gym the other day - it hit me: 'Everybody has some area - where they see a need to change or improve". Why was I focused on this point? As I think about it - there were a couple of things that pushed me in that direction of thought. Last week, I had a conversation with my friend Jeff, the conversation then morphed into: "what is it, that people are generally interested in their lives?". We both agreed, there is a groundswell of interest in products, programs and services surrounding the issue of 'time management and productivity’, as well as, trainings, seminars and social media sites that guide people through: `how to be a better person’ (internally and externally)…etc. The interesting contrast, between these two paradigms is one places emphasis on structure while the other places emphasis on meaning.

Structure and Meaning: The Contrasts It was then I began to think of the other thought rumbling around in my head - the remnants and pieces of dialogues and exchanges - across time with clients in my private practice. Their conversations typically provide an account of how they: “want to change”….”live a better life”…”move forward”…"stop a particular thought or behavior” - with a center on what's not right and how they need to change. And what became clear is that everyone seems to be searching for something different...for a new way of living...for themselves or someone that is close to them. However, what appears to be lost in the discussion is how to accept ‘where they are'.

As I tell my students:

“no one talks to you...more then you talk to yourself. The unfortunate thing, is we have a tendency to say negative/derogatory things to ourselves. In fact, we say things to ourselves - that we would not allow others to say to us”.

Why? That’s an interesting question. After years of study and reflection - here is my answer…because it’s part of the human condition. As a species we love to gather, collect, explore new areas and territories and move forward; it's part of our evolution. Now we find ourselves in the 21st Century, surrounded by choice, by opportunities, by technology and by expansion on all levels. We are striving for more…and we do this by moving to “the fringes of ourselves”.

Fringe benefit definition:

an extra benefit...something that supplements

Maybe…just maybe…'the push to better' - the movement towards ‘the fringe’ - with all of the effort, the resistance, the pain and the reward - is exactly what we are supposed to be doing…

"to be better at something”.

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