An Illustrated My Way; can some of it fit Your Way?

I’ve been reminded that a picture paints a thousand words. Therefore, can some pictures help in the design of small, safe experiments?

This is a helpful request as the web site is now too full of words. That is not something to be proud of.

I am going to have a shot at summarising my thoughts in a series of illustrations. OK, I’ll be adding some more words but let’s see ……

Each illustration will include a short explanation, and then I will move on.

PART ONE: finding a direction

I will start with a picture that might be familiar: it’s on the Welcome page of this web-site.  It’s the ‘inverted tree’ and you might want to revisit the safe experiment attached to it.


What the picture says to me is that therapy is a journey into the future.

Actions, today, will shape that journey.

Information from the past will help us design the journey, but the focus is on a forward direction.

Unlike trees, humans do not stay in one place to be nourished. They move about – and not just to restaurants.

So what route might you and I follow in pursuit of nourishment?

That journey requires me to step outside my Window of Tolerance (WOT) and to set out on a Scenic Route, a sort of Yellow Brick Road, to somewhere different.  The journey need not be a marathon or a sprint; indeed, problems arise when I rush into things.

Those problems that can arise along the road are summarised at the four corners of the illustration, above.

It’s possible to arrive – 0 to 60 – at one of the corners. Few of us will be exempt from this. Indeed, most of us have a ‘favourite’ position. In the illustration, above, I say we tend to one corner or another; or we go left, right, or up or to down.

What extreme are you tempted to?

PART TWO: making the first of several moves

What prompts a seemingly unsteady start?  Our bodies and minds appear to have a mixed view of change. On the one hand, we want it and, on the other, we are suspicious of it. Thus:

Virginia Satir change_process by Michael Erickson

I start from my present normal on the far left, above.  I walk on. Troubled by what I foresee, I falter and start to question my own wisdom. Under pressure to do something different I tumble into some change. In this illustration, the 0 – 60 response mentioned above is ‘chaos’.

However, calling on all the resilience, creativity and curiosity I can muster, I am able to identify a way forward. I develop greater self-confidence and move on. New ideas and actions are put together with old skills until I master my own New Normal (at the right hand side of the illustration)

Now what makes to pathway difficult?  It appears that our bodies possess a ‘negative bias’; we possess a built-in uncertainty, sometimes called a ‘conservative impulse’ – a wariness of risk and change. That impulse can put me on alert. Being on alert is closely connected to feeling high emotion. High emotion, particularly anxiety, has some predictable impact on us, as follows:

It is possible to think we have little control over these body responses. These bodily reactions are so hard-wired into us that it is possible to predict how most people will respond, most of the time, when the going gets tough. When difficult things happen, our life is disrupted by events – often by unexpected and shocking events. Common Human Responses to such events include an efficiency arising from gaining focus and an attention to detail – only to be followed by



It may seem from this that somethings are beyond our control. indeed, this is so, world events are out of our control. Even so, there are do-able things I can try out as long as I have enough wisdom to separate out what is acheivable, from what is not.   In fact, I have abilities that are sometimes hidden from me. This feature is well illustrated in the Johari Window.

This illustration offers another view of the therapy journey – from top left, toward bottom right, where things are known to us and others in our world. However, that journey is not a straight line; it is one that shifts from left to right, and back again, according to the information we give to others and, indeed, get from others. The trip into the black box at bottom right – where things are not known to me – or indeed, to others around me – is best done on foot, not by Jumbo jet.

I find this illustration helpful as it highlights the value of other people in helping us shape our future. We hide part of ourselves from others and we are unaware of ‘parts’ of ourselves that others can see. It’s pretty handy to practise the art of sharing just so much of ourselves with other people and listening to things they have to say about what they see when we meet.

To continue: returning to the bodily responses mentioned above – we do have some control over the way our bodies respond to everyday experiences. Other people in the top right of the Johari Window – including me – can help you identify some of those possibilities.

This web-site is saying that we may have more control than is often appreciated.

PART THREE: designing small safe experiments

To help meet the challenges as I approach a New Normal,  I can anticipate some of my feelings that go with the steps I am taking. I can develop skills that will help me. After that, I need to practice them and improve my ability.

The next illustration identifies just a few things I can do. For a start, I can manage my high emotions just a little bit differently using the three strategies printed in green:


The web-site is devoted to detailed discussion of each of the three strategies printed in green, and you might want to investigate them more in your own time starting at: what is a nudge.

In the meanwhile, it pays to manage my feelings generated when I try out those strategies. This is important as some actions have unexpected impact on my body, as listed in the ‘body’ diagram, above.

When I am faced with high emotion, there are ‘other parts’ of my anatomy that can send me into Flight or Fight or, as will be seen, other trickier reactions.

PART FOUR: some of those Talk/Self-Talk actions?

Steps along the Yellow Brick Road

Talk and Self-Talk:

Note that talking can be quite a problem for us human beings. For instance:

Possible ways to improve things include slowing down what I say; editing what I say; speaking in small chunks and listening more to the other person rather more than to myself.

Equally important to the words I use, I want to know how I feel about what I say.  Therefore, it pays to take a ‘measure’ of my current level of feeling. That measure is called a ‘SUD’ –  mentioned in the illustration, above. The SUD is a Subjective Unit of Discomfort. It is a measure of your level of emotion only you can make, where:

1   = very little emotion, and,

10 = the highest level of that emotion you can recall. See this page for further information.

At this point, let me talk to you about using the SUD in everyday ways:



As the SUD level rises, you may find the type of experiment needs to change. For example, talking through things – in your own head – or with others  – seems to work best with lower levels of emotion. You can talk things through with the support of others.

As the level  rises your attention may be best turned to diversions and distractions in the middle range. This will include controlled breathing, visualisation and ‘safe place’ work.

At the highest level of SUD, the way to go is ‘with the flow’.  Meditation and Mindfulness works for some people but look for ‘just noticing on this hyperlink as a useful way to Go With the Flow.

This web-site exists to describe a number of small, safe experiments that fall into each group, as listed above. Here are some leads you can follow:

Welcome to Your-Nudge

What is a Nudge?

How to design safe experiments

A summary of topics on this web site.

Reseaching more using the Internet

The evolution of therapies

I will develop these illustrations to describe the evolving journey as time goes by.

Indeed, here is a lead to a BBC broadcast on Melancholia from March 2021.

This made a lot of sense to me and had the advantage of quoting authorities such as Robert Burton from the Middle Ages, along with two modern interpreters of Burton’s work.

It helped put me in my place and assured me that I am not the rebel I like to think!

I do not know how long the link will last so please let me know if it fails.