Therapy is a safe space to explore, experiment, and think out loud. To feel, and be ‘not okay’. We learn to do things a certain way in childhood, and those techniques and methods help us survive. Sometimes they end up getting in our way as we try to live our adult lives. I, for example, am a recovering perfectionist - I like to get everything ‘right’ before I present it to other people.
It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s raining. I have a 7 year old to entertain and a seemingly unrealistic goal of ‘no screen time’ to fulfil. He wants to make paper aeroplanes, pretty straightforward, except he has heard there are different methods and techniques to employ.
I make him my familiar paper plane. It’s easy, I’ve been doing this for years - yes, it never really gets very far, but that’s not the point - this is how you make a paper plane. My Dad showed me a couple of different ways, but the second way involves ripping paper and seems far to complicated when I know how to make a nice looking and ineffective paper plane.
No, that particular model is not up to scratch this afternoon, so, I am a modern parent - I reach out for knowledge with all the powers available to me - Pinterest, and google. How did we do anything before those two came along?
We find a site - just what I like, written instructions, pictures - exciting names!! ‘Fast Dart’, ‘Cross Wing’, ‘Eagle Eye’. He settles on the Fast Hawk , level -expert. “How hard can it be?” I think - it’s a paper plane, I know how to do that.
We select the paper, we follow the instructions - it doesn’t look exactly like the pictures, but we go with it, I’m a Pinterest mum - I am very familiar with the disparity between ‘Instagram’ shots and reality. Step 6 - accordion fold the top side rectangles to get this shape.
Accordion fold? my aspiring aeronautical engineer is getting frustrated, let’s try a different one - maybe a different level, maybe lower our expectations a little - lets go for medium. It’s a paper plane for goodness sake! The Fast Hawk is abandoned.
The Jet fighter is selected (it’s level-hard). We begin again, 10 minutes later… I’m kidding 2 minutes in my beautiful boy is almost screaming with frustration, and I am right there alongside him.
Ok, I’m an adult, I know my limitations - it’s time for you tube - maybe they’ll tell me what an accordion fold is. I blame my child’s choice of thin card over normal A4 printer paper. The lack of voiceover in the particular you tube video I selected, “What did they just do?” “How does their plane end up looking like that?” My son has now abandoned aeronautical engineering and returned to his true love - Lego Batmobiles.
We fold paper planes the way we are taught too. Learning a new way is hard, I look at what I’m being told to do and I can’t see it. I can’t imagine how the paper can fold a different way. I can’t see the possibilities the paper holds until I start to try it. I watch the you tube film - they fold the paper in ways I hadn’t even considered. Not necessarily big dramatic folds, sometimes, just a little crease, and a whole new shape starts to appear from the sheet.
It’s messy, the paper gets crinkled and messed up, it doesn’t look as good as the one on the screen. There was quite a pile of abandoned attempts before I got a plane that vaguely looked like the one I was aiming for.
I like to keep my paper neat, I don’t like the crinkles, the places were mistakes show - the reminders that I am not the expert. But if I don’t make the mistakes, I will be left with my paper plane, that looks smooth and ‘proper’ but it doesn’t actually fly.
I still don’t know what an ‘accordion fold’ is. But I’ve got a new way of making paper planes. I’ve watched and learned, I’ve tried new ways of doing things and still make mistakes. I can see more possibilities in the paper.