Knitting a new life

I love knitting. A somewhat bland and perhaps incongruous statement to start an article on counselling, but please bear with me, and hopefully, some clear pattern will begin to emerge.

After a long gap, I have recently taken up knitting again, making scarves for family and friends. This has, I have found, a number of functions. Aside from providing relatively inexpensive (and you could cornily add, love-filled) presents for others, it has helped me to distance myself from social media (previously a life-sapping distraction for me and perhaps itself the subject of a future article).

There is plenty written and understood about the value of 'hobbies' and how they can help with a whole range of issues – from tackling boredom to focusing and calming the mind to increasing self-esteem. While knitting this morning, however, I realised something about the way I understand those letters and numbers that make up a knitting pattern, that to a non-knitter could appear an inexplicable, senseless jumble of nonsense. They are simply an algorithm.

‘Algorithm’ is one of those words that until recently, I rarely (if ever) heard. Now, however, with the increased influence of computing, it has become relatively common. While I know nothing about computers, I feel I have gained a new understanding of that word today, through knitting and my musings on it. Algorithms and patterns are all around us, and they always were.

In looking at the algorithm of my knitting, together with the knitting itself – the picture the knitting creates – I am able to learn how to effect change in those pictures, that pattern, to make a slightly altered version of it. This basic (perhaps obvious) realisation felt at once mathematical, philosophical and quite enlightening when I started to translate those ideas from being about a jumble of letters, numbers and yarn into being instead about the patterns we create in our relationships.

In counselling, it is common to hear the words "why does this keep happening to me?" and that is a fairly sure sign that actually, that thing that keeps happening, is to some extent, and probably unconsciously, in the control of the person asking the question. We create the patterns in our relationships with others, ourselves – often without even being aware that there is any pattern there at all.

When relationships feel like a tangled jumble of yarn, numbers, words, and painful emotions, it can help to stand back and look for the patterns. This can be very difficult alone, and someone who is not tangled up with you can very possibly see the patterns more clearly. They can then point out to you where you may be working on an algorithm that is creating a picture you don’t like, or where you have dropped stitches along the way that you need to complete a picture. In seeing the picture and the pattern more clearly, you can then start to consider which parts of it you do like, and which you don’t. And with that new clarity, that understanding of what you are actively doing to elicit the responses you are getting, you can find yourself in a new position of control. You can go back to the algorithm, and you can tweak it to change the picture slightly (or even substantially) to suit you.

Because life isn’t actually a scarf, you can’t undo all that has gone before, but you can perhaps start to improve it; to make a new pattern that fits the way you live your life now. And with this new understanding of yourself and the way you relate to, and with others, you can add and drop, in ways that make you – and those who are important to you – feel good about the pattern of your relationships as they are now.

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