Environ-Mental Health: fixing the cracks in our consciousness

by Susan Robinson on November 23, 2010

The chimney is getting a makeover today.  It’s mental health feng shui.  We’re catching up on home repairs.

The cracks in the chimney finally came to the surface of my consciousness.  It’s been crumbling for months.  I remember glancing up when I walked the dogs, and seeing the cracks, and it was like only my eyes saw them.  My brain took little notice.  I remember there was a single snippet of thought once, that “we probably need to get that fixed,” a millisecond brain check on whether we knew how to get it done, and then my attention was elsewhere.  Barely a blip in the radar.

But it was there.  Sending me a message.

Have you ever heard of the Broken Windows theory?  Malcolm Gladwell talks about it in his book, The Tipping Point.   The theory says that broken windows in urban neighborhoods send a message, and the message is that crime is tolerated.  It sends a message, “This place is neglected. ”  And where vandalism is the norm, crime escalates.  If you fix the broken windows, you nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.  You intervene when the problem is still small.  Fix the broken windows and you send the message, “Someone’s keeping an eye on what goes on here.  We care about this place and we’re keeping it orderly.”

It all starts with a signal, a meaning we interpret from the environment.  Research has shown that fixing the “broken windows,” fixing the environmental signals in a neighborhood, is more effective at reducing crime than misdemeanor arrests.  Prevention is more effective than punishment.

I think fixing the chimney is more than just a way to keep out the rain.  The cracks were sending us a subtle, below the radar, message – of tiny decay.  And fixing up the house, getting repairs completed, sends a different signal.  It’s a visual affirmation of well-being.

And the visual self-talk seems even more direct than words.  We feel it, rather than think it.  We fixed a little crack in our consciousness.

Do you have any cracks that need fixing?

Tree-House image by danimages @ fotolia.com

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