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Posted by Stephanie Butchart
Jan 20 2018

What’s ‘possible’?


Possible is a word that we don’t hear often enough and when we do it’s usually in a negative tone; “That’s not possible”, “It can’t be possible”, “As soon as possible” or how about, “Well, sure, anything’s possible”.

The word possible evolved from Latin word possibilis meaning “to be able”. Why then do we hear the word possible more often than not in a negative fashion? When we tell someone that what they are requesting, explaining or desiring is not possible, we are projecting the perspective ‘you are not able’ to do that, to ask that or to want that.

If you’re saying to yourself ‘some things just aren’t possible’, I’ve been there too. That was until the day I was inspired by one man’s situation with time. Here is it:

Every day the same situation arrived; same time, same place, same approach, same response. At ten minutes before the lunch hour a man would race towards the dining area, ready for lunch. At this exact time every day the staff were busy supporting the residents with limited abilities to the lunch room. At this time, every day, this man would yell and scream and shout that it was time for lunch, his bedside clock and his watch told him so, he was hungry and it’s time for lunch. At this time, every day, the staff responded that there were still ten minutes before lunch; he needs to come back at the proper time. This man would storm off back to his room angry that his sense of time was not possible. Sometimes he would come back to eat, usually he was late; sometimes he wouldn’t come back at all. What if it was possible that his experience with time was different than that of the staff?

Here we have a Lifeworld-led solution: Both his bedside clock and his watch were ten minutes ahead of the time used by the staff…a simple change of the time on his clock and watch with this man as witness to the changes. This motivated a change in his daily barrier of being told his sense of time was not possible and the next day he arrived just at the right time for a meal he enjoyed, in a pleasurable mood and with people to talk to.

So what do we do and how do we go forward, knowing that what is possible in one perspective is not through the eyes of another. Well it’s something I learned a long time ago, something we learn as children and something we grow to forget… we learn what we live.

If we learn through the actions of others that we are no longer able or no longer have the possibilities in which to choose, we live with helplessness and we live with despair.

If on the other hand we learn through the actions of others that we are able, that we have possibilities to choose from, we live with resiliency, we live with security.

What we give out has a good chance of coming back to us, not today but maybe tomorrow. So what do you choose? If you choose to limit the possibilities of others, please know your influence may lead a path of future experiences of helplessness and despair. If you choose to offer possibilities to others, please know you are leading a path that will influence a sense of security, an opportunity for resiliency in those you meet. What would you choose as a healthy, able person? What would you desire if your life leads to a vulnerable situation?

I choose possibilities, I choose to see the ‘ability’ in ‘disability’, I choose to project ‘capacity’ in ‘incapacitated’. When we lead with what’s possible, we find movement.

Time on this earth is precious whether we admit to our mortality or not. The Ellis Method not only develops and designs a collaborative plan of action but also sustains the desired changes in your life’s journey with hands-on support and coaching. Let’s move forward with our time together, time that is filled with possibilities and potential.

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Roots of this perspective stem from the following analysis

Taking another’s Lifeworld experience of temporality as their genuine current reality will limit the possibility of projecting a negative influence onto their sense of vitality. This Lifeworld not only reflects our sense of time but also rhythm, potential, personal histories, future aspirations and present options. Too much time, too little time, time pressures, rigid control over one’s time…these are all examples of negative influences on our Lifeworld of temporality. If we desire a quality of life for others that we too desire for ourselves, we need to consider how our projections may influence another’s sense of vitality, thereby limiting or motivating possibilities of peace or movement.

Theoretical questions from the case example include; would a dominant control over this man’s sense of time limit possibilities for his daily rhythm? What elements were influencing his possibilities for movement or peace in his sense of time? Would it matter if this same man very seldom had visitors? Would it matter if he was conscious that he was losing his abilities?

Lifeworld-led care practices are not rocket science but they seem to be avoided at all costs…well more often than not at the cost of the individual. Here is another great example provided by D’Avanzo et al. (2017) who had explained, “Time constraints were a reported threat to the implementation of family-centred services, though nurses were reluctant to use time as a valid excuse” with this very telling quote of current realities:

“Once in a while it is lack of time. Though I think it sounds a bit crude, too, to say that we haven’t got time, but sometimes it is [..] no, not time: we are not geared to talk to them in that way.”

The Ellis Method is geared to approach, assess, intervene and monitor older adults with the appreciation and inclusion of personal life experiences and the possibilities that uniquely meet individual and collective desires


Stephanie Butchart
- Friend, family, founder


D’Avanzo, B., Shaw, R., Riva, S., Apostolo, J., Bobrowicz-Campos, E., Kurpas, D.,…Holland, C. (2017). Stakeholders’ views and experiences of care and interventions for addressing frailty and pre-frailty: A meta-synthesis of qualitative evidence. PLoS ONE, 12(7), 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180127.

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