I’ve written about goals and resolutions before.  In general, I’m thoughtfully skeptical about becoming too tied to a goal or resolution-  because things change, and goals need to always be changing too.  I’ve made & kept plenty of goals that weren’t particularly beneficial to me in the long run.

this year, I chose to deal with a thought pattern.  So there is no need for me to do anything-  just notice that worrying pattern strumming through my head-  and stop it.

the only useful resolution I made before- that I’ve found longer term enjoyment from-  was to learn German.  And, like most useful, enjoyable changes-  all that took was setting it into motion, and letting inertia take over.

It seems counter-productive to have to force oneself to do anything.  that internal effort of force indicates that the goal is at-odds with our inner needs.  Even something addictive and complex-  smoking, eating too much, etc-  is filling that inner need.  & quitting/changing will require that force of will to be used in conflict with oneself.

it’s that internal conflict that I want to avoid.  I’m not entirely sure of the proper place for ‘willpower’.   it’s too easy to abuse it/  and hurt yourself and others.

when I think of my life-  and using will to achieve something or change something-  there’s a sense of internal splitting off, as if one part of my consciousness goes to sleep and avoids the situation.  While the will-force part stays awake, and with an almost angry energy-  goes to work.

It makes me sad to think of functioning that way.

but:  I do worry a lot.  about inconsequential things, about big things, about things that might happen a month from now, about things I have no control over.  and that is something I can change, by recognizing it and choosing to stop.  and since the feedback loop is short and it’s enjoyable to stop worrying-  I figure that inertia will take over.

Posted by:brook delorme

8 replies on “resolutions

  1. You are so introspective, and intelligent, I am sure there is something to your theory of the vertical split resulting from willing something that is at odds with your inner needs. That’s not a very psychoanalytic understanding of the vertical split in the psyche, which has more to do with a false-self/true-self dichotomy (a “splitting off” of the true self results from the construction of a “false-self” or, persona). Which is why sometimes you get worse before you get better, as the false-self falls apart. The holding space of the analytic relationship makes it all very safe, but it’s a long, not-easy process.
    I want to offer another perspective, which you can take or leave. I agree with you that the tendency to mobilize the will against ourselves (and others) needs to be checked. But I do think constructive changes often require a huge (as in Herculean) effort. The effort is required, not because of any internal conflict, but because the “energy” to make the change is simply not available. You can get very tuned in after a while to what activities, relationships, though patterns, etc. drain your energy, and what activities, etc. replenish it. Sometimes, a huge life change will actually yield a net energy gain down the road, but because of destructive patterns (like excessive anxiety), you don’t have enough energy available to make the change in the present moment. So you have to assume a (hopefully, temporary) energetic debt to make the change. It absolutely doesn’t mean it wasn’t positive or constructive.
    I think you’re onto something with using “tracking” (or observing) versus goal setting. So, when it comes to goals like “read more books” or “spend money more mindfully” or “exercise more” – I find it much more effective in some areas of my life to simply track what I’m reading or spending or doing (I love EXCEL) instead of making some goal like “read a book a week” or “spend only $150 a week on food” or “run 4 x a week” (which will always backfire – for some reason I can’t live under these constraints).
    I think the observation/tracking method could be used, succesfully, to change your pattern of worrying. So rather than saying you are going to “stop” you simply observe it and your heightened awareness will likely lead to a shift …
    You could simply act as if the Universe is a friendly place (I’m sure if you go back over your life, you’ll find lots of evidence to support that fact). If you act as if the Universe is a friendy place, you’ll find it to be true … and so, of course, you will worry less. If you can simply “shift” this one premise, you will have quicker results … I think … not that the method you propose won’t work too, over time.

    1. hey Elizabeth :) thank you, as always for your thoughtful and insightful words!

      I’ve been thinking about the idea of just observing, rather than trying to stop, over the past two days, which have happened to be anxiety filled, and I’d like to blame it on external astrological forces…ha. but yes- just observing- ‘this is worry, this is anxiety’ and then the reminder that it’s not necessary- and I can stop. funny though, my dream-life has become MORE anxious- so I wonder if the ‘trying to stop’ worrying in waking life is just pushing it into the subconscious. what you say makes a lot of sense…

      the universe as a friendly place- this is such a tough one for me. I know that it has been friendly to me (very evident) but I feel like one can’t read the news or walk down the street without seeing evidence of a’ hostile universe’.
      (i borrowed that phrase: one of Young’s mentors used to use that in a socratic fashion. he said he knew very little for sure, except that men and women had different energies and that the universe was a hostile place. )

      if I were to fill out a true/false quiz regarding belief systems, I’d check ‘true’ next to: “we make choices that determine our lives, and thus have free will”;
      “our attitudes and outlook determine our experiences”;
      “fear is dangerous”;
      etc..

      it’s just tough to remember and hold these concepts minute by minute, when caught up in the details!

  2. Hey,
    That’s a good change for the New Year. Especially concerning worry and anxiety. That stuff sucks. It can be, and has been, crippling for me at times. Your approach to it sounds like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. I like the awareness part, it’s liberating. But I can go a little wayward with the action part. I’ll go the pure avoidance route (Huh, what problem?) and other times I’ll go straight at it (GRRR, not pretty). My preference is definitely the avoidance method. But I’m working on it. As I said, I’m actually enjoying the awareness, it applies to so many other things too.

    Xopher

    1. hey Xopher :) thanks for writing! I just looked up CBT…sure I’ve run across it before in various therapeutic settings….

      from wikipedia “A basic concept in CBT treatment of anxiety disorders is in vivo exposure—a gradual exposure to the actual, feared stimulus.” …. so here’s where I get unsure, and I’ll use one of my fears that borders on irrational. bear attacks. (I’m not kidding.) the fear is of the ‘attack’ part, not bears in zoos or anything like that. There is no way to reasonably expose oneself to the ‘actual, feared stimulus’…

      so is the point of the therapy to actually start taking risks that most people would consider too high, just in order to get over the anxiety?

      but then again, if my fear is of ‘camping, because of bear attack potential’….i can see the purpose of CBT… exposure to camping might make it seem safer. but it doesn’t convince me that the risk is worth it ;)

      1. Oh no, no, no. I certainly wouldn’t physically expose myself to anxiety producing situations just for some psycho-growth. Uh, uh. Nope. For shits & giggles, sure, I’m game.

        Now, to be honest I don’t know a lot about it, but, CBT was presented to me as a way to mentally, physically and emotionally, process and react to situations as they may come up in your life. Using your camping analogy, if a situation presented itself where you were offered the opportunity to go camping, you would ‘catch’ your beliefs (camping=bears=ouch!) before you ‘act’ mentally, physically or emotionally, then you would examine those beliefs as to how realistic, etc. they are, subjectively and objectively, and then ‘act’ whichever way makes you comfortable/stronger. A retraining of the whole ‘process’ so to speak. I don’t know if that makes sense the way I wrote it. It helps me quite a bit with awareness and reaction issues I’m working on.
        Oh, per your suggestion, I signed up with DreamHost and WordPress. Not sure what I’ll do with it. Probably start with a personal diary, then expand on that. I’m on this odyssey to create a new life out of a former one that was itself more interesting and insane than I could explain right now.

        Keep in touch, you’ve got my email. I enjoy & relate to your thoughts, when I can keep up.

        Chris

  3. Hmm..I’m not really sure that trying to focus on the negative stream of thought and then trying to stop it will actually work.

    I think it is a question of whether you are in the moment, being completely present and simply enjoying this second as it is the only thing that you truly have. The past is gone and the future is not here yet, but we still worry about both, about the things we’ve done and yet to do as well as how we feel about both.

    I have been trying to do this (I tend to worry alot too). Anyways, this negative stream is just about things that aren’t really happening, they’ve already occurred or have yet to or may even not occur at all.

    I read in Geneen Roth’s Women, food, and god, that in order to bring yourself back to the present, start counting your breathes up to seven and then start again until you’ve regained yourself of your feeling of being here.

    Neurotic thinker I am, if I focus on my negative thoughts, I will only get deeper in them.

    1. hi Lu- thanks for writing :) I know, being in the moment is so hard! This year I’ve definitely managed to be more attentive to what is really happening in my thoughts- the thing that is tough is getting caught up in the negative stream elicits a physical response (panic) –and once that’s started, it’s really hard to get out of.

      I remember one excellent radiolab episode where they describe this- basically an event triggers a physical response (fight or flight) which triggers an emotional response. But even after we’ve resolved things emotionally/intellectually, things haven’t settled down physically. Then there’s a cute story about a couple, both neuroscientists or something, who say to each other when they fight “remember the half life of the autonomic nervous system!”. ….because, apparently, it takes much longer for women, in general, to calm down their physical panic response then men.

      I just finished this book today- Peace Pilgrim –one of the most inspiring I’ve read recently. lots of good advice about positive thinking too.

      warmly,
      brook

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