Yes, but I’m not trying to mess up.

You know how you run into some obstacle in getting yourself to do something or in getting yourself to stop doing something and you complain about it to someone and they say something on the order of: “You just have to power through,” or “Make a plan and stick to it,” or “Hold yourself accountable….” You know how infuriating that is. If I could just make a plan and do it, I wouldn’t be wrestling so hard with myself, now would I.

The thing is, with all the advice out there about creating better routines, or modifying our own behavior, or, worse, our children’s behavior, you would think we believe that if we just understand the problem and think up a good solution, we’d conquer it. Like if we have the problem, we just haven’t created the right system for fixing it. And sometimes, of course, that is true.

But really what all this self improvement effort misses is that we have unrecognized meanings and identities that SEEK difficulty; we are our own worst enemy; we have unseen motives that cause us to create conflict with the people we love; we sabotage ourselves at work; and we generate unhappiness when we think we are looking for happiness. We get in our own way, and we even can see it sometimes and we still do it. How frustrating is that.

How are we suppose to befriend ourselves and take care of ourselves when we see that we make so much trouble for ourselves. And, worse, we can’t seem to stop doing that. The point is, we are extremely complex creatures, with personal history and cultural meanings and patterns of relating which are intertwined and ambiguous. We are skillful and at the same time awkward, we have moments of greatness and moments of petty selfishness. No picture of who we are that reduces us to a few motives or a few concepts or a few behaviors will be able to contain the many selves within us.

It just seems like it would be helpful for us to remember that as smart as we are in our thinking minds, there is a lot more to us than just what we can think up, and we ought to at least take that reality into account when we try to understand who we are. We are not just thoughts, and we are not just feelings or emotions. We are a complicated bundle of all the factors that combine to create a human being, and we just keep on trying to learn more about what that means and about who we are, even beyond what we can comprehend with our thinking minds.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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