Sunday, July 23, 2017

Identification and self destructive behaviors

I have been toying with a "goal setting" method which is not really a method, per se.  What I do is look at a goal--say to follow a specific diet and exercise pattern--and try to sense what feelings, what reactions, what sensations arise in my in the act of imagining doing x, y, and z.

The American world, at any rate, is filled with goal setting books, with action guides to GETTING THINGS DONE!!  Everybody wants to be the smartest, most switched on person in the room.  We are programmed to want "success", which is winning.  Now, you want people who love winning to run competitive ventures.  You want them running businesses, and, as now, national governments.

But it seems to me far too much focus is placed on getting to a fixed goal, and far too little not just to the journey, but all the intangible, subtleties which life offers continually.  Should I want to run a marathon? Should I want to deadlift 510 pounds again?

I don't know.

This is the problem: how does one answer a question about what one "should" want?  Do we not in a great many cases simply pick up goals that are in the air?  You know, Oprah ran a marathon, so I should too.  All the cool people run marathons, and I want to be cool.  You reach the state of cool when you can wander around with your marathon shirt on.

But compare this to, say, quietly and patiently creating an herb garden.  It's not a hard thing to do.  You can't brag to people "I planted some seeds, watered them, and plants sprouted."  It's a hobby.  Something you do because you enjoy it.

How does one compare the simple desire to have an herb garden, which is not the sort of thing you really need to put down as a GOAL, to the desire to climb some mountain, surmount some obstacle, face some fear?

Could we say that the proper goal of all activity should be self expression, in the sense that you put yourself into what you do, that you set in motion in the external world some inner and important part of yourself?  I think this is getting close to something interesting.

Until we know ourselves, how can we know what is worth doing for ourselves?  So much of human history oriented around survival.  We have gotten past that, in large measure.  A great many, somewhat metaphysical options have opened.  We fill them, in far too many cases, with mindless chatter, mindless activity, because the question of "what to do" is confusing.  It is hard to answer.

For myself, in one of these quasi-meditative sessions, it hit me that the root of self destructive behavior--or at least inconsistent, ineffective behavior--is that at some time in my childhood, I was faced with what felt like terrible existential threats.  When you are helpless, absolutely or relatively, the only possible movement is perceptual.  You can change your perception.

And how does one make an absolutely intolerable situation tolerable?  One accepts it absolutely.  One internalizes it as a template for future behavior.  One acts as if nothing is wrong, and everything is fine.  And what does this do?  It suppresses the feelings of repulsion, of revulsion, of terror, of anger and of pain.  All of this disappears.  It is conjured away on a magic cloud.  You are now a co-conspirator.  You are now a part of the whole.

I have called this an internalized Stockholm Syndrome in the past.  This is the same dynamic.  When you cannot escape, you make friends with your situation as a survival/coping mechanism.

But what happens when the situation is over, and it is now possible to feel appropriate feelings? You have to revisit what was conjured away.  You have to see what you did, how you sold yourself out.  How you lied to yourself in basic and vitally important ways.

And this part, this self, absolutely does not want this to happen.  It separated, it dissociated, for a good reason.  It is very, very hard to conjure back, in a time of peace, what happened in a time of war.

So, say my mother never wanted me to grow up, despite the fact that she terrorized me as a child: everything I do that is coherent and mature is going to feel like it risks bringing back all the bad times of the past.  The very cognitive distortions that saved me become jailers, become watchmen, become walls which are hard to climb.

This is where I am at.  I am slowly gaining some coherence in my behavior without the continual necessity of using will, of using force.  But it is a slow process.  But nearly everything worthwhile happens slowly.

One of my mottos of the past I have not mentioned recently was "Feed the slow, nourish the small."  Quite often the largest possible movements begin very, very, very small.

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