There’s a reason I refer to myself and those I work with as ‘self-help junkies’.Maybe you can relate to this. We innocently got in the habit of thinking of ourselves as broken. As a result we diligently and perhaps even relentlessly work at ‘fixing’ ourselves. Reading books. Taking classes. Focusing on the things we think are wrong with us and trying to make them better. The old paradigm of psychology told us this was necessary and we took that to heart.
It can be hard to break that habit. I’m trying to do that now and I find my thoughts automatically turn to what I can work on re: myself.
How do we let go of the habit of fixing ourselves?
I don’t have a definitive answer for that but I have a few clues and things I’ve been trying.
1. As often as I can, I try to remember that there is something greater at play within me than just me and my thoughts. When I remember this, I imagine I’m lying on my back in a gently flowing river. I am entirely supported by the river, and yet I don’t control its path in any way. I’m not in charge. The river is.
2. I try to listen to my body. If I need a nap, I take a nap. If I don’t feel like doing something I normally enjoy, I don’t do it. And conversely, if I feel like doing something I don’t normally do, I try it.
3. I try to notice my thought-storms for what they are. They are not the truth about me. They are not the ultimate answer about my habits or my state of being. Thought is tempoarary. Always. Even when it affects my mood and makes me feel like crap, I try to remember that it will not last. And that in a few moments or hours I will feel different.
4. I remind myself about insight. If I’m not feeling particularly insightful at a given moment, I try to remember that insight changes everything. When we see differently, we do differently. We can’t bully ourselves into changing, though we have sure tried! We cannot force insight, but perhaps we can cultivate an environment where it has an easier time reaching us. I try to cultivate that environment by doing the things I’ve listed above as often as I can remember to.
5. And finally, I give myself a break. If I’m not changing fast enough I remind myself that it’s not up to me. I’m doing my best by looking in the direction that the Three Principles point.
If I could sum up this post in one word it would be: relax. Or: soften.
I remember my mother reading me a picture book when I was really young. It was a fable about the sun and the wind. You’ve likely heard it as well. It goes like this:
The north wind challenges the sun to a competition to determine who is stronger. They see a man walking around a city and the wind says, “I bet I can get that man to take off his coat and you can’t.”
“You’re on,” says the sun.
The wind puffs up its cheeks and blows as hard as it can, intending to blow the man’s coat off his body. In the town square, where the man in walking, newspapers go flying, ladies hats are ripped from their heads, flags flap on their poles and are in danger of ripping away.
The man in question leans into the wind on his walk and pulls his overcoat even more tightly around him.
The cold north wind blows even harder, sending people scurrying inside, away from its wrath.
The man walks on, gripping his coat and while it flaps around its legs it doesn’t come off because of his tight grip.
Eventually the wind stops blowing. “That coat will not come off,” the wind says to the sun. “No amount of strength will get it to move. It’s impossible.”
The sun nods. “Perhaps you’re right.” And then the suns rays begin to warm the stones in the town square. Cats come out of hiding and lie in sunbeams. Flowers turn their heads toward the warmth. Ladies straighten their hair and put on their sunglasses. All is quiet and soft as the sun glows brightly in the sky.
The man who is the object of the wager between the sun and the wind, notices how warm he is getting as he walks. He unties the belt on his overcoat, and unbuttons the buttons. He shrugs his left arm out of the sleeve, and then the right. He pulls the coat off and folds it over one arm as he continues on his way.
Sometimes the best action we can take is no action at all. The more I understand about the Principles, the more I see that change comes when we simply look in the direction of the way we work, rather than when we try to force ourselves to change.Are you able to step out of the habit of constantly trying to fix yourself? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.