Want to Change Behavior? Just Believe!

This is a great elaboration+follow-up to my previous post. ProfTomBot writes, “…So instead of laboring and wrestling your habits by slapping them each time they pop up, focus your will and mind power on believing something that will make that habit inherently something you wouldn’t do. If you dig to your core and form a personal belief about who you really are and what you really care about and what you really need to do to be your best, when that belief truly establishes you won’t have to counter anything. You’ll find it’s actually a struggle to do a former bad habit because you’ll have to do something you don’t personally believe in doing. It’s all a matter of getting into your own head, defining your own personal desires and goals, your take on the world and your role in it and how you should – and will – behave to live up to it, and then integrating this into your belief system. Once you make those brain regions physically form new neural networks to accommodate your new belief into the system, your behavioral system will follow suit naturally.”

Well put. Thank you, ProfTomBot!

Also, as an addendum to my previous post, it took me so long to try to write it that I lost track of how long it had been since J took a potty break, and he peed on the living room carpet. Really my fault… just goes to reinforce what I was saying about other priorities leading me to minimizing this blog. Heh. But he really has been doing *so* well for the past week or two! Much better than the week before that. Which I really ought to blog in detail about before too long, before I forget, because it was Epic Bodily Function week in Preschoolerville. Ah-yeah.

Anyway, go read this article! It’s good.

–GM

 

The Broad Spectrum Life

Many people in our modern world find the need to change habits and behaviors that they find for burdensome. However, it is a burden in itself to change. The burden mostly lies in a struggle of the mind over instinct, or so it feels. Well, this reveals the strategy and it’s flaw. Active thinking can’t really put a dent in deep seated, subconsciously* and/or unconsciously** manifested habituations. The only way to think your way out is if the thinking doesn’t counter the habit in situ but thinks about the source specifically. Directly struggling with the habit per case is actually one of the most indirect and insufficient methods. You must find the fundamental sources and alter these to achieve progress and dodge stress and struggle. I’ll tell you the basic logic, but the protocol for success resides in you and is drafted from your willingness and ability to self-analyze and…

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I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

Escape From the Ideal

I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

 

All the places you ever wanted to escape to

are always

Here

in the end.


 

I published this poem on my “professional” blog a week or two back just to demonstrate that, yes, I actually am a writer… in the unlikely event any of my “serious” work is ever accepted for publication by any (established) journal. But I also wanted to talk about it here on this blog, which is much more interactive/conversational.

First off, a shout-out to valdelo of Silently Screaming for the simple encouragement to keep writing. That little nudge prompted me to see if I had anything in me tonight… and voila. (More about the power of nudges in a future post!)

Anyhow. This poem popped into my head as I was contemplating my pronounced tendency to look to the horizon for salvation. I have the *worst* time practicing mindfulness–i.e., focus and attention fixed on the present, experiencing and appreciating all it has to offer, not lingering in the past or endlessly planning out the future. The Yercoviches refer to this tendency as “reviewing and rehearsing,” a behavior practiced by vacillators (such as myself) who tend to devalue or idealize events (this is just the link to a summary of the “core pattern” handout where they describe these tendencies, which you can also find available for purchase on their site). I.e., I tend to feel that the past could have always played out better, so I rehash it endlessly trying to “troubleshoot” for future improvement–or I believe that a future event can be perfectly managed if I only plan it out carefully enough, so I overthink constantly (and heavily).

This leads to endless annoyance or discontent or discomfort with a new place or relationship or experience or accomplishment once I’ve finally arrived at it and it has become familiar. All of a sudden, my daydream of freedom and hope and life and possibility has been replaced by obstinate reality grounded in simple, uncomfortable, less-than-ideal facts. It’s not even that reality is really that bad–it just doesn’t match up completely with my daydream. For a vacilator, this loss of the ideal is crushing.

So I have to learn not to value the ideal so darn much.

This is made easier when I realize how many downright stupid, unimportant things I idealize (like not having crumbs on the floor, or having clean bathrooms [honestly, isn’t it far more significant to realize the incredible blessing of HAVING a fully functional bathroom–or even more than one?!], or keeping runny toddler noses off all the furniture)?

It’s harder when I’ve idealized things that *seem* more important, though–like having firm, stable, relationships with loved ones. But firmness and stability don’t look or feel exactly like my imagination tells me (since I don’t have a lot of experience in those areas compared to some, idealized imagination sets my hopes and expectations–not reality). Letting go of these imaginings and finding the courage instead to emotionally experience the reality I’m in–good, bad, and everything in between–is a huge challenge.

It’s deeply intimidating particularly because the reality I experienced for so long taught me *not* to trust, feel, or seek communion with others when relationships have even a whiff of going south about them–in large part because it was never demonstrated to me that doing so *could work*. I also had basically no idea where to start: what does trusting, feeling, and seeking communion look like in a relationship that’s actually worth it–where it’s safe, advisable, and even necessary from a mental health perspective?

However, finding myself in truly worthwhile, long-term relationships has shown me that the old way of relating isn’t going to work here; I need to develop a new skill set.

Fixing all my hopes for happiness and security on the imaginary ideal place, situation, or companion will only leave me despondent when I finally reach my destination–and realize it’s not *everything* I made it out to be.

It will always end up being the experience I’m left to engage with in the present–the current, immediate moment–the one place I’ve had small confidence and found little comfort in for so long.

I will continue to do just that–as long as my expectations are that my ideal *should be* the reality.

The truth, however, is that I can’t change the reality in front of me–but I can, gradually, change my perspective on it and how I interact with it.

The details of this elude me constantly, but I’ve found one mantra from the How We Love website quite helpful. To paraphrase:

“It’s not as bad as I think it is, and it’s not as good as I want it to be.”

Accepting this as unchangeable truth helps me to regulate my expectations and, thus, avoid getting too working up one way or the other. It requires me to let go of my own demands upon reality and exchange them for trust, instead, that my needs will be met–perhaps not how I’d like them to be, but they will be met–by the people who really *do* love me, as they have tangibly and consistently demonstrated over an extended period of time, through the providence of a God who has demonstrated enormous care and love for me over a much longer time frame.

This is the proper way to reflect upon the past: to search it for all the good and love I’ve received, practicing a new, unnatural approach to reflection–rather than picking through it for the parts that didn’t match my original skewed ideals and ruminating over the uncomfortable bits.

And it’s the proper way to envision the future: with calm, simple confidence that my idealized plans will not come to fruition, and are not worth the time I spend on them, but that whatever else happens instead will still be manageable and even full of blessing from a divine agent I can’t possibly anticipate or control–which terrifies me, which reminds me that I need to sink deep into reflections of his steadfast, unshakeable love once more. Because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NKJV).


 

Lord, well over a decade ago I wrote about this, seeking to experience the unfathomable love you have for me, because I needed to be free from fear. I still do. I fear constantly–big things, little things, imaginary things that feel too much like the actual reality of times past to be ignored. Lord, please–free me from torment. Free me from fear. Cast me into perfect love: love based in reality and well-founded expectations, that it may cast out every fear caused by unmet, idealized expectations. Exchange my broken mindset for your healing way of thinking. Help me to be patient with the process (avoiding unrealistic expectations yet again!); lead me to all the tools I need, and bless them with your presence. Thank you for loving me, even when I can’t fully sense it. Especially then. Amen.

 

It’s been a long week

Hi, friends. I’ve had a gritty week.

Hardship #1: Mr. Eyes is in his (likely) final sleep regression at 22 months; what this looks like is a night of great sleep, followed by a night of crying and wakefulness every hour or so, followed by a night or two of great sleep, followed by a sleepless night… you get the picture. We’re finishing week 2 of this, so hopefully we’ll be through it soon. In the meantime, I never know if I’m going to have all my marbles the next morning or not… and if not, I have much less brain capacity for Internetz. Hence you haven’t heard much from me.

Hardship #2: The marriage has taken a few hits this week, too, thanks to a handful of somewhat-more-drastic-than-usual mistakes being made, some arduous late-night conversations (which allowed us to make good relational/behavior progress with one another but were still grueling to get through, especially given hardship #1 above), and a pretty dramatic relapse on my part back into vacillating attachment behavior. I hadn’t had a flair-up in awhile and didn’t expect one, but I should have: a few weeks of escalating frustrations coupled with a particular triggering incident dumped me down the elevator shaft of old, broken ways of thinking, and I had built myself a mud castle at the bottom before I realized it. Shew. It was bad. Thank God, I have a compassionate, attentive mentor in my pastor’s wife, and a phone call with her allowed me to blow off a lot of steam in a healthy, safe context; and, thankfully, my counselor has equipped me with some state-of-the-art resources that allow me to identify my broken, unhealthy thought patterns and respond to my triggers with wisdom and compassion and, thus, humility. Also, thankfully, I have a very long-suffering husband who is working hard to understand the layers of problems I’m continually sorting through and help me cope with them.

Hardship #3: My mother is going in for major surgery on Tuesday, and while I’ve tried hard not to think about it, this is really troubling for me. She’s going to have 90 staples in her stomach when all is said and done, and the recovery will take at least a month if not more time. She’ll be on a liquid diet and stuck at the hospital for days. She’s worried, and I’m worried for her. I’m worried for my sister, too, who lives with my mom and depends on her greatly for all kinds of support. They are coming up to celebrate Easter with us and my husband’s family tomorrow, and I’ve been worried how that all will go, too…. partly because of #4 below:

Hardship #4: This is my own fault, but I took on some cooking tasks for tomorrow. While I enjoy cooking, after the other stressors of the week, this has introduced a lot of extra nervous tension into my moment-by-moment existence. I actually spent the majority of today with a horrible stomachache, apparently caused by *eating*, of all things (both breakfast and dinner induced horrible pangs; aside from those meals I grazed lightly the rest of the day, and while that didn’t hurt so much, it didn’t seem to help so much either)… since the pain has seemingly finally gone away after a liberal application of antacid tabs, and since there were no other symptoms, my best guess is that I have a build-up of stomach acid caused by stress. Because this isn’t the first time similar things have happened to me, I’m very inclined to hang my head and throw up my hands. Shoot, I screwed myself over *again*. That’s all I can think. …But, at least I can be super grateful that whatever it is seems to have passed. I’m just praying it doesn’t flair up again tomorrow (and if you’re the praying sort… I really wouldn’t mind prayers toward that end <3).


 

So, after all that, I kind of just wanted to fill in those of you who might be wondering where I’ve been this week… to keep it real, keep it honest… keep it gritty. I especially wanted to get this out before tomorrow, because, well, Easter:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for usWho shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or swordAs it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to comenor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,

shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:31-39

 

…Nor tummy aches nor sleeplessness nor toddlers nor family gatherings nor anxiety nor depression nor self-destruction nor over-commitment nor idealization nor devaluing nor history nor triggers nor any other brokenness

can separate me from the love of God.

He is risen.

Jesus has risen from the grave, warming us as the dawn.