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Change (lack of)


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So, I feel like I have a fairly good handle on what's wrong. I can give other people advice (that seems good to me) that I routinely ignore.

So why don't I change? It's hard to believe that I'm getting some kind of reward out of this. But what other explanation is there?

And yeah, no one out there knows me well enough to answer.

I just needed to ask "out loud".

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Knowing what is wrong is a first step but it isn't enough to make change happen. Often people are doing things habitually, and it takes energy and a systematic effort to pop out of the rut. You need to keep in mind that the brain is modular. There is a part that thinks in language, but it is not the part that also is the seat of emotion - that's a separate part. You may have the buy-in of the thinking part, but the feeling part is still doing what it is used to doing. What is missing is motivation and a plan for helping yourself. We've written about this planning and motivation process extensively in our Psychological Self-Tools self-help book, which may be helpful to you, I hope.

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Thanks for answering, Mark.

I agree that knowing about a problem intellectually isn't enough. In my case, I think it might even be the basis of the problem. Emotionally, I know I'm being abused and I know I don't deserve it. Over time, that awareness (okay, the first part, anyway) has filtered up to (intellectual) consciousness. But at that level, I think I'm not so sure that something better is possible. Also, that's the part of me that was supposed to be protecting me from exactly this sort of outside abuse, and I think there's some guilt from having let it happen. Together, this has made me more than a little treatment-resistant.

Anyway, I will read the link you suggest, and keep trying.

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Well - if you like you can work on this sort of thing (dysfunctional intellectualization) in a self-help mode and thereby avoid some of the treatment resistance angle. I would say there are two basic paths to choose from - the "yoga" (or ascetic) path and the tantra (or sensory) path. The "yoga" path is about training your mind to shut up and sit back and let go of the reigns of judgment for a while. Meditation is the means here. In yoga there is Pranayama - breath control exercises, and also meditation, but there are a lot of ways to go about this. These days mindfulness meditation classes are not too hard to find. This is a discipline - something that requires a lot of repetative practice, but which can be learned. The "tantra" path is less disciplined and more like an end run around the mind. The idea there is to immerse yourself more in a sensation that causes your mind to shut up becuase the sensation is louder than your mind. Of course, if you aren't careful, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble via this path, which can easily become a path of dysfunctional excess. That is NOT what I'm recommending, to be clear. But it can be a way to get your mind to shut up by deeply inhaling the scent of a flower, eating a delicious food very slowly and deliberately, walking in a beautiful woods (if one is nearby) again very deliberately, etc. Both paths offer ways to undercut the overactivity of the mind and put you more in touch with whatever you are defending against. Which is also an issue to note - becuase you should consider the intellectualization as a means by which you have been coping, and as such something necessary - if you undercut your coping mechanism becuase it has grown some dysfunctional elements to it, you will want to do so in an atmosphere of safety with safe people around you becuase you may then encounter something you've been pushing away, and it may be painful, make you cry, be very upsetting. You will want to respect whatever it is that you are coping with and be gentle with yourself during the process of dismantaling

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First, Mark, thank you for responding, and for the great, detailed articles that I looked at yesterday on Topics. This site has so many facets, whether it be articles, forums, or the blog space.

(For some reason, I enjoy the 'y' in 'dysfunctional.)

I'm trying to resist the knee-jerk objections that the intellect is throwing out, but I can't resist talking about them.

First, as you say, thinking about things has been my protection mechanism for most of my life. To some extent, I can recognize that _what_ I think is not always accurate, but that consciousness is difficult to maintain because intellect has been my consciousness for so long. Also, perhaps obviously, there's a lot of fear associated with turning it off, whether by the means you suggest, or otherwise.

Second, a protective environment is precisely what I lack. Therapy is an awfully brief hour in a week intensely full of interactions with my wife.

Having read your self-help guide, the things I recognize that I most need are:

  • A plan
  • To work on positive thinking and self-value

Later steps will all depend on believing that the effort is worth it.

It's all intensely tangled, though. Assertiveness will be quite difficult in the face of her opposition, but leaving would require assertiveness.

And I'm very well-known for my ability to talk myself into circles that have no openings. After all, it's the conviction that there are no usable openings that have made me brick over the door in the first place.

I also have a bad habit of mixing metaphors. :-)

Oh well, one vice at a time.

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