Here’s my confession: I am a depth psychologist. That means that dreams, the unconscious, the mystery, the unintended - the psyche and soul - is what animates me and informs my perspective. As such I must let out a clear and present scream at all the posts about New Year resolutions. While many plainly declare the fact that most resolutions are not kept, the advice about how to improve the percentages rarely drops below the surface. (Dare I call it “superficial?”)
HERE ARE FIVE "PEARLS OF WISDOM" AND AN ALTERNATIVE DEPTH PERSPECTIVE
Pearl 1: If you don’t make resolutions, you will never get anywhere. In fact, you may be the kind of person who is resistant to making plans and thus have a hard time growing and changing.
Depth Perspective: While much of modern psychology views resistance as a negative thing, I beg to differ. People resist “doing what they are supposed to” for one of two reasons: 1) The advice, goal, or plan is just not right for the person (regardless of how “right” it may appear); or 2) The person is tired of taking or accepting advice and authority of others and is ready to follow their own counsel and wisdom. Thus, if you don’t make resolutions or are resistant to planning, look within for your own deeper truths about what is important and how to get there. When this deeper intelligence is supported, you may feel empowered to do what is right for YOU.
Pearl 2: The determining factors in carrying out resolutions are planning, setting reasonable goals, and getting support.
Depth Perspective: People regularly set goals and plans for themselves that are not aligned with their true selves. This happens more than you may think – we are constantly trying to get ourselves to be someone that is not exactly who we truly are! A deeper inquiry via one’s dreams, body, or intuition often shows these goals to be too small, in need of adjustment, or completely abandoned for goals and plans that honor who we really are. For example, a person may want to become slimmer, while their dreams showing them needing to “take up more space” in the world; or a person may want to be more disciplined while their psyche indicates the need for a life that is less linear.
Pearl 3: Failure is only a temporary setback and great motivator for change.
Depth Perspective: Failure sucks, but it need not be viewed as an indicator of lack of intelligence, motivation, or discipline. And it can be narrow-visioned to see it only as a setback from the achievement of a change effort. Instead, it is information arising from your deeper self, indicating a need for a shift in perspective, a change in attitude, or course correction. For example, if you take on a task from a self-critical or self-shaming attitude, you may fail because that background attitude needs to change. In that way, it is “right” that you fail to treat yourself awfully of abusively. Or if you fail to become a better listener, you may need to speak out more clearly and forcefully first.
Pearl 4: Mindfulness can add discipline to your resolutions and render them more restorative and healing.
Depth Perspective: Ok, I know I am stepping on some sacred toes here, but bear with me. Mindfulness is a beautiful thing, but often learned via a choice-less awareness not one that favors some impulses and feelings and disavows others. Mindfulness can certainly be used to bring more awareness, but if it is employed as a discipline that overcomes or marginalizes other impulses (which is often the case), then it will function more as a suppressive technique than a loving one. How can you know how it is functioning? If it doesn’t work, over and over and over, and you are still using mindfulness to assert “your” agenda, ask yourself “Is this mindfulness in service of my deepest self or is it in service of an effort to “fix” myself?
Pearl 5: In order to be successful in keeping weight loss resolutions, you must “distract yourself” from eating.
Depth Perspective: I get it – many people want to lose weight, eat less, or eat differently. But people eat beyond their nutritional needs for reasons that are almost never deeply understood. If you think these reasons are: to comfort yourself, to self-medicate, or because you are lazy or undisciplined- then you, too, may be guilty of superficiality. We eat unhealthily because we are hungry for something deep and true that is largely unknown. If you try to distract yourself from food without knowing what those deeper hungers really are, I suspect (and tons of data confirm) you will be unsuccessful and it won’t be because you need to be better at distracting yourself! For example, I have met people who eat to connect with spiritual experiences, to express their power to go for what they want, to manifest their capacity to say “yes” or “no,” or to create stronger boundaries. While you may not agree that these are good reasons to eat, you darn well better discover these reasons and address them in a more satisfying way before you try to dismiss or override them.
Goals and resolutions are good. But, please be aware that the conscious mind, often the author of our goals and plans, is limited. Your soul/psyche may have a more mysterious and magnificent plan for you.
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I am the author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. Signed copies of the book are for sale on my website: www.talkingbacktodrphil.com.
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