The will to change ourselves

As you all have probably noticed by now, I’m a very verbal person.  If you hit me with the right words, I will buy into your argument or world view.  I don’t just mean this politically.  I apply it to my whole life.  My friend, Don Quixote once said to me that I had better self-awareness and insight than any person he’d ever met.  This wasn’t necessarily a compliment, because it means that, while that gives me the power to change things I understand about myself and don’t like, if I don’t make the change, it means I lack the will.

I’m a terrible procrastinator.  This has been a very damaging behavior for my entire life.  I understand the dynamics underlying my procrastination — but I don’t stop procrastinating.  If I lacked self-awareness, my inability to change would be understandable.  But since I do know what’s going on . . . well, let’s just say that, one of these days, I’ll get around to fixing the problem.

What I find enormously frustrating when dealing with other people is that, too often, there are no right words.  There is nothing I can say, no facts I can adduce, no arguments I can make, no emotional chord I can touch, that will enable them to look into what is painfully obvious to an outsider.

It’s not that I’m blessed with great insight when it comes to other people.  Being verbal, I tend to miss a ton of non-verbal cues.  Still, you don’t have to be hit over the head with a two-by-four, for example, to see when a 25-year-old woman is making really stupid life mistakes because she’s mad at her mother.  If I was that 25 year old, and you asked me rhetorically, “Do you realize that you keep doing everything the exact opposite of what your mother would want, even if it’s harmful to you?”, I would hit myself on the side of my head, say, “Doh!”, and set about trying to change that self-destructive behavior.  I would, instead, try to analyze my behaviors in terms of what’s good for me, rather than what’s a big, fat NO to Mom.

I’m prosing on about this subject because today I’ve dealt with three people who engage in quite obviously self-destructive behavior and refuse even to consider the possibility that they have enough power over themselves to change their situation.  They’re all just watching their behavior play out, whining about the consequences and, apparently, have reconciled themselves to the coming train wreck.  Two of them are engaging in behavior that I consciously abandoned when it became apparent to me that it was hurting me; one of them, well, I’ve never traveled in that person’s shoes, so I really don’t know what would motivate a change.

One of the things I like a great deal about John Hawkins, of Right Wing News, is that he, like me, believes that you can reprogram your brain to serve you better.  Some changes are easier to make than others, but most are possible.

And now let me give you an example of the reason DQ said that about my insight.  I had been whining to him about an ongoing squabble my husband and I had about a tidiness issue in the house.  Since I’m the homemaker, I wanted it done my way; since he’s the primary breadwinner, he wanted it done his way.  I was looking for, at the very least, a compromise.  He was not.  DQ said something very wise to me:  “It doesn’t matter that this doesn’t seem fair, or that he will not negotiate.  He has every bit as much right to do it his way as you have to do it your way.  If he doesn’t want to change, you will not be able to force him, or you will only be able to force him at great cost to yourself and your home life.”

Wow!  I realized instantly that, although I didn’t like DQ’s message, he was absolutely right.  So I never mentioned the subject again to my husband.  It still irritates me every single day, but my silence on the subject is better than fights that serve no purpose but to poison a home’s atmosphere.  Because, really, that’s what my choices were:  I am chronically irritated or we are both chronically angry.  Put that way, it’s a no-brainer.  I can’t understand other people who can’t realize that sometimes there are no good choices, only less-bad choices.