Recent conversations with friends, family and self have involved a great deal of pointing out Things Not Liked in 2009, as well as Things Needing Change in 2010. Everything and everyone, it seems, needs an overhaul like never before, with all speed and urgency.
It's practical and good to make plans for improvement in life, to take those actions which help bring about a change in the well-being of yourself and those you care for. But if these resolutions are based on a pile of anger and fear, directed toward things and people "out there" or perceived flaws "in here", stop. Please. If they fly in the face of your deepest values, but you feel desperate somehow, stop. If they are to appease, placate or otherwise pretend some kind of servitude, stop.
None of this stuff works, even if you think it's all for your own good, or because "you gotta do whatcha gotta do".
The way most of us were trained to operate in life may initially set us up for continued disappointment within ourselves, at the least, and raging conflict on all levels at the worst. It begins when we assume that we are one cohesive personality that is supposed to respond in appropriate ways to the rest of the world. We develop an idea that we are, or should be, a good, caring, strong, stable, healthy, (pick a positive adjective) person. We think we know what this paragon should feel and look like, based pretty much on the process of elimination: Well, it's not that or that or this...so the opposite must be true.
We may succeed for a time on our new diet, change in behavior or other passionate plan to be closer to our ideal human. Perhaps we learn things, perhaps not. But the strain of being on-guard all the time against that overweight, addicted, angry, depressed or (insert negative adjective) person, still lurking in the wings somewhere, eventually takes its toll. The slip-up happens, the depression returns, and it appears we are meant to fail. We might freak out, get sick, or just develop the world's stiffest upper lip and get on with it...bearing the cross, suffering in silence.
The truth is, we are many personalities, many characters constantly shifting and changing in relation to what we believe our circumstance to be. We may think of ourselves and others as general "types", but this trick is for convenient mental filing purposes only. Hidden within these types are their direct opposites, anything on the range in-between, and some things we would be shocked to discover. Unless, of course, we observe ourselves closely.
The only truly stable thing within us isn't a personality at all, but the capacity to recognize our cast of characters as they arise and disappear. This very recognition is the key to resolving the conflict problem. Almost as soon as I note the voice of the critic in my head, she cannot take over and live vicariously through my actions. I see her. She has her say and leaves. There is no reason to struggle with her point of view or hate her, or mount some lifelong crusade against her big mouth. It only gets bigger in a fight. Same goes for the joker, the romantic, the dependent child, the rebel, the cookie-monster, the selfish hermit. Did I mention the killer, or the fanatic, lunatic power-monger? First cousins to the compassionate, temperate, giving, enlightened savior. Oh, yes.
We recognize all these characters because they live within us, good, bad or indifferent, whether we want to admit it or not. We don't have to like them or extend their lives through action, unless we really want to. We are the kaleidoscope, the flux of colors and the observing eye. A color we may not prefer, or one that even sickens us, will eventually make an appearance, along with the beautiful shades we are attached to.
Relaxing into this mysterious capacity and recognition of what we are has the effect of reducing the power these temporary identities have in our lives. They are somehow equalized and granted citizenship in our inner territory, which is pretty much what they all want, anyway--this kind of love. I don't know how it is, but in spite of the sheer number of role-players identified, there is always enough space for useful and appropriate solutions to problems, supporting everything we typically view as positive and nurturing. Ten delegates show up with creative, loving and compassionate means, with only one axe-murderer in tow to spice things up. When things get logical and practical at the round table of the mind and heart, she simply skulks away. It happens so often, that I am inclined to believe that our nature wants to turn toward these things like plants dancing with the sun...that, in spite of apparent evidence, we do know an ethical, more effortless way to be.
So in the New Year, I'm asking that all my loves take heart, and follow it to things truly loved and filled with joy and learning for all of us. Walk away from the inner battle and the strategy of "winning" at all cost. Call all your least-attractive personas together and look them in the eyes to find out what they really need. It most likely isn't what you think. Honesty is the gift you will receive from the world, as soon as you are this honest with yourself...