I’ve been catching on lately, something is becoming conscious that has trapped me in an unconscious loop for much of my life. For a good chunk of my teenage life, as my family started to fall apart, I became incredibly disciplined. The kind of disciplined where if I said I was going to do something, I started immediately and stuck with it. I remember how focused I was in school, how focused I was on maintaining a slim figure through diet and exercise. On one side of the coin, it was amazing and kept me motivated and churning; however, other parts of me were being pushed away that wanted and needed support.
A few years ago, well more than a few at this point, I slipped into a depression. I had witnessed others go into one, but I myself had never tumbled so fully into this deep, dark, muddy hole of isolation before. And it was in this deep hole, that my strong discipline broke. It absolutely broke apart into smithereens. I haven’t found the old discipline I knew and I don’t think it’s every coming back.
Of course, this was not easy to accept, still isn’t. My past self attacks my present self, asking Why? Why can’t you stick to something like you used to? And in studying this question, new awareness is arising, realizations that lead me to believe that the old discipline really doesn’t serve me anymore.
When I realize I’m having continuous, torturous thought loops that I want to break free of, my form of studying comes through questioning:
- Who is telling who what to do here?
What I’ve began to notice is there’s this harsher, more critical voice, the “Perfectly Disciplined, Perfectly Maintained” voice, that tells this other part of me what to do. And she’s pretty abusive! She’s all like “You lazy girl, get yourself up! We SAID we were going to commit to a morning practice. You NEED to sweat. STOP eating sugar. You FAILED again.” And on and on she goes, pointing out to me that I’m a failure, that I’m crap, that once again, I’ve come up with a perfect plan for the perfect me that I haven’t stuck to. This looped a bazillion times before I turned around and asked…
- Who is this voice? How was it made? And why does it have so much power?
It’s a big moment when we turn around and face the demon on our back. It’s an even bigger moment when we realize that who we’re facing is a piece of ourselves, that we’ve created, that has actually become our abuser. It’s almost like I had to flip back through the chapters of my book of life and find out where this voice came in and how she came into power! The first thing I can say is that this so-called Moral Character stems from my mother – the woman who taught me right from wrong. And I don’t say that with blame, she is my parent, and apparently that’s her job. So at some point or another, that critical voice, and it may represent any number of people in your life, becomes internalized. And now, whenever we do something that is supposedly “wrong” that voice comes in to make sure we know we Fucked Up. And we should feel REALLY bad about it. The craziest part, is as we grow older, and we experience life and society and learn in a bigger way what we deem right from wrong, our critical voice morphs into US – a Moral Character speaking in our own voice with our very own belief system. So when that voice comes and says “You didn’t work out today and we know you need to be working out,” I nod my head in submission knowing, she’s right, she’s right, I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I believe her fully, and turn on my present self that for some reason or another chose differently. After watching this cycle time and time again, feeling the wounding, realizing this just can’t be the way, I realized this is a perfect opportunity to bring in the Witness. Can I watch this typical movie play out and see if there is another option here?
- Please tell me there’s another way.
Enter in synchronistic moments. This morning I woke up to the same dialogue – I had slept in, I didn’t feel like getting up and doing all of the things I had promised myself the night before. As I laid in bed, in came the voice telling me I’m a lazy piece of work, telling me I can’t get anywhere in life leading a life like this, telling me all of the things. And as I lied there, I pondered about discipline, and about whether or not this was a voice I really wanted to live by, and if all that she was telling me to do was supposed to benefit me than why did it feel like a goddamn prison. That yes, the things we both think would have benefit, would probably have benefit, but that this perspective, this conversation, this bullying is not working anymore. And clearly, a new perspective is needed. I picked up The Artist’s Way, opened up to the ninth week which I am currently on, and one of the first things Julia Cameron talks about is that what we often view as laziness, as procrastination, comes from fear. That often, we are so used to self deprecating, self-pitying, self-destructive patterns because we are afraid of what it might mean to succeed. She goes on to say that the only way to approach this fear is through love. Of course, ha! love is always the answer. But she has a point here – the critical voice chokes me, tells me I’m bad, definitely does not help in getting me to get going. And the me that resists, feels small, and afraid, and lost. She is the part of me that needs tending, she is the part that needs love. As I write this, I’m reminded that in moments of tension or conflict, we’ve got to remember to find a way to soften, be gentle, somehow. Reading those words popped a bubble, and I remembered that now the part of me who needs turning towards is the sweet, soft, child who says “I need attention and encouragement to go on, when I am yelled at, I shrink.” Cameron offers a perspective shift from DISCIPLINE to ENTHUSIASM, realizing that what we want for ourselves comes from a deep commitment to our creative spirit, not from any should’s or have to’s.
“Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work.” [The Artist’s Way, p. 153]
Can I manage to do the things that will benefit me, looking through the lens of enthusiasm?
And with that, I say, or really, I pray:
May we invite life, invite play, as our life perspective and leave the cold, hard, military fingers of discipline behind.