Old Habits Die Hard

My recent therapy sessions have taught me a new way of looking at some of my more painful experiences: namely, to see them as habits.

The word itself doesn’t sound painful, does it? It sounds rather… light. Undramatic. Normal. And that’s what I wanted — to see my experiences, and deal with them as I’d do with normal things. Like bad habits, which might be sticky, and one might be too lazy to get rid of them, but they are not a matter of Fate — one can change them if one wants to, and if one applies to it.

One of my more painful experiences — or bad habits — is to think of myself as a victim: unprotected, unhelped, and abandoned. I probably got into that habit some ten years ago but, sadly, it still makes me do stupid things, like rejecting help, calling people’s good intentions into doubt, or mistaking sporadic lack of help for general unreliability.

Of course, I hate this tendency in me. It reminds me of a bad time in my life, it makes me feel guilty of an unfair mistrust of people, and I don’t really like thinking, let alone talking about it. But I wanted to get rid of it, so I brought it with me to therapy.

After some time, I decided that, without disregarding the pain associated with it, it’s best to approach it simply as a habit. And through practice, perhaps through doubt and disappointment, with a lot of patience, possibly with support from others, and certainly with my own happiness in mind, I can get rid of it.

“I’ve done that before. Damn, I stopped eating crisps!” I thought.

Have I had much success so far? Not really, no. Only yesterday, I mentally accused my significant otter of being generally unconcerned about my health just because he refused to once again wash the shower cabin when it was my turn (I ask him to do it because washing stuff is tricky when you have skin problems).

But I checked myself: “oh yes, that’s that old album playing — the one about people being unhelpful — I don’t like that one.” And I thought that no otter, even the significant one, is obliged to fulfill my every wish, especially if they’re tired, and I washed the stupid shower cabin myself.

So there is some progress… But equally important as the slow progress I am making is the fact that, even if thinking about my habit still brings some pain, and fighting it is anything but easy, I feel so empowered when I treat it this way. Seeing myself as a victim is no longer some vague “way of being” thing that I cannot change, no matter how hard I try. It’s a habit that I decide whether to keep or not.

And I already decided not to.

How to Stop Playing Yourself Down

A friend and fellow blogger inspired me to write about the ways to free oneself from that stupid compulsion that overpowers so many of us: the compulsion to play oneself down.

HERE, you can read the resounding piece (PL) she posted on her blog about how we make less of ourselves in the eyes of other people, and consequently push those people away from us, convince ourselves ever more strongly that we are hopeless, and often end up in shitty situations (but accept it).

I’ve noticed that tendency in too many people, and I have trouble with it myself. So, in response to Anna’s call for tips on how to get rid of this crappy thinking habit (or is it more than a thinking habit?… might be, but let’s start with changing our habits rather than our whole selves), I’m sharing my ideas:

I. Listen to the good things people say about you whenever they do and, even though a nasty little voice will be telling you to disagree, protest, and play yourself down some more – suspend your disbelief for once. Believe them. After all, why would they bother to lie to you?

II. Try paying slightly less attention to what others might think about you, and slightly more attention to what you do in your life. Learn, read, travel, talk to people, do things that interest you – there are plenty options that are better than sitting and analyzing other people’s supposed opinions of you.

III. Lastly, show some consideration for those who listen to you as you keep telling them how boring, incompetent, unattractive, etc. you are. This can be tiring, even overwhelming, especially for people who see you not as a pile of shit, but as… just a person like any other, with good and bad qualities alike (i.e. for most people).

My ideas stem mostly from watching other people’s struggles. I’m putting them into practice every day, and although I still cannot say I’m free from the compulsion to always think the worst about myself, I feel less troubled, I have gained more confidence, and I know that I’m doing something good for myself.

So why don’t you do the same?

Hasty Thoughts

Caught in a small loop of time
with people around to reach out for
I think hasty thoughts that hurt me
my black fingernails scratch
impatiently

But after a moment it becomes plain:
I should ask

Could you give me,
could you give me,
could you give me some time of yours?


I admit: I wrote this on a bus. Going to work; from work to a lecture; then home to try and do something to make my thesis exist. That’s what my days look like lately, and that’s the reason why I’ve been posting rarely these last few months.

I’m busy, and I wish the week was at least one day longer!

In this little poem — it’s not even a poem! — I wanted to compress my recent thoughts about haste. Because haste has become an important part of my life, and it has been getting on my nerves on and off in the past few months. And the day before I wrote it I reflected that when I’m in a hurry, I revert to my (bad) old thinking habits like they’re the default setting.

And I lapse into doubt and think of how they’re gonna say good bye to me after my trial period, how I’ll do something and disappoint someone I care for, or how I’ll fail a class at the uni.

Then I start feeling all discouraged from trying to keep, nourish, and enjoy the awesome things that I have in life, and pessimistic about their future at my side.

An example of it: a few days ago I was thinking of quitting my job just because I didn’t pass an on-line course in the basics of LTE technology in one try. It didn’t make any sense because the course was difficult, and I could give it as many tries as I needed.

But it seems like spontaneous self-harm comes in whenever I don’t watch myself. So I worried, and put myself down, and worried some more, although I don’t actually want to hurt myself.

It’s the haste… perhaps with a dash of perfectionism, too.

It was good to figure that out.

It was also good that that day I came across a post published by my friend katerzyna, where she wrote about patience. It was just just what I needed to hear: All we need is… just a little patience.

Breathe deeply in and out, even if you live in a smoggy city like I do. Be patient. It’s true that all kinds of things may happen, but constant worry probably won’t prevent the bad ones, or speed up the good ones.

Another good conclusion I reached that day was that when we’re in haste and/or trouble, it’s really worth reaching out to other people for support.

In my case, this means asking for hugs, bothering people with questions, or making the poor devils listen when I want to tell a story e.g. about a rude woman on the bus.

And this is actually what I’m going to do now: promise you a story. Not the one about the rude lady on the bus — this one isn’t worth a blog post. Another one. Wait. Patiently. Till tomorrow.

Regards,
Mulan