I have no idea why the idea of transformation keeps occurring to me. I’ve been thinking about it for at least a month.
I’m very wary of such ideas.
I saw an article today which jokingly referred to DBT as “Don’t Believe your Thoughts,” and the idea of transformation is one I am particularly skeptical about, because it’s so seductive for me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been tempted to make radical changes to my life. This time I think the roots of the idea are deep in last summer’s difficult time, when I thought my wife was dying, combined with the real promise of change implied in my work in therapy, and fertilized with my recent reading in secular Buddhist ideas.
I have noticed that making big, dramatic decisions can be a way for me to avoid dealing with something that’s right in front of me. Those dramatic decisions often just turn out to be a hollow exercise in appearance, like the time that I cleared out nearly everything I owned and bought a bunch of poetry books, determined to start writing poetry (admittedly, I was 21 or 22, so pretty typical of that age, but it’s the best example I have of what I’m trying to describe here).
I’ve got a few things in front of me that my mind might be trying to shy away from. I’m so far in debt, it’s hard to even imagine getting out of it before I die. My wife nearly died a few months ago, and still has a long road to full recovery. I’m fighting a pretty bad case of hoarding. I’m trying to figure out how to give my life some meaning.
So… it’s entirely possible that my mind is, once again, showing me a shiny object and telling me this is the way to solve all of my problems.
But this idea that I’m on the cusp of some sort of internal change won’t go away. I’ve decided to just keep paying attention to the thought, trying not to judge it or deny it, while also not taking any extreme action on it.
Instead, I’ll try to figure out what I imagine such a transformation might entail.
Whatever happens, I know that I need to keep my commitments. I need to support my family, and I need to pay my bills.
But with those commitments as a foundation, what else is up for change? Assuming I move forward. Assuming I have a choice.
After all, transformation isn’t always something you get to choose to do. If this time it’s real… if this time, it’s not posturing or a distraction, what could it look like?
I stopped drinking last July… can I change my relationship with food the way I did with alcohol? Obviously, I can’t stop eating, but stopping the habitual, mindless overeating and indulgence would be a step to improving my life.
Can I start meditating every day? I sense that it would make a real difference in my life. Meditation has become the real ‘stuck point’ for me this winter. I started out strong in November, still have every intention of building a daily practice, but most days I wake up and realize that I got through the whole previous day without even thinking about it.
Can I get fit again? I would love to break through my sense of discouragement and limitation and start working out again.
The fantasy I keep having, though, has something to do with shedding stuff. No more social media. No more movies, no TV series on Netflix, and most of my belongings gone. All the newly free time focused on meditation, helping people, some sort of activism. So… more than just getting into shape. An entire refocusing of my life outside of work… and perhaps even a new type of work, something that I can look back on later and know I didn’t just earn a living.
Somewhat absurdly, my emotional reaction to these ideas (when I’m not wrapped up in the fantasy) is that I don’t want to become another boring fanatic.
PS: While I was trying to figure out what this post was going to be about, I picked up my book on DBT and started reading again. I found a section on becoming aware of black and white thinking, and it occurred to me that this whole fascination with transformation, aside from just being another distraction, might be an expression of my illness, captured in the wild, so to speak. More food for thought.