Deck Chairs on the Titanic — Therapy Diary for September 5, 2019 (Part Two)

Learning how to change myself is not just a matter of having a realization.

It is also a case of deconstructing my existing reaction patterns and gradually replacing them with more-functional patterns.

During today’s session, it occurred to me that my brittle reaction patterns may be based on fear. In turn, this defensive posture creates unrealistic expectations for me. When I can’t reach those expectations, then the ‘shards’ of my expectations, in other words, the feelings of guilt, the self recrimination, the disappointment… acts as a constant grinding, as if I’m stabbing myself internally.

I realized, too, that while I have often made seemingly huge and drastic changes in my life, the underlying foundation of that rigid response pattern did not change. It’s another classic case of changing the outside while the inside remains the same. Of carrying the problem around while convinced that changing stuff in the world around me will make the difference. Maybe not as extreme as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but just as futile.

My therapist and I talked about how aikido serves me as a great source of metaphors for this process. No matter how well you understand aikido intellectually, you have to learn it in your body.

She also suggested that a possible alternative to brittleness is suppleness, as distinct from ‘floppiness.’ You don’t want to be a blob of protoplasm, waiting for the world to get better.

Moth on a window screen

So, my task (or, perhaps, my path forward), has to include the practice of noticing my reaction patterns, yes, but also gradually shifting those reactions to a more humane, less self-destructive, more fluid, less brittle way of being. It in no way includes self flagellation!

I’ve emphasized the word ‘gradually’ in a couple of places in this diary entry, and that’s because I have that on/off switch in my head. I want so badly to make some huge, dramatic change in my life. But it’s clear that that’s no more effective than cutting my hair off or changing the way I dress. It might look like I’ve done something, but it’s mostly hand-waving.

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