Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shedding a problem

Three friends of mine have been complaining of difficulties with themselves.  One feels overly dominated by an inner voice that harps on her shortcomings and failures.  One feels that she can never prioritize.  One finds that despite having proven high intelligence, she has too much trouble using a computer and is unable to accomplish what seem that they should be simple, quick tasks.  These people don't know each other and live in different parts of the country.  I am not close to any of them most days and don't know their daily lives in detail.

If I did, I might be able to point out counterexamples for each.  There are probably days and times when the inner voice is not a pain, when priorities are well-set and used, and when computer tasks go smoothly.  I might try logging instances when the problem is not bothersome because I am aware of the human confirmation bias.  I didn't used to think it was a big deal but that was because I heard the problem stated like this: we all have a tendency to gather evidence that confirms our beliefs and omit evidence that does not.  In that form, I tended to say,"Yeah, yeah, naturally, we all do that".  But when Steven Novella explained the idea, it seemed far more powerful.  

Byron Katie found that simply asking of an idea, "Is that true?" can be quite helpful.  For many things that seem to bug us, it may not be worth the trouble to ask that question and try to answer it.  But I notice that all three people have expressed the same complaint about themselves more than once.  So, if an idea is hanging around enough to come up several times, it might be worth investigating in a more complete way.

Of course, any notion, once framed in words, can be trotted out habitually.  If I decide "I am such a klutz", and I memorize the phrase and actually verbalize it each time I drop a dish or forget to mail my payment in time, I may be training myself to remember, and hold tight to, my klutziness notion.  When I get a chance, it will be progress for me if I check out if I am klutzy.  If it seems to be true, I am smart enough to decide on one step to take out of klutziness and take it.

I probably won't make progress on the problem if it isn't real.  I probably won't make progress if I don't get myself a clear picture of what I'd like to be or do.  It mostly needs to be an image of me the way I want to be. Describing that version of myself, maybe on a recording, and listening to it, will help me progress and feel good about the effort and plan to make a better me.

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