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psychologist Tag

The Chain

463px-We_Can_Do_It! January is a month of fervent resolutions and brave new intentions. A month of planting seedling new habits that require careful tending to take root.  Shakespeare wrote that “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  Yet our morning rituals settle over our lives bringing a sense of comfort and continuity in an often chaotic world. Our habits frame the frayed edges of our days and wrap the weeks together seamlessly.

A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Most of us spend most of our lives cruising along on autopilot. Self-destructive habits keep us chained to the rock like Prometheus while the hungry Griffin picks and pecks at our liver day after day: negative thoughts cycle round and round like vultures over the carrion of the past, repetitive behaviours that harm our bodies and sabotage our relationships. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that “insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So often pain, physical or emotional, is the fuel that burns away our inertia and creates a new sense of momentum in our lives. But it takes willpower and heartfelt intention to break the chains that bind us to the past.

We are not the sole creators of our reality. Would it were that simple. Millions of human beings endure cruelty and abuse, are taken hostage, imprisoned, scapegoated. But when we can see in the often fated challenges, opportunities to awaken to the fierce flame of our Higher Self, we unchain our potential to heal and realign our energies.

It takes kindness and compassion to look around our personal space and acknowledge that we have chosen the clothing we are wearing, the food in our refrigerator. On some level we do choose our partners, and our friends. We choose to love and we choose to feel happy. We do have the will to change and befriend our belief about the world we see. And it is will that ignites the fierce flame of power.  It is will that breaks the chain of “have tos and shoulds” that cloud our connection to our own volition.images2J2ZP8HQ

Psychologists who still work on a mechanical reductionist model of the world see a linear, causal curve for making and breaking of habits. New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business proposes that first there is a cue – a trigger for a certain routine. Then the routine – the behaviour. Then the reward. So when we can diagnose the cues, witness our routines, we may be more conscious of why we keep doing. And change the behaviour. Our willpower and self-control are like muscle strength writes psychologist Jeremy Dean in Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick. Willpower varies from person to person. According to our emotional state and even our energy levels during the day our willpower muscle will tire of pushing and straining. And when it does, we will be more susceptible to gorging on chocolate or having that midweek glass of red wine, or saying something harsh to our partner, despite our best intentions.

What if  changing our habits is more about self-love than muttering mnemonics to prompt us into new ways of cruising on autopilot? What if habits hide our Light, though we wear them like the garments that conceal the bodies of nuns or priests in certain religious orders.nuns

Perhaps habits belong to the realm of the heart. Perhaps they wander like itinerants through the crowded landscape of the mind? Perhaps changing habits is more about stillness and a dignified refusal to be part of the momentum. At least until we can access what gnaws in the darkness of our gut or makes us reach for a cigarette or turn on the telly. We might ask ourselves what our habits serve. What they cover in the folds of familiarity: the feeling of loneliness, invisibility, the  pain of our submissive silence?

Many of us see power as outside ourselves – the Universe, or the gods or the angels will tell us what to do. We seek guidance from others which may cloud the voice of our own true self and exempt us from the terror of our own responsibility.

Perhaps the human heart is far more complex than lab-rat behaviour in its many-splendoured manifestation.  Perhaps habits are about congruency and a deeper sense of purpose.  Perhaps habits will flower from the tap roots of discipline. If we are willing disciples we can fix our fluctuating feelings and will ‘o the wisp whims to a desired outcome, a larger purpose. Perhaps habits are about a commitment to our heart’s desires not our pained egos that fear the radiance of living too gloriously, too fearlessly. More about staying in authentic communication with our True Selves.

Perhaps it’s our heart that will perceive the true path for our journey this New Year. And the task of our Will to honour that path and stay in  communication with our True Self.

Private Moon by artist Leonid Tishkov

Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

private moon

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As Tears Go By

No life is without loss. No life is without a blackened wasteland where we wander, ghostly wraiths, haunted by the shadows of pain, anger, or bewilderment.

The lover who did not love us enough to leave his wife,  the woman who could not make space in her life for  the lucidity of a real relationship, the friend, spiritual teacher, colleague or boss, who unilaterally leaves us stranded, unheard. The child, who grows to a man, leaves our mother-love to answer his call to adventure, leaving us without identity and purpose, directionless, bereft. Like Demeter we mourn our loss, wandering aimlessly across the barren winter landscape of what is loosely, lazily labelled today as “depression.”  

I often wonder how celebrities endure the fifteen minutes of fame solicited by their relationship break-ups. The glamour of new love, the stalwart, much acclaimed “moving on” is captured by the Cyclops eye of the media. It is commended by society, eulogised by psychologists. The searing burn of the secret private death of that union, that love, must be mourned in a slower, more painful way, I imagine. Moving on is dealt with in Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief model, and loss must be honoured one tear at a time. Externally, we appear to have “moved on”, as we step out into the busyness of our lives, embracing new passions. But the vacancy of our loss remains, an empty room in our heart. 

Losing the people we love transcends age, gender, race and the accumulation of material wealth. My beloved 73-year-old aunt says, stoically: “getting older has meant losing the people I truly love.” A young client, inconsolable in her discovery that her lover has announced she is “moving on”, her passion cooled. A frozen couple, their marriage resembling a steel tramline as they live their parallel lives, strangers in the night. Their silent ache for the soft comfort of intimacy, their unspoken yearning for connection, now a distant echo of a passion once shared.

Part of our human experience is to experience and embrace loss as part of life.  We feel low, blue, heavy, heart-sore, weary, lacking our usual verve, frozen, numb, with the icy claw of the pain of our aloneness. We embalm our tears, make our thoughts our prisons.  Tie the tourniquet on our bleeding hearts so tightly that we close off to anything that might leave us open to the risk of loss again. We lose the wide-eyed idealism of youth as corruption in political, religious and corporate structures blights the seeds of hope for a better world.  We become infected with the virus of perfection as we scratch and claw, strive and struggle against our flaws and failures, losing our belief in our own unique potential.

We’ve read the books, cognitively know that suffering, anxiety, the unravelling of worry, the emptiness of abandonment are all smoky mirrors that keep us feeling separate from Source. We know that we are all interconnected, sacred drops in the Ocean of Divinity, God-Goddess. And yet, perversely, we choose to feel alone, to sup with sorrow, in the haunted rooms of our own memories. To ignore the soul’s knowing that lies buried beneath the fragmented surface of our fractured experiences. We may keen in our desolation; walk through the grim valley of the shadow of death, until we climb the mountain to the light above the dark clouds. Or we may choose to numb down the pain with busyness, with food, alcohol, or pills. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” and it may take a life time to learn to inhabit our loss, to endure the long silence in the wake of loss.  And yet, because each life, each birth chart,  contains an acorn of unlimited possibility, each one of us will experience loss differently and see the world through different fantasies that veil the truth.  Each one of us will have to decide to find the healing in every situation and solace in the secret shelter of our soul, before “moving on” with new strength, to transfigure our fear.

Marianne Faithfull

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHUQuD7ZzYg&feature=related

 

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