a reader asks 'at what point are we no longer able to change our brains?'
This is a trivial and tangential thing to mention, but: you don’t need to be a good person or a good parent to reproduce, and e.g. I am glad my parents didn’t try to work out all their (rather severe) problems before having me: they never could have or would have. My childhood was sort of fucked but I am damned glad I’m alive, so who cares?! My advice: find a fellow freak who can tolerate how much you suck, then breed to give a new person a free ticket to the only ride we know of; do your best, work on yourself of course, but don’t agonize over being a fuckup too much. Most of the ride your kid takes isn’t about you anyway!!!
BOTH ARE TRUE but also i am a Rabbit sun, Tigger rising, and Eeyore moon
I started reading this and thinking, "OK, here we go ... Come on, Alex ... tell Lou that they're already good... it's already there ... along with all the other ways we're all confused." And TRUTH BOMB BOTH ARE TRUE EXPLOSION IN MY FACE ... of course you did.
I think a lot about the folks who are raised Buddhist and who are raised in a family culture of "basic sanity" in lieu of basic badness, basic sinfulness, basic stuckness. And that's where my dark hole swirls, but ALSO, what a fun thing to test ... the notion that maybe we are basically sane, basically good and that when we hear folks say that things are "workable" that doesn't translate to "fixable forever and better/amazing." It just means there's some room to transform, even just a little.
Keep transforming, ya little firecracker of run-on sentences of liberation.
When I was at school, there was this old Scottish guy who was the school psych. He would walk around in a hobbled sprightly sort of way and hand out book recommendations like tic tacs. He tells me in a crisis session to not take things personally. This is the best advice I have ever received so far because it cut to some of my greatest fears of how I was perceived by other people, especially people whose opinions I cared about. Once I learned to step back and not superimpose the emotions I thought people were experiencing onto them, I was able to accept new ways of thinking. It also helpfully fits in with the whole self-effacing thing you tend to do when you feel worthless, which makes it doubly easier to use. If you don't take things so personally you can remove yourself from situations and see things for what they really are and not what your anxious brain is trying to tell you
We re-arranged some furniture in our living room several months ago. It involved placing a chair and a side table along a main walking path. Mind you, I was the one who chose to put the side table where it is now sitting. There were several occasions where I got up in the middle of the night and needed to walk through the living room, in the dark. I must've crashed into that stupid table 10 or 11 different times before the pain and embarrassment finally etched the new location of the table into my brain. When the long overdue mental shift finally started to occur, I would walk through that area like a slightly younger and much dumber Mr. Magoo; back arched, arms extended, flailing around and hoping to strike my arch nemesis before it struck me. Now, I've finally gotten to the point where my body has the location memorized, and for the most part, I can safely navigate around it. Mostly.
Knowing that you have some type of obstacle to deal with significantly increases the chance that you're eventually going to figure out a way to tolerate it, cope with it, navigate around it, or even resolve it. For this idiot here, someone else might say, "Hey, why not just turn on the god d*mn living room light for a change? Or have you considered moving the table to the other side of the chair, you moron?" And to that I would say, "Ummm.... No."
I think that with matters of internal struggle, negative thought patterns and self-destructive behavior, it's probably not going to be as simple as that. The most realistic tactic is probably learning how to mitigate these things and reduce their impact on yourself and others. But the important thing is to give yourself some credit. You already see the things you don't like, and that gives you a great deal of power over them. The more you practice managing these feelings and the (re)actions that come from them, the better you're going to get at it. I don't think anybody really ever "fixes" themselves. I think in a best case scenario, we spend our entire lives simply trying to improve and getting slightly better at not being our worst selves. Also take solace in knowing that you are not alone in your struggle. In fact, you are without a doubt in the majority here.
Don't give up on you!
In strictly physiological terms, you're never too old to change neural pathways in your brain. It's not easy... but it's possible! I've been in and out of counselling my entire adult life and have been given loads of great advice, but it took me a long time to understand the effort it takes to actually make changes. First off, of course, you have to recognize and identify the issue/behaviour. That's the easy part, though lots of people never even get that far. The tricky part is catching yourself in the act, or better yet just before you fall into that hole (or whatever it might be), and then interfering with that pattern and doing something different. But that can cause discomfort and discombobulation at first because it's not what you KNOW and are comfortable with. It can be scary. It can be destabilizing, even though it's the right thing to do. Like anything else, it takes getting used to, and getting better at.
That's been my experience at least. I swear it's never too late! It just takes a herculean effort 😅
Your posts always challenge my own thoughts, which I love. Neuro plasticity is, I would suggest, due to our own view of the world. For me, aged 50, I try and bend and shape it through simple things such as a monthly challenge- e.g could I learn to juggle (yep) could I learn to rollerblade (yep but in 2 months not one). The mind and your perceptions of your own have a huge role to play. Fantastic post as ever.
One way to say what needs to be said is: those who believe they can't improve themselves, can't. Those who believe they can probably can.
If I've ever seen a self-fulfilling prophecy, self-belief is it.
1. You are not your parents. You also have knowledge and tools they likely didn’t have while they were raising you. What a gift to know and understand yourself like this and to have the choice (presumably) to have or not have children. Whether it’s with your current partner or a different one you haven’t met yet, you are a whole human with the capacity to love, to be cruel, to make mistakes, to forgive, and to be forgiven. So are they. Alanon might be for you if it isn’t already part of your life.
2. Yes. I usually find myself in one when I’ve spent too much time alone, which sucks because I love being alone! It happened less when I was bicycle touring alone, but I think that’s because I had survival things to focus on rather than life drama things. I handle them by acknowledging them. What you wrote about saying how things are hard out loud really works for me, too. So what if I’m a little sad/annoyed/angry right now? It’ll pass, and I’ll feel some other thing soon. And then I call or text someone.
4. Blood, yellow bile, phlegm, black bile
5. A 6-month work-stay at a Buddhist meditation center, 10 days of silent meditation, which I hated when it was happening, Alanon, healing my imago with a healthy relationship, multiple decades of being sad, angry, annoyed, resentful… and getting tired of it.
8. Still working this out. :)
Damn, you headed the nail out of the park with the Christopher Robin is the imaginary friend bit. Gave me a shiver.
I have this same disease, where I become an insufferable jerk based on my own feelings of inadequacy and I'm pretty sure it's called being an Eeyore/major depressive disorder.
Little did I know, the Pooh was inside me the whole time.
Can we make a personality chart/matrix that incorporates both medieval humors and Pooh characters please?
Tigger and Piglet, because I am really good at enthusiasm and really good at anxiety.
It is in that negative self-talk that you perpetuate your internal narrative of being a bad, worthless person, unworthy of love. Hype yourself up, celebrate your strengths, capitalize on your successes, that's how this little piglet has been able to summon Christopher Robin. I inevitably turn back into anxious, plagued by constant upward comparison piglet, but I've come to accept my identity as piglet. I have gone face down in the troth and learned to love my garbage feast, because I am focusing on the positives- like that half eaten can of creamed corn that was dumped in there- and not the negatives, a la that batch of days old double-battered deep fried calamari that was promised to just be lightly sauteed that sits at the bottom of the troth
We are such incredibly tender beings with such complex defenses, including believing ourselves to be unworthy of goodness. For if we believe ourselves unworthy, nothing changes -- and even if that means more misery, we are conditioned to prefer what is familiar to the unknown that changing can bring -- even if changing could lead to actual joy.
So in truth, I don’t think you are afraid of being left by your partner if you don’t change -- that’s their fear, not yours -- you’ve just internalized it. I think your real fear is of how the prison you’ve built by painting yourself small will blast into pieces once you realize who you truly are. I think you’re afraid of what choices you’d suddenly have in front of you once you let go of every assumption you’ve ever made about yourself and what you’re capable of. And I think that is a good kind of fear, one that’s summoning the courage within you to face what you truly fear: your true power. You have the power to change everything now, in this moment, by unconditionally accepting everything about yourself that you have labeled bad, and loving it as part of the duality that is you, that is all humans. That act of grace changes everything, and you are worthy.
Just know that drivers in Massachusetts are so awful they are nick named Mass holes. Myself excluded of course. (We raised our kids there.) Respect the Pooh. 👊