Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Inner Roommate

Sometime in 1995 I listened to some CDs in the car that were recordings of a class a gal taught on how to work the 12 Steps on just our spirituality.  She said that we should start listening and paying close attention to our thoughts because our thinking was the source of our troubles. Now I had certainly heard a bunch of times that "stinkin thinkin" was a huge source of trouble, but I hadn't ever heard it described in just that way before. 

So I suddenly became aware that my thoughts were what was causing me so much emotional pain. Those thoughts were almost always telling me that I should be worrying about an enormous number of things, and that I should be judging myself harshly for all my mistakes, and it always predicted that I was going to fail miserably at everything I attempted. The point was that most of what my thoughts were telling me were lies.  It was a huge awakening.

Then one of my mentors invited me to a book study of a book called, "Soul Without Shame."  It was a kind of odd book but very useful.  It described something the author called, "The Judge" that constantly criticized us in our minds.  I equated "The Judge" with what I had heard about "stinkin thinkin."

Sometime later the same mentor invited me to a book study of "The Four Agreements."  Lo and behold, this book described "The Parasite" which is composed of a judge and a victim.  Of course, the description was of the "stinkin thinkin" that goes on in our heads. 

Just in the last few months I came across another book that describes the phenomenon as "your inner roommate."  I like that term the best.  The other descriptions are awfully negative.  I believe this "voice inside my head" that I used to call my thinking, is actually something that evolved to help me.  It tries to think of everything that might be dangerous and warn me.  It tries to improve my character with its criticism.  The trouble is it's run completely off the tracks and instead of preventing or solving problems, it has turned into the problem.

The problem stems from the fact that I believe my inner roommate is ME...  that it's me that says all the stuff it says and that what it says is TRUE!  It turns out that it's actually NOT me.  It's just a voice in my head.  And if it were an actual person sitting at my kitchen table saying the stuff it says to me, I would never believe what it says. 

My inner roommate is incredibly neurotic, obnoxious and negative.  In fact, it's mean and cruel and mean- spirited.  I wouldn't even be willing to have it for a friend, let alone acknowledge it as ME.  And yet I have listened to this horrible crap day in and day out for my whole life.

So...what's the solution.  Well, for starters, being aware of the actual truth.  Everybody has an inner roommate and I suspect that theirs are as much a pain in the ass as mine is.  If it were an actual person, I could just kick it out of my life.  But since it lives in my head, I'm stuck with it.  So I am gradually learning to just not believe what it says - its criticisms and judgments of me, its predictions of future horrors, and its painful, mean-spirited judgments of my past behavior.  I thank it for trying to be helpful and turn my attention elsewhere. 

Little by little my inner roommate is becoming quieter and less cruel.  It has even stopped bringing up the time when I was in second grade and stole a pencil off Miss Edison's desk.  That was one it used to like to remind me of when it couldn't think of anything else. 
I'm looking forward to the time when it falls asleep from lack of an audience. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Expectations = Pain

I've been taught that expectations are premeditated resentments.  Reality is that I am a terrible predictor of the future - which is where expectations lie.  (I'm pretty sure everybody else is too.)  So, it is inevitable that I will be disappointed at least 50% of the time, maybe even more than that.

Somehow I must have grown up believing that there was a way to make things happen the way I want them to happen.  I do believe that I have an influence on what happens in my life, of course.  The thing is, there are other people around, there's weather, there are all kinds of other influences.  None of that may be influencing things the way I want.

So, if I want to have peace of mind, I must let go of expectations.  I can certainly hope and influence - just not expect.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Some of the Stuff I used to Believe but Don't Believe Anymore

Some of the stuff I used to believe I just picked up unconsciously from the culture (media, etc.) and some was taught to me (parents, school, church, etc.).  I really did my best to live by what I believed.  I worked at making myself conform by torturing myself with inner criticism and blame - which was what I had been taught would work.

What makes you a worthwhile person is:
  •  If lots of people like you (popularity)
  •  You get good grades in school but not really good grades because that makes you too smart to be popular(if teachers like you, that doesn't count either).
  • You are reasonably decent looking although it makes a huge difference if you are really, really, really nice looking.
  • You must NEVER be overweight.
  • You need to have some kind of talent that you can be admired for.
  • It's a good idea to be entertaining - funny.
  • Getting a lot of money is a great way to be a worthwhile person. 
  • Getting a high class job is essential to being a worthwhile person.
  • If you're a girl, never, ever have sex unless you're married to the person (or at least don't get caught), because no one will ever think you're a nice person again if anyone finds out.  This doesn't apply to boys, by the way.  Having a lot of sex is admired.
  • Having boyfriends/spouse that are very good looking, educated, from a high class family and who have jobs like doctors, lawyers, or other professional jobs plus lots of money is almost essential to being a worthwhile person. (For guys, all the girlfriends/spouses have to be is very good looking.)
  • Have good looking, very smart, well-behaved kids.  If your kids don't measure up, neither do you.
  • If you're a woman, you must always put your significant others' needs and wants ahead of your own.
  • If you're a women, it doesn't matter what your talents, interests or desires are.  Your first priority is to be a good cook, housekeeper, etc. It doesn't count if you don't want to or don't have the ability.  You have to learn and do it anyway.  You were born to serve men and children - it's your destiny.  No sick leave, paid vacations, or retirement.  You must crank out those meals and keep the house immaculate, etc. until you keel over.
  • You must keep your emotions under control.  Nice people don't cry, yell, or curse.
  • Dressing according to the fashion is essential.  The goal is to dress so well that you look better than everyone else. 
  • Go to church.

There are lots of other things too like going on glamorous vacations, going to a church that a lot of other worthwhile people go to, being known in your community, etc.  But those things aren't absolutely essential to being a worthwhile person. 

As I got older, I became suspicious that a lot of that stuff was not very believable.  I suspected that it was kind of impossible to live up to, for one thing, and that a lot of people just pretended to be those things and lived in shame and secrecy because they were not.  Most of all, I began to notice that all those rules were really about how OTHER people saw me.  And I began to think that I didn't want my life to just be about social convention and whether I was PERCEIVED to be worthwhile or not.

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