Synopsis: Change and choice are not the same. One is possible… the other is not.
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This pair of terms are not, as we use them, synonymous. Ben Wong and Jock McKeen talked about the two a lot, and Ben would often say, “Change isn’t possible, but choice always is.“ ‘
This is a hard one to swallow, as we’ve all been conditioned to believe that change is not only possible, but essential.
Let’s be clear here: we’re talking about changing our internal predispositions, not, say, something physical. Getting taller as we grew up, for example, is surely a change.
Our personalities are set at a young age; our proclivities toward compliance / aggression, cheerful / moody, etc. seems to be wired in. That last one is one I’ve struggled with.
I describe myself as melancholy; I might “do” happy, but that feeling is fleeting. My “norm” is somewhere right around neutral. And from there, I can and do pulse upward, and can, and have, spiraled downward.
A few weeks ago, I woke up in a blue mood, and created a terrible morning. Dar and I were due to head off to Spanish class, and I was sure I couldn’t, couldn’t make it. Darbella, who has seen me in these moods before, reminded me that I could stay home, but stated that she would prefer that I went.
I wailed and moaned and gnashed my teeth, and then went.
The first hour was torture; I parsed verbs while contemplating deep and dark thoughts. An hour later, my mood started to lift, and by the end of class, I was ready for pizza.
Now, I’m not making light of depression, of which this was the skinny edge. Been there, done that. I’ve been caught in depression for as long as 5 months–I was as down as far as one can go and survive–numerous times in my adulthood.
In keeping with today’s thought, I just want to say: my nature is neutral to blue to deeper in the hole, and I can’t change that. Not with decades of self-work. Can’t.
But I could choose to get up from my chair of woe, and go to class, and interact with Dar and others, and see what happened. Past experience told me it likely would help me to lift my mood.
I made a choice, a one-off choice, based upon… well… the choices I’d made in the past.
I wrote a booklet about this, btw; about how to deal with depression (or other things you’d like to do differently.) It’s called “The Watcher,” and it’s available here
Anyway, many are the folk who get stuck on their desire to change, and what with the impossibility of that, they get caught in a cycle of planning, trying, failing, and beating up on themselves.
This happens especially in the early going: they bend their will to their desire to change, and do indeed shift something. Better results! They get all happy and proud of themselves, and then, boom.
The old thing returns.
Well, of course it did. Our internal tendencies make up who we are, and a lot of that stuff is ancient, and impossible to unearth, let alone get rid of.
Missing in all of this is the simple realization of what happened:
a) identified an aberrant behaviour or belief.
b) thought up and alternative,
c) implemented the alternative
d) got different results
e) liked the new results
Here comes the error.
f) thought the issue had been permanently fixed (that they’d changed.)
And… here I am again!
Nope. All they did was make another choice, and thereby got different results. The flaw is not recognizing that this new behaviour will have to be consciously applied, each time, forever… or until you die, which ever comes first.
Choice is ongoing, while our stupidities are predictable.
Yup. Nothing creative about us. All we change is the dance partner and the location. The dumbness is consistent.
That doesn’t mean we can’t choose another path. Nothing is stopping us from choosing. Except us.
This week, notice how often the things you don’t like about yourself are “just there.” Notice how easy it is to give in and “do the same old shit,” and how often you wish you were different.
Then, have a breath, and ask yourself, “What one thing, right now, can I choose to do differently?” Then! Do. It.
It‘s the Zen of moment-by-moment choice!