New Year’s Resolution: Let it Be

A fever for change hits us all — to get healthier, slimmer, more productive, to be better people, whatever that means to us. To start again. But is this not aggression against ourselves? And does violence not breed violence?

Forgive me if I misquote, but I do believe Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, wrote something like this, “the desire to change is an act of aggression against oneself”.

I do not have my books or the internet to hand to check it, but this sentence has taken root in my mind. It seems particularly relevant right now, as a fever for change hits us all — to get healthier, slimmer, more productive, to be better people, whatever that means to us. To start again. There is a positive impulse here, maybe a visualisation of ourselves as we would like to be, as we feel we “really” are, underneath our layers of laziness and indifference and our compulsive worrying and running around following our own or other people’s demands. There may be a very real need to change dysfunctional behaviours, kick addictions, etc.

But as we all know, violence tends to breed violence. Rejection of ourselves is unlikely to lead to healthy feelings of self esteem. Judging what we do as imperfect, identifying it with ourselves — i.e. thinking that there is something inherently wrong with us, and then trying to force this imperfection out — may achieve some limited, specific results, but it is not going to lead us to be the people we want to be in the long run. For a start, perfection is a state that does not exist in human nature.

There is a tendency, however, which I have certainly observed in counselling, for people, once they accept their own feelings and thoughts, without necessarily identifying with them all, to naturally do things a little differently, more in accordance with how they feel and think. A certain sense of ease comes, which is probably most people’s goal in “changing themselves” anyway. They want to feel happy. They want to feel at ease in their own skins.

In my view this kind of natural change cannot be planned or forced any more than you can make yourself fall asleep on cue. What we can do is accept our thoughts and feelings in all their messiness. They are there. It’s alright. We can hold them all. We tend to find then, that the bad stuff arises and passes again. An attitude of warmth towards ourselves works wonders.  Happy new year!

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