I don't know for you, but when I'm on vacation, I always end up immersed in metaphysical musings. Is it because I don't get my intellectual stimulation from work? Is it because I am released from my sometimes unavoidably monotonous routine? Is it because of the books I chose to read during said vacation? It seems like I cannot avoid ending up in deep cogitation: whether I question the meaning of life in general, or my life choices and direction in particular, my mind is full of question marks, and the pool of potential answers suddenly seems to widen.
|Lobsters might be what I need the most...Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 2013|
When I'm on vacation, the sky is the limit!
The last time I was on vacation, I read books on simplicity and frugality; those readings gave me a sense of serenity about the material sphere AND got me started on getting rid of stuff. How liberating!
This time, my readings all seem to converge toward the use of intuition. What in particular drove me to pick books that tout the merits of following your intuition? My intuition, most likely!
My intuition and I have had a complex (if not complicated) relationship for the longest time. I blame my degree in psychology. All the non-scientific, esoteric beliefs I could have been entertaining up to then quickly dissolved as I learned to trust only critical thinking, empirical observations, and the Cartesian system. We were taught to toss away all our intuitive feelings about anything pertaining to human psychology, told they were usually misleading, and invited to rely instead on reliable research results. The interesting thing, a lot of our intuitive feelings about human psychology ARE wrong, and quickly disproved by scientific studies!
For example, between those two popular sayings, can you say which one is true, and why:
- Birds of a feather flock together
- Opposites attract
Would you know the answer? And that's just one very simple example. Most of us actually have no idea how distorted our perceptions are! My studies in psychology taught me exactly that: how the numerous, often unconscious, psychological processes that distort reality right in front of our eyes in order to make it easier to swallow (e.g. cognitive dissonance) completely elude us most of the time.
In the end, what I learned is that you cannot trust your intuition! And, proud of my newly acquired scientific approach, I discredited anything that couldn't be demonstrated and replicated.
This has left a trace in my brain for all those years, and as much as I want to learn about how to use and trust my intuition, a big part of me just wants to resist!
|Do I follow it or not?|
After all, listening to your inner voice sounds like a good idea... but what if it tells me to eat a second serving of ice cream? What if it tells me to play that video game "just a little longer"? What if it tells me to dump my secure, well-paying job, to pursue a very "iffy" venture? What if it tells me to give my phone number to that hot guy who's been pursuing me? (Considering the fact that I'm in a relationship.) What if I end up chasing the wrong thing (or person)?
I believe the distinction lies within the deep motivation that feeds into the specific "inner voice message".
If it all arises from pure intuition, then there's a good chance your inner voice is telling you what would be best for you. Maybe you're not happy in your job, and need to take risks in order to find a more fulfilling occupation. Maybe you're not happy in your relationship, and need to close a door in order for another one to open. As scary as those thoughts can be, and even though none of those decisions should be taken lightly, in cases such as those we ought to at least listen to our inner voice. Just in case it's right about something.
In many situations, however, the inner voice is mistaken. There's no way having more ice cream could do one any good, except for the very immediate, and very ephemeral, pleasure. Since that pleasure can have significant side effects if you indulge too often, there is legitimate reason to be cautious about that kind of message: is my inner voice truly speaking through intuition, and telling me what I need, or is it telling me a lie, avoiding my true need and disguising it into a completely different need? A good example of this is when you think you're hungry when in fact you are tired, thirsty, stressed, sad, or bored.
In those cases, eating has nothing to do with intuition, and everything to do with compensation. You are compensating with an unhealthy behavior because another need hasn't been answered. In compensation, you are not addressing the issue at all, but rather covering it up with an alternative behavior. If that behavior has no adverse effects, then the only drawback is that you are not taking care of the initial problem (which is an important drawback nonetheless). Unfortunately, many compensatory behaviors do have adverse effects.
If you do that kind of thing repeatedly, the compensation behavior can turn into worse: a compulsion, and then an addiction.
This system applies to anything you feel you have lost control over. Alcohol consumption comes to mind, but emotional eating, compulsive shopping, gambling, or overuse of the Internet fit this scheme perfectly as well. Any type of "drug", really.
How do you know you're compensating? The only way to tell is to learn to read between the lines when your inner voice tells you something. To pause and wonder "What am I really feeling right now? What do I really need?" When I'm still on the computer at 10:30 pm, and suddenly feel a craving for sweets, I know it means I'm due to go to bed.
|Make sure you understand the language |
your inner voice is speaking
Cape Breton, 2013
How do you know a certain behavior has become a compulsion and/or an addiction? Simple: when you can't refrain from doing it. No matter how good your intentions are. You can't help it. Other indications you have a problem:
- behavior interferes with your daily life (activities, responsibilities)
- behavior leads to legal, financial or relational problems
- behavior becomes partly clandestine (you hide how much of it you actually do - e.g. you conceal your booze or candy, and consume it when nobody else can see you; then hide all signs of you having it)
We all know the first step is acknowledgement, but what are the next steps? For that I would like to introduce the Prochaska transtheoretical model. When something needs to change, we usually go through the following stages:
- Precontemplation (not ready)
- Contemplation (getting ready)
- Preparation (ready)
- Action (acting on it)
- Maintenance (maintaining the changes)
This model could become the foundation of your long-term plan! For more on it, check the following link:
Personally, over the course of my life, I've gotten rid of the following compulsions/addictions:
- video/computer games playing
- a tic (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-p-connelly-dds/cheek-biting-_b_818047.html)
- my consumption of sweets
Those were not easy feats, and it took me a while before I saw significant improvement, but it did happen and so there is hope!
Now the compulsion/addiction I have to work on these days is my use of the Internet, and my writing. One could argue that writing a lot does not have any other effect than producing a lot of written material, but I disagree. In the past couple months, my writing has been getting in the way of other, important aspects of my life. And so, as of today, I will decrease the frequency of my posts from an average of 15 a month to about 8 a month (an average of 2/week). I am telling you this, readers, because I need the accountability for my actions, and because the number of posts I write is very easy to track. I will also decrease my overall use of the Internet.
And while we're at it, I will channel my energy and my creativity toward something I've been wanting to do for a long time, namely, submitting more articles to magazines, and putting together that friggin' book I want to write! This way there will still be some writing, but it will be more goal oriented. Talk about a useful reframing of behavior.
I also want to find other ways to share what I have to say, other than in the written form. Since I believe in action, and since contemplation cannot go on forever, I have already taken tangible steps toward that goal. As soon as I see results I will let you know.
Please check on me so I don't slack off!
- Do you listen to your intuition?
- Where does it take you?
- Any examples of compensation, compulsion and addiction in your life? (you can post your comment anonymously!)
- What are you doing about it?
- If you are in the process of making some changes in your life, what Prochaska stage are you at?
- How are you going to move on to the next stage?
- Any other "vacation cogitations"?