- Cold shower in the morning. Did it then stopped.
- Got up to write in the morning. Did it for a month straight, then stopped.
- Exercise in the morning. Did it then stopped.
I seem to be drawn to reading things on how I can change my perspective about my life in order to improve myself. I want to think myself healthier, think myself happier, and, in some cases, to stop thinking so much and just start doing.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements he presents a simple formula to follow that seems to offer a way for me to combine thinking and doing.
Perhaps, using the term formula is not correct. But I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe a process. A reprogramming. He does use computer terminology, such as, our old agreements being a virus in our programming as humans.
Miguel states that we have agreements within our minds that allow us to accept the ways things are, the negative things we believe, and the way people treat us. And no matter how detrimental those beliefs may be to or for us, we will continue to agree with them.
Miguel says there are four agreements that we can use to combat the negative agreements within ourselves. The Four Agreements are:
Be impeccable to your word
Don’t take things personally
Don’t make assumptions
Always do your best
They seem pretty straight forward and can leave you saying to yourself, “Well, of course that’s all you gotta do. Easy, so easy.”
But you have to explore them deeper, which Miguel does in his book. He explores the depths of what those agreements mean and what you must do in order to adopt them into your programming.
I am aware much more now than I ever was in my past about the negative agreements I hold onto about myself and other people. I know I am folly when it comes to talking to and about myself. My thoughts are not nice.
Over the past few months I have been able to recognize my negative self-talk about me. The power of my rationalization to not do things out of fear. I know better how to recognize my fear. How the fear plays its hand in my decision making.
Fear has played a part in most of the decisions I have made in my life. Fear has powered my rationalization to not speak, not change, and not do.
And I know so much better now that even though I know this, I am not free from the power of fear. I still watch it and let it control me.
I let fear use rationalization most recently to not play my guitar with my friend in his band. He had offered and I had gladly accepted. I’ve played with him several times live in the past. But for some reason I let fear tell me “no” this time. It told me that I wasn’t good enough. That I should go to support him and his band, but I was not good enough to play.
I ended up spending much of that day with my kids at my ex’s house, knowing that I was supposed to play that evening with my friend, but fear told me to stay longer and longer because “I’m not going to play. I’m tired. I can’t solo as well as my friend. My guitar never sounds good. My guitar is a bit dusty from sitting out and my friend my see it and make fun. The other band members will wonder why I’m there and why would my friend invite me to sit in. Just stay here with my kids for as long as I can. I’m not going to play. I just tell my friend I didn’t have time to stop off at home to get my guitar. I’ll sit on my ass and watch him play because I know I am not good enough.”
And that’s what I did.
I let the fear rationalize and put me down and talk me out of playing. And lie to my friend.
The lying makes me feel badly about me. It also makes me upset with myself for letting my fear make me miss out on another experience.
I may not be the best guitar player but I cannot let that be fuel for my fear to stop me from doing something that I really do enjoy doing.
I was not impeccable to my word. I made an assumption about what others would think of me and I didn’t do my best.
Miguel points out in his book is that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.
Miguel also let’s me know to be aware of the Judge, Victim and belief system within me. It is like a Bizarro World Holy Trinity. Not that Miguel describes it that way.
The Judge bestows guilt and shame. The Victim agrees to the verdict of guilty and accepts the shame. The belief system is the agreements that are in place that allows the Judge and the Victim to play their roles.
In the coming weeks and months I will continue to explore and write about how my Fear and the Bizarro World Holy Trinity (BWHT) attempt to keep me from Action.
Some of my thoughts on the Four Agreements.
Be impeccable to your word – I am doing that each morning. I write my three morning pages. I treat my inner artist to creative dates.
Don’t take things personally – This is difficult. As much as I may say to myself, “this isn’t about me” I still think things that happen to me are about me.
Don’t make assumptions – This is part of what I do as a therapist. I make assumptions based on people’s behaviors and what they tell me. If we know what motivates us, or other people, we can make an assumption as to how we will react or respond to situations and people in our lives. This can be very helpful. But it does not mean our assumptions will be true.
Always do your best – I like this one just as much as the first agreement. Miguel says that our best will be different for every situation due to many factors about ourselves including emotions and health at the time we are to deliver our best. Some days our best is not going to be good enough to achieve something that we want.
If we can agree that we did the best we were capable of doing at that time, then we should be satisfied. There should be no looking back. No placing blame or guilt on ourselves because we gave all we had at that time. It is okay that our best isn’t going to be good enough every time. We don’t always have to succeed, get “it” right or be perfect.
We should accept ourselves warts and all.
Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.
I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.
There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.
I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.
And I am worn out.
One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.
And I’m worn out.
In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.
I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.
A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.
And I am worn out.
I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.
I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.
Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.
The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.
I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?
The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.
I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.
It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.
In Damon Davis’s TED Talk, Courage is Contagious, he names fear and courage as having a contagious effect on people in groups. I think not only are those things contagious, they also cause movement in people to act. Act is part of action. Action is what people do, even if you think they are not doing anything. Action is walking towards something or walking away. Even inaction is an action. The stillness we exhibit to think or the standing by as something happens and we do nothing. Desicion to do or not do is an action.
Sometimes inaction causes us to jugde and place shame. Shame on the person who didn’t act how we thought they should act. Shame on them. Because if we were there we would have done something.
But what if doing nothing, inaction, is contagious? Then doing nothing can infected those around it. If fear is contagious and we believe that it is, should we shame others for catching it? Was it their fault?
Maybe they were never inoculated from it. Maybe it has already effected them so much their bodies are riddled with inaction.
We don’t shame others when they get cancer. Why shame someone when they are infected by fear? Perhaps, we can help them get treated. We can help inoculate them with courage. That would mean giving of ourselves to infecting another.
Can we do that?
Shame is thrown too quickly onto others who fail to act within at particular time frame; a matter of seconds. Or onto those who don’t act at all. Assumption and shame are precursors to the spread of fear.
Fear has three symptoms: fight, flight and freeze. You don’t know which fear you or someone else will get or how the body will react. All infections are like that. Unpredictable.
If we can see these contagious behaviors as changeable with support, care and love, then the infection won’t spend so much or so quickly.
We can help each other. I believe we all want to help each other. What infection inside of us keeps us from doing that?
My take away from these thoughts and Damon Davis’s talk is that we have the inoculation already inside of us. Courage. Two easy things we can do to get at it: search within ourselves or search for others who have it.