Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jan.4: Responsibility vs. Victimhood, a Grand Choice

Let’s say I get sick. I can blame the people around me with their colds. I can blame the weather. I can blame the government for not getting me a flu shot. I can blame myself for not getting a flu shot. I can blame the doctor’s for not keeping me healthy enough.

Or, I can take responsibility and wonder what I need to change to enhance my immune system so that the next time cold germs come wafting by, I don’t have to buy into the sickness trip. Maybe I need to eat better, to eliminate sugar and white flour. Maybe I need to get inorganic foods out of my diet, to stop stressing my system with chemicals, additives and pesticides. Maybe I need more exercise, more time outside, more time breathing fresh air. Maybe sleeping with a window open at night can get me more fresh air. Maybe I need to sleep more, or have a calmer, less stressed life.

This sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? So, that’s why the blame route is easier, since I just have to feel weak and victimized and complain, but I don’t have to do anything to improve or more healthfully organize myself and my life.

And then there are the bad feelings, which I can blame on the mate who growls at me, or the ever popular “dysfunctional” childhood. This is greatly popular, and Lord knows, many of our childhoods could have had a lot more love and intelligence in them. But, I’m talking good old fashioned, cop-out blame here. I feel bad because my parents did such and such. Or, the moods just come out of nowhere, as if they come from outer space, and I’m just in a bad mood. No one is to blame, I’m just depressed or unhappy or anxious. These things just sweep over me, the victim of certain cosmic flows, or the bad vibes of our times. ( And Lord knows, our society is structured to cut off people from real things, real life, real knowledge, real connection with each other, real connection to now and to nature, and still: if I’m feeling bad is this something I am responsible for, or is “society” the next step up from dysfunctional parents, the always handy object of blame?)

And then, on the other hand, if I’m feeling depressed I can take it to the source: me. I’m depressing me. How? My thoughts, my actions, my lack of breathing, my habits of talking trash to myself, or staying indoors all the time, or my habit of not being in touch with what I really like and love in the moment. But, if it’s me behind my depression, it’s me that can do something about it. For English teachers: if it’s I behind my depression, it’s I who can do something about it.

Either way, it’s my call. I can do the Byron Katie work on my depressing thoughts. I can take a walk and not believe the story I feel “too bad” to do anything. I can go outside or read a book or do something I like, even though the part of me that wants to stay depressed doesn’t have “enough energy.” What is the Byron Katie work? It’s a way of letting out minds ask ourselves, “Is it True?” that I don’t have enough energy. There are more questions. Next section I’ll run it down.

But for now, what a relief to have this choice: the choice to say, hey, if I’m feeling badly, this is something that I am, somehow, doing to myself. Maybe I’m feeling badly because I want to play the piano and can’t. The solution is not to raise my self-esteem. It’s to learn to play the piano and learn to like myself when I set my fingers to the keys and am not instantly perfect. If I feel badly about not being instantly perfect, I can blame my childhood/parenting/education/society.

Or I can see it as one more part of myself that could stand a little clarity and understanding if I am to get out from under the trouble into which I get myself.

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