I think my subconscious gang-fights with itself in a back parking lot

Happy New Year!!!! I’m so glad it’s 2013.

my subconscious sometimes gang fights with itself in back parkinglots...
I’m Giving You
On Count Of Three
To Show Your Stuff

If you read my post last week, you remember that I was feeling so good, enjoying my kids, excited about the holidays and then I did something that was sure to throw me off of balance.  I skipped my morning practice and ate a whole bunch of cookies for breakfast.  In my post, I described what I did, but over the course of the last week, I was bothered not just because I ate the cookies and had a grumpy day, but because I don’t understand why it is that I did things that on any other day, I wouldn’t even want to do.  Why is it that when I‘m feeling good, really good—on vacation, well rested, excited about holidays and happy with my children, do I act in a way that will surely change my state to one that is not all of those things?

There’s this idea out there that our body wants and likes to maintain whatever state that we are in.  If this is so, (which I find to be true—especially if I’m not doing particularly well) then why didn’t I do all the things that would keep me feeling blissed out? Why did some part of me want to discontinue the state of happy?  I asked myself this question and I thought, “Well, maybe that really happy state is a little uncomfortable because it isn’t a state of balance for you, Amanda.  It is one that is a little off balance in the happy direction.”  What? Seriously? I said that to myself?  I want to be able to enjoy a really happy state for more than one hour without undermining the state by doing things that will throw me off… like binge on Danish sugar cookies. Seriously.

The other thing I noticed about this intolerable happy state is that it felt similar to the “vacation/party/fun times” mindset I’ve known.  In this mindset, I have this idea that I can “get away with” behaving in a way that I know isn’t good for me. These days it’s skipping practice and eating cookies.  Sometimes it is over-boozing.  For a while it was drinking just one more cup of coffee in the morning.   When I think this way (this was totally going around last week), I allow myself to ignore all the things I know about my mind and physiology and I choose to believe that my good-vibrations vibrate at a frequency at which there is no way cookies/coffee/booze could throw me off.  It’s delusional, really, but it’s so familiar.  I’ve done this over and over.  It’s like one side of me, the woo-hoo, party side, is tired of being denied and it’s going  to show the reasonable, balanced, responsible side just what a rebel I am.  It’s not conversation, it’s subtle-body, sub-conscious stuff, so it’s really hard to even be aware of when it is happening.  It all goes down in the dark back parking lot of my system— kind of like where Michael Jackson and his black-leather, zippered, jacket wearing gang fought those other punks that didn’t have a chance. I can’t even get in there… it just happens and then I wonder why I did it again.  (As my cousin, Cammy, pointed out, I wrote a very similar post about cookies last Christmas.)

Is this a matter of staying balanced, self-sabotage, or even more troubling, is there something inside of me that doesn’t think it actually likes or even (cringe) deserves to be that happy?   Is the cookie eating in a state of bliss an attempt to bring me back to a less than happy state because that feels more normal or more appropriate for me– a gal who likes to be happy but has a hard time in that happy place?  This makes me feel so messy and a little hopeless. Somewhere I think i don’t deserve to be happy…ugh.

My wonderful friend, Liz, is visiting and we always have great conversation.  We were talking about this stuff and I confessed  that I might sabotage my own happiness.  She said, with her usual generosity, kindness and wisdom, that there might have been a time when that behavior served me really well.  It might have been a strength that I needed under other circumstances.  I don’t have to know if that’s true to know that her reflection offered me a moment to reframe this problematic anti-happy behavior and feel a little more kindness and generosity with myself.  Sometimes, that shift is the most important part in understanding and loving myself again and as she said this I felt softer and loved and understood. Best friends are the best. happy sigh.

After all this pondering, I still don’t really know why it is that I have a hard time being in a state of really happy or why really happy has a tendency to bring with it delusional fits of me vs. me.  I’m going to give it some more thought because I’d really like to be able to soak in happiness in a big way.  Liz says that it’s our human birthright to feel the full range of human emotion.  If it happens that I wake up rested, on vacation and hearing my sweet children twitter and play, and I’m overwhelmed with love and happiness and goodness, I want to know how to breathe into the overwhelm and come to be fully present.   I’m not big on resolutions, but I have to say, this might be a good one for 2013.

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19 thoughts on “I think my subconscious gang-fights with itself in a back parking lot

  1. I wanted to just throw out there that I have found since I’ve become more aware of what doesn’t make me feel good (wheat, too much booze/sugar/caffeine, not enough exercise), i.e., more in tune with my body as I’ve grown older and have had to be, I’ve become so sensitive to the minute changes one too many cookies will bring on. It’s such a drag! I used to be able to overindulge without really noticing. The upside is that I feel better in the day to day, but the downside is the guilt that comes with doing things I “shouldn’t” do, because they make me feel bad. I think it’s really complicated. Thanks for this post.

    1. Oh, right? Totally. Clean living makes it hard to enjoy those things that we used to do in the name of “fun” or self-medication. Post-indulgence, I’m not a big guilt-monger, but I do roll my eyes and shake my head in exasperation. “Again, Amanda? Seriously?” Thanks for taking the time to comment. I always enjoy what you have to say!

  2. Have you ever rationalized your way into doing what you know to be right? No. We rationalize our way OUT of doing what’s right. The rationalizing is our argument about why it’d be an okay idea to do something when we know better. Combine that with the fact that various cravings are always out there in the tall grass waiting for us, and we’re bound to backslide once in a while. I go against my best interests all the time. I’m going along, doing fine, and I see something that looks like it might make things easier, or that might make me more comfortable, or that might scratch some itch I’m having, and I think of some “reason” and I go for it. Even though I know that I’m going to regret it for the very reason that it means caving in to the habits I want to lose. Then I feel guilty. I wasn’t trying to make myself unhappy – just the opposite. But there it is. And the teachers say, “Yep. That’s the way it works.” This is why it ain’t easy. But, you have lots of company. Anyway… you know all of this. So here’s a practice idea: No matter where you are – in a public place, church, bus station, restaurant, whatever – the next time you want a cookie (or the equivalent), jump straight up in the air, land on the floor in padmasana and immediately begin chanting your favorite mantra at the top of your lungs. Continue until the desire has passed (or until security arrives). Please let me know if this works. Happy New Year! 🙂

    1. Heh, heh. This makes me smile and nod, David. You are so right. Reasons seem so reasonable and glamorous that they can override the quiet feeling somewhere a little deeper that says “Amanda, you know what to do here. You can feel it! YOu don’t need these reasons.” Your padmasana and mantra prescription sounds like JUST THE THING and I love it. Thank you.

  3. Really insightful Amanda. I love it and the honesty, I think we can all relate to this, at least I do at any rate.
    ‘becomingbuddhist’ and David, also made some really valid points – the interesting thing is when we do things that somewhere inside us we know aren’t ‘right” for us, we invertly pretend to ourselves that it’s for our own good. yet sometimes we genuinely dont realise, it can depend on one’s sensitivity and self-awareness among other things. However, I must add that I observed recently that it can often be also a (ahem), laziness of sorts. We, or at least I, I think know by now what I need to do for myself when I’m feeling out of balance, yet don’t always do it. It seems an all-or-nothing type of approach, and when the balance/harmony is there then there’s enough remembrance by the body and calmness and sound decisionmaking by the mind to DO THAT THING THAT EITHER LIFTS YOU BACK UP, RESETTLES YOU OR BRINGS YOU BACK TO BALANCE.
    And yes, it’s so true that it’s exactly at those times of balance that is most important to continue practices which ensure balance, harmony, positivity, clarity etc…lifelong learning!
    These are here I think, to ensure our (loosely termed) progression…if life had no hurdles, what would it be. Stuck and no movement. After all the only permanent thing is change/impermanance.
    Namaste Amanda, love the posts.

    1. What a good comment. I nodded along as I read your words. I especially appreciate your closing– hurdles, choice-making, and knowing what it is that brings us into balance and takes us out are all a part of the inevitable movement of living this lovely life. I suppose it would be pretty boring if we didn’t have some interesting landscape to traverse!

      1. I had another few thoughts about this…The more awareness we bring to our lives, and look inside, the more we do at least, come a little closer to knowing how to live our lives in balance, harmony. Like I said I’d be lying if I said I always do what I know to be good for me, yet I am certainly doing better at this than I was before Yoga became a daily part of my life.
        Another thing that struck me is how, as said above that the body remembers (there’s an excellent post on the Yoga Calm Bog about this), and over time patterns and habits etc develop, some helpful, some not so. However, what this means is that it can work both to our advantage and disadvantage – we ‘slip’ back into old habits because of the repeated patterns that became neural pathways of a sort (unless they are made intensely conscious and changed etc however they are strong patterns). Then, on the positive side in times of unbalance/stress etc. if we have positive habits – then the body also remembers these, and acts, you could say as a reminder (ie suddenly you find that you are doing that beneficial practice/activity that lifts you up/brings back balance). I guess life reflects two different sides to everything on so very many levels (contraction/expansion, Yin/Yang etc..)

      2. The same acts can cause us trouble or be beneficial — totally! this is Klishta/Aklishta… Yoga Sutra 1.5. I think I feel another blog post coming on. I’m going to check out the remembering body post @ yoga calm. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the recommendation. It gets me thinking, too!

  4. Really like this post too. You put into words exactly what I have been dealing with and find hard to understand. “Maybe I don’t deserve to be that happy”… apparently your ego thinks just this. I have read your happiness makes the ego weaker, and that it does want to sabotage you. Scary! I do think I deserve to be happy though, and taking time to become more present is a good new year’s resolution!

    1. Oh, wow. I love this idea that ego and happiness have some sort of inverse relationship. There’s something that can be so complicated in developing, feeding and paying attention to the ego and something very uncomplicated about happiness. That’s what we want more of. Uncomplicated. happiness.

  5. Thank you for this most honest and inspiring post. After a long day of teaching and parenting, I too have been known to wolf down a whole package of Pepperidge Farm Strawberry Verona cookies in about 15 minutes and then wonder why I didn’t stop after the first tier, as is my usual protocol. However, I’m questioning the way you have framed this in “why do I sabotage my happiness” terms.

    There is an implication that if only you had not skipped your morning practice and ate those cookies then you would have better ensured your happiness. And I just don’t know that to be true. Any number of things could have happened to derail that day even if you had stuck to your usual routines. You said yourself that there were dishes and past negative feelings about the holiday and sometimes blowing off a practice and eating a bunch of cookies is the right thing to do, even if it did cause a bit of unnecessary difficulty.

    I’ve observed this same sort of “safe rebellion” pattern in myself as well. Particularly around doing dishes. You see, when I was a kid we had a dishwasher and a maid and I just hate doing dishes. I don’t make excuses and I have worked hard to improve myself in this regard but there are still times when I leave them and my wife feels disrespected. On the rare occasion that they have been away, I let those dishes stack extra high and then am totally annoyed with myself when I’m up late into the night scrambling to get them done before they get back the next morning.

    I don’t see this as sabotaging my happiness, even though I am certainly making things harder on myself in a small way. My point is that for those who have chosen to walk a truly straight and narrow path, there are few safe outlets for rebellion. And it is healthy to find them where we can. Maybe over the holidays when you are with family is the perfect time to let things go a bit. And not feel the least bit guilty about it.

    Its clear that you are working hard to be a good person, and when I read about you waking up in the morning and indulging yourself in some less than ideal behavior because you felt like cutting loose a bit (not like you went on a real bender or anything, just some friggin butter cookies), I can’t help but think that there was nothing wrong there. That the issue is the mind around it more than the act itself. Yeah, you ate too many cookies and maybe put yourself at a disadvantage when you had to deal with all the rest of the holiday s*** you were supposed to be doing, but the idea that we can perfect our behaviors and secure happiness is foolhardy.

    I agree that we need to be vigilant in our efforts to maintain balance, especially when things are going well. But I also think that our efforts need to be non-obsessive and that if, most of the time, we are exercising discipline and keeping to our practice on and off the mat then having a moment of over indulgence is sometimes an appropriate counter-pose.

    I can’t help but think that you are well within the margin of error here. Striving for happiness implies its absence. No need to create a dynamic where we are inherently lacking, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Thanks again for sharing your inquiry.

    1. Oh J. Brown, I like you. I like that you admit to eating too many cookies from crinkled paper cups upon occasion and that you present here, in such a sensible and lovely way, that happiness isn’t actually made or destroyed by the occasional cookie binge. It’s something we have without having to earn it or work for it. That what we do is rarely as significant as how we feel about it and what we say to ourselves afterwards. I checked out your blog– you rock. Thanks for taking the time to reflect and write here. I’ve felt lighter all day.

      1. I’ve got to say, I haven’t stopped enjoying the feeling that I got from reading your comment, J. Brown, and I’ll try to tell you what it is I’m talking about. Its a feeling of security and steadiness that comes from separating behavior from happiness. Actual, real happiness doesn’t actually go away when problematic cookie eating begins. It doesn’t mean that I’m failing or weak or that the behavior makes me less worthy of happiness. That it has to have any impact on happiness at all. I think I’ve talked about stuff of this sort before and I thought that I understood this concept, but I feel it in a deeper way now. What you wrote was just what I needed to be nudged along this path a little further, and I think that’s so awesome. thanks again.

      2. Oh Amanda, I like you too. We are singing the same song. And there is no sweeter sound then to hear you join me in harmony. I have been thinking about our little digital exchange here as well and it is serving to inspire my next two cents. I’ll make sure you see it. Warmest regards.

  6. I really enjoyed this. I had been thinking about rebelling against oneself lately. I do think part of it is culturally instilled in us. It’s cool to be a badass, it’s no fun to do what is always right. I have lived other places where this idea of sabotaging oneself does not even exist. You make choices and then whatever happens after that happens. One choice might make you feel a little better or feel a little happier at the moment, but J Brown seemed to have the right idea in that a number of other things could have shaken your happiness. However, truly our happiness does not depend on our routine or the cookies we eat or don’t eat. Our happiness may be enhanced by these or detracted from. Happiness, true true happiness, is already with us all the time. It’s there when we are smoking that one last cigarette or making the choice to continue smoking everyday. It is the joy within that keeps us steady even when the boat is rocking, even when we are the ones rocking it.

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!! “Our happiness does not depend on our routine or the cookies we eat or don’t eat. Our happiness may be enhanced by these or detracted from. Happiness, true true happiness, is already with us all the time.” I need to put that on my mirror, Jennifer, because this happiness is the kind I’d actually like to connect to. So good.

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