The other day I was talking to an acquaintance of mine. She is a woman I met recently, and we have an occasion to bump into each other once in a while. I had asked her how her recent weekend was, and she explained that she had finally broken up with her boyfriend of many years. She seemed to exhibit an extreme feeling of lightness and relief when she described the breakup. Normally when you hear people talking about a breakup, they are sad, angry, frustrated, victimized. But not this lady. She was ecstatic, because the relationship had gone on much longer than she’d wanted to. I’m sure you know somebody that is in a relationship that, on one level, they realize it’s not very healthy, but on another level they don’t really have the courage to extract themselves from it. Such is the nature of human problems. They never are straightforward, or easy.
Despite the fact that she spent the last weekend happily removing any remembrance of him from her house, she was going to celebrate by going out drinking with her friends. She then explained that was the one thing that she and her ex boyfriend had in common, an affinity for alcohol. Then went on to explain some other lingering problems in her life, and was explicit in her reasons for drinking. It allows her to forget the stresses and worries of the day. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of forgetting the stresses and worries of the day. Too much focus on what’s ailing you (and believe me, all of us have something ailing us) will generally only make things seem much worse than they are. And I also fully appreciate the fantastic effects a few drinks can have on your mood. I’m a scotch on the rocks man myself.
But when she continued describing her plans to go out until the wee hours of the morning, she started seemed to lose her happiness. As she described how she usually dreaded the day after, as once she starts, she can’t really control herself, it became apparent that this might not be the best strategy for stress relief, at least not for her. All doubts disappeared when she voiced one of the biggest killers to human happiness:
“I want to quit, but I can’t.”
That short sentence sums up the vast horrors of personal emotional suffering. I want toâ€¦.but I can’tâ€¦.or I need toâ€¦. But I can’tâ€¦ Or perhaps the most insidious, I have toâ€¦.but I can’tâ€¦.
Why are certain problems so difficult to get around? Some have called these paradoxical problems because as much as we want to get rid of them we are receiving some kind of benefit from perpetuating them, no matter how ludicrous or illogical it may seem.
One way to get to the heart of this is a mind experiment called “Parts Integration.” What this technique does is dig down beneath the reasons for holding on to behaviors that don’t seem to be helpful, and finding out the hidden benefit in them. Once you figure out the hidden benefit, you can find other ways to fulfill it. When can find better ways to do this, the unwanted behavior has no reason to stick around, and vanishes.
This kind of procedure can be best done with somebody else guiding you, but it’s not necessary. Here are the basic steps. (Be forewarned, it’s kind of goofy and requires liberal use of your imagination, such as having a two-way conversation with different parts of yourself.)
Ask the “part” of you that is responsible for the behavior to come out. Hold it in your right hand.
Ask the “part” of you that wants to stop the behavior to come out. Hold it in your left hand.
Keep asking the two parts their underlying reasons for doing what they are doing. Ask these “parts” questions like “Why is that important, what is important about that?” It’s important to be open for whatever answers present themselves, and to be accepting that grateful for the answers that do come. You will usually find that the part in your right hand is likely using a very old strategy to keep you safe and protected.
For example, you overeat because you feel good, you feel good so you won’t have to express yourself, and you don’t want to express yourself because you might get rejected. So in this case, overeating s (the bad behavior in this example) serves to protect you from getting rejected.
The part in your left hand wants you to stop eating because it’s not healthy. Being unhealthy will make you unattractive, and being unattractive will cause you to be shunned by others, and this will cause you your rejection.
In the above (way oversimplified) example, you find a place where both “parts” want the same thing, but they are each going about different ways to achieve it. Once “they” realize this, you can ask them to work together, and figure out a way that is both healthy, and will keep you safe and free from rejection. You ask the two “parts” to work together, and then bring them both to your chest. You then breathe in deeply and feel gratitude for this new relationship between the parts.
You may have to try this a few times before it “sticks,” but you’ll be amazed how freeing this exercise can be. Having patience pays off in this case. You find subtle shifts in the motivations that drive your behavior over time. Behaviors that you’ve had for a while can take some time to fully release, but it is absolutely possible to change your life around completely with this “procedure.”Â There are many videos and resources available to help you get through this. This is but one of the many tools that are available to you that will allow you to unlock your potential.
Once you decide to make it a habit to always explore ways to improve yourself and your world, you’ll be light years ahead of where you used to be.