Friday, October 21, 2011

Upgrading our personalities

"You're the only one who can get a grip on your mind." --Eric Maisel

Spending today with the thinking of psychologist Eric Maisel, whose ideas appear here from time to time. In his workshop lectures on creativity, he has talked twice about the need to upgrade our personalities. We upgrade our computers, our cars, our mattresses. Just yesterday when my phone died, I had a choice between replacing it with a similar model or upgrading (actually for less money). I was tempted to stay with the familiar as I know how it works. But I chose to try something new, something that might work better.

I'm sure you can see where this analogy is going. We stay stuck in our relationships with self and others because things are comfortably familiar, even if they're awful. That was certainly true for me when I was deep into the active part of my alcoholism. My life was terrible: I felt sick all the time, I was in a very painful jealous relationship, I was going nowhere in my career, and yet I knew it all so well that it was easier for many years to stay there and just be in it and make excuses.

Part of sobriety for me has been this process of upgrading, though I didn't know to call it that. It's not just, I don't think, about the natural inclination to move towards what's healthier for mind and body and spirit. It's also about awareness of how we are in the world and how we might be. It's the language and philosophy of possibility, of experimentation, of change.

Many people deride self-help but in the case of our inner selves, the self is all the help we're ever going to have. We can read and talk to others, we can internalize events, but the conscious changes in behavior, and Maisel would say, the changes in thinking and feeling, have to come from inside. Maisel believes that's the good news. That we have much more control over all that internal work than we think we do. I like the choice this opens up.

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