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On the Use of New (Psychological) Tools
If Iím trying to build something, say, a dog house, Iím going to need a variety of tools to get the job done. Probably a saw and a tape measure, a hammer and some nails, if Iíve gone so far as to draw up a plan, Iím styling!
Whatís more, if I acquire a power drill and some long screws which will do the same work more easily and sturdily, my hammer and nails donít go anywhere. They donít disappear or lose their function. This may seem obvious, but itís a point I feel compelled to draw often, specifically in terms of psychological or behavioral tools.
One of the most common forms of resistance to introspective learning is a form of dogged loyalty to old, well-worn ways of being. We are all learning creatures, though itís had to keep it in mind all the time. Who we are and what we know are not permanent but fluid, totally determined by experience.
Now, obviously we donít have total control over our experience, however we have a great deal more control than most people know or exert. Many people assume the life-skills they learned in their childhood will be sufficient to inform their entire lives, but they rarely recognize it. Itís not until someone asks them to step outside of patterns they developed as a child that it becomes apparent, and even then they can choose to ignore it.
When I was a child, I was quiet, small, well-behaved, and consequently easy to ignore. I bear no anger towards my parents because I know how hard it is to be a parent, they gave me their loving all. They didnít know that I didnít know how to ask for the things I needed, but they realized they couldnít reward my crying forever. Eventually, I cried so much they stopped listening. I would cry and cry in my bed, hoping one of them would come in and ask me what was wrong, help me and make me feel better. Of course, they rarely did. The feeling of being unheard and uncared for followed me into my ďunconsciousĒ early twenties when I would occasionally revert back to this method, which remained ineffective and self-defeating. I didnít learn to introspect until I was around 25 at which time I realized I had been sabotaging friendships and romances by acting like a child. What I needed was a new set of tools.
Acquiring new tools is even more difficult than shopping at Home Depot, if thatís believable. As toiling as it is to wander around for miles in the store being dodged by employees, changing a habitual thought or behavior pattern is even more-so! Some have suggested that there is real tearing and rebuilding of nueral structures, like when building muscles, that manifests the pain of changing on a physical level. But like with muscle building, the alternative is weakness!
I, therefore, set about acquiring new tools, that is, learning new, effective ways to get my needs met. I learned how to ask for help without feeling like a burden or a failure. I learned that I could truly just tell loved ones how I felt, I didnít have to ďshowĒ them. I learned that part of self-respect is being respectful to others and part of being respectful toward others is self-respect. I learned how to control my defensive reaction to criticism so that I could actually improve what I was doing rather than just defending it. I learned that true courage means allowing myself to be vulnerable sometimes; that strength doesnít come from avoiding struggle but by overcoming it.
That being said, donít think for a moment that old ďtoolĒ is gone. Oh no no no! Every once in a while, if Iím upset enough (unconscious enough) I go right back to it! I drop all my shiny new, hard-won tools and revert to the plastic Tonka wrench Iíve had since kindergarten!
DO NOT WORRY about your old tools magically disappearing! When you learn new ones, they are simply added to your vast collection. And the more tools you have, the more projects you can complete and the more refined your work!
Both in life and carpentry.