Mental Carpentry and Mindfulness

I want to nail those doors shut against the temptation to re-open them. I am learning that the most effective carpentry technique is to get to the source of why, despite all my best resolutions, I want to go back.

An example: I am currently addressing a temptation to blame others for what goes wrong (and “wrong” is my interpretation) in my life. I have made many vows. I have made conscious decisions that I no longer wanted to participate in the negative thinking lurking behind that door.

It was like a New Year’s resolution. You probably know how well these go. That virtuous conviction that feels so good when you first commit to whatever major change you’re absolutely going to make deflates like a New Year’s Eve party balloon no later than January 2.

I think that’s because the temptation has such a powerful pull. In my case, blaming people is easy. It absolves me of taking responsibility for my feelings, thoughts, and actions. As surely as someone who self-medicates with alcohol or drugs, I surrender personal responsibility.

In other words, escape lies behind that door, and sometimes escape seems irresistible.

Understanding Why

We forget that the behaviors we’ve shoved behind that door once served a purpose. We evolved them to solve a problem. In my case, I experienced some major upsets in a short period of time.

Like all (or most) people, when something goes wrong, I want to know why so that I can keep it from happening again. This is very necessary survival behavior for all species. The deer learns that a human carrying a long piece of metal represents great danger and may develop the ability to sense the threat before its life is endangered.

Humans are hampered by tangled emotions and thoughts directed by an ego with an agenda. This agenda often involves deciding who’s to blame. Survival behavior can be either to avoid this person forever or to fight back.

I was doing the latter—but only in my mind. The low-key chorus in the background sang, “He’s ruined my life, which is hopeless because of him. I want revenge.” And on and on. And I thought I was actually hurting someone other than myself.

Listening at Low Volume

I’m learning to let the chorus sing without getting caught up in its dramatic arias. That means being mindful. It’s owning a feeling without shame. In its ultimate form, it’s unconditional self-love.

And that, I believe, is where we want to be. In that state (I think; I’ll let you know when I’m there), all the doors to past emotions and behaviors can be swinging wide open, but they offer no temptation. We have experienced and accepted their existence. We have faced their darkness, and that allows in the light.