As we talked about in Part 10 (post #124), Rational Self Analysis centers on clarifying for yourself Who You Really Are. What do you love doing? What interests or fascinates you? What are your values? What would you like to be doing in, say, 3 years?
There are tons of “Who You Really Are” exercises out there, and they all work in basically this way – clarify what you love or find meaningful, and then break that down into specific behaviours that align with that vision and will carry you closer to living that kind of life.
Then, you focus on building those behaviours into daily habits. And BOOM, you’ll be spending more of your time engaged more zestfully with your life. You’ll start to feel better about yourself. You’ll start to experience successes as your efforts start to pay off, probably in small ways at first, such as reconnecting with your friends, or feeling more energetic, or having a cleaner house, or being more successful in your career, etc. And after a while, sitting on your couch and engaging in your “vices” will not be as alluring as it once was. You’ll be living larger than that, and you won’t want to go back to the mediocrity you used to hide behind.
Once you get that far, your own innate yearning for growth will carry you forward. Your feelings of passion and purpose will carry you forward. Your healthy pride in yourself that you’re living a good life, will carry you forward. The intrinsic joy you feel when you enter states of Flow more readily, will carry you forward. The trick is to start that upward spiral in the first place, and sustain it long enough that it truly becomes Who You Are.
This is beautiful, isn’t it? What a great way to see people, as intrinsically growth-oriented, as innately capable of, and desiring to, live their best life. This is quite different from the Instagram-fuelled feeling of comparative lack that is so easy to succumb to, the “should-ing yourself” mentality that comes from feeling that you “should” make changes. While that kind of comparative, extrinsic motivation CAN focus you on goals, it’s a shitty way to accomplish this, and it tends to lock you into a “self-improvement mentality” that becomes a treadmill that goes nowhere.
Instead, tapping into your authentic yearning for growth is fundamentally healthy. You don’t have to compare yourself to anybody, or achieve what someone else has achieved. Fuck that shit.
This is about YOU, living the way your heart most deeply desires. It’s about YOU finding your life more meaningful. It’s about learning to intuitively connect with that which makes your heart sing. And if you’re doing THAT, then who cares how much someone else has accomplished? That don’t mean shit, for your own enjoyment of your precious days. Just be happy with who you are, and in order to get there, the first step is to plug into your own personal, idiosyncratic Authenticity.
You’re already beautiful, deep down inside. But you might need some help finding that beauty, and aligning yourself with it.
Doing The Thing
The specific approach I’m going to follow here is based on a therapeutic system called FACT – Fast Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This is some powerful shit.
Now, if you have access to a skilled therapist, then do this with them. But I appreciate that not everybody has access to a therapist, and most certainly, not every therapist is all that skilled. If you’ve “tried therapy” in the past and it didn’t do much for you, it could be that you had a not-so-skilled therapist (something I plan to blog about someday), or that it simply wasn’t the right fit for you. Finding a good therapist is like dating. Er, without the sex. Hahahahahaha…..
But seriously, a “good therapist” depends largely on the “fit” between you and them; once you find a person you can trust and feel open with, you’re out of the starting blocks. But if you don’t have that, therapy is almost entirely a waste of time, and can even be counterproductive. You’ll feel like you “tried therapy and it didn’t work”, and you’ll either come to the conclusion that therapy sucks and is useless, or that you suck and are beyond help.
Think of therapy like dating. If you go on enough dates, sooner or later you’ll find someone you vibe with. So if you have the resources, then do this, for sure. A good therapist is GOLD. But if you don’t have the resources, that’s fine too; you can do this on your own. It just might be a little bumpier of a ride. But hey, this is your life we’re talking about here. You can do it. So forge ahead, my friend; a better life awaits!
I’m going to split this into 3 exercises that, together, comprise the essence of the FACT approach to healthy behaviour change. But you have to DO these exercises. You’re going to need a notebook, and some chunks of time, like maybe 15-30 minutes for each exercise. It’s not THAT much time, especially when measured against the decades that will slip by in mediocrity if you don’t at some point get your shit together.
So as we go through each exercise, DON’T JUST READ THEM!! FILL OUT YOUR NOTEBOOK!! Reading about these things, but doing nothing, is useless. It’s like reading a cookbook, but not cooking anything. You can’t eat words….
So, step-by-step, get your notebook, and DO IT.
A Final Thought About How Powerful This Is
Before we get down to business here, I have to encourage you just a little bit more. This really is some powerful shit. Even though it’s just 3 little exercises in a notebook, this CAN, for real, change your life.
Many people think that in order for therapy to be effective, it has to take a long time. Early approaches, like psychoanalytic approaches, reinforced that viewpoint, keeping people in therapy for years and years. And while I fully respect that long-term therapy can be profoundly liberating, it is simply not the case that it takes that long to turn your life around.
In fact, FACT was developed out of research that showed that the average person who went to a therapist spent — well, guess how many sessions the average person spends with a therapist? (NOTE: For statisticians out there, I’m really talking about the modal person, not technically the “average”.)
What do you think? 10? 15? At least 5?
And it’s because most therapists spend the first session doing fuck-all but asking you a bunch of generic questions about yourself. Before they develop any sense of trust with you, before they TALK with you like a human being, they go through a checklist of shit that is basically useless. Seriously. I have had more than one therapist spend our first hour doing nothing but sketching out a family tree, 3 generations worth, asking me for all the health and psychiatric conditions of the various people on my family tree. And yep, that was the only hour I spent with those therapists.
Other therapists spend their first hour asking largely standardized questions about your symptoms, so they can “diagnose” you according to the checklists provided for them by the psychiatric Bible, the DSM (the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” – yippee, sounds like they really want to get to know you like a human being, eh?).
That kind of bean-counting is not therapy. It’s corporate-funded drivel, designed to do very little but figure out what medication to prescribe to you, in order to “alleviate” your symptoms, while ignoring the underlying causes of those symptoms.
I have pretty much zero respect for this brand of “therapy”. I think it’s made the world a much worse place, taking people in their most vulnerable states and turning them into passive consumers of psychiatric drugs that do little (in most cases) except temporarily alleviate symptoms while generating billions of dollars in profit for drug companies. In short, it’s bullshit.
But it sure is great at generating profits; have you ever wondered why drug companies make so much money, but people are still depressed, anxious, and dysfunctional? It’s because this system is designed not to HEAL you, but to turn you into a drug-consumer, reliant on the companies to supply you with your “fix”. Because drug companies don’t make any money from happy & healthy people…..
(Having said all this, I do believe there is a role for medication in helping people function better. In short, medication is helpful for some types of dysfunction, and it can be helpful for others in a short-term sense, giving them a temporary “step up” in their functioning so that they can adequately engage in other forms of therapy that will teach them the skills they need to live healthier lives. But, in my opinion, that’s it. For the vast majority of people who are prescribed psychoactive medication long-term, it’s a scam. What most people need is better life skills that will help them manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours more effectively; they don’t need external chemical alteration of their neurotransmitters.)
If I had the power (like if I was Benevolent Dictator of the World or something….), one of my first acts (after getting rid of nukes), would be to ensure that all people had free therapy by psychologically-informed practitioners. It would likely start with exercise and nutrition counseling, as well as mindfulness-based guidance in how to “lean into” and accept difficult emotions. This would, profoundly, change the world.
So let’s circle back to FACT. The basic reason for developing this therapeutic approach, was the recognition that the modal client spends ONE session with their therapist, before quitting. So, what can be done to make that ONE session maximally impactful?
You already know the answer – it’s Authenticity. If the therapist can, in that first hour, connect people to their own deep, innate knowledge of themselves, they can help them tap into their already-existing wisdom of how to live a better life.
This is why I think FACT is so beautiful. It trusts us, each and every one of us, to know what’s best for us, once we take that first step of getting past our own defensive bullshit, and facing our deep, honest, self-awareness. Because, “deep down inside” most of us already know whether we’re living optimally, aligned with our values. And we already know the key things we need to do to “level up” and point ourselves in a healthier direction. FACT has enormous faith in the Inner Goodness of each and every one of us.
The bulk of what we need is some help, some emotional support, some skills-training, in clarifying for ourselves what we already know, and creating a plan for our lives that is aligned with Who We Really Are.
The only real obstacle in our way is, ironically, our own desperation to IMMEDIATELY feel better. (Which is the focus of the next post.)