on choice and change

On Change and Choice

Change and choice are not the same. One is pos­si­ble… the oth­er is not.

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This pair of terms are not synonymous. Ben Wong and Jock McKeen talked about the two a lot, and Ben would often say, “Change isn’t possible, but choice always is.“ ‘

This is a hard one to swal­low, as we’ve all been con­di­tioned to believe that change is not only pos­si­ble, but essen­tial.

Let’s be clear here: we’re talk­ing about chang­ing our inter­nal pre­dis­po­si­tions, not, say, some­thing phys­i­cal. Get­ting taller as we grew up, for exam­ple, is sure­ly a change. 

On the oth­er hand, our per­son­al­i­ties are set at a young age; our pro­cliv­i­ties toward com­pli­ance / aggres­sion, cheer­ful / moody, etc. seems to be wired in. That last one is one I’ve strug­gled with.

Melan­choly at 22

I describe myself as melan­choly; I might “do” hap­py, but that feel­ing is fleeting. 

My “norm” is some­where right around neu­tral. And from there, I can and do pulse upward, and can, and have, spi­raled downward. 

Some time ago, I woke up in a blue mood, and cre­at­ed a ter­ri­ble morn­ing. Dar and I were due to head off to Span­ish class, and I was sure I could­n’t, could­n’t make it. 

Dar­bel­la, who has seen me in these moods before, remind­ed me that I could stay home, but stat­ed that she would pre­fer that I went. I wailed and moaned and gnashed my teeth, and then went.

The first hour was tor­ture; I parsed verbs while con­tem­plat­ing deep and dark thoughts. An hour lat­er, my mood start­ed to lift, and by the end of class, I was ready for pizza. 

Now, I’m not mak­ing light of depres­sion, of which this was the skin­ny edge. Been there, done that. I’ve been caught in depres­sion for as long as 5 months–I was as down as far as one can go and survive–numerous times in my adulthood. 

In keep­ing with today’s thought, I just want to say: my nature is neu­tral to blue to deep­er in the hole, and I can’t change that. Not with decades of self-work. Can’t. But I can always choose to get up from my chair of woe, and “go to class,” inter­act with Dar and oth­ers, and see what happens. 

In my example, I made a choice, a one-off choice, based upon… well… the choices I’d made in the past.

I wrote a book­let about this, BTW; about how to deal with depres­sion (or oth­er things you’d like to do dif­fer­ent­ly.) It’s called “The Watch­er,” and it’s avail­able here

Any­way, many are the folk who get stuck on their desire to change, and what with the impos­si­bil­i­ty of that, they get caught in a cycle of plan­ning, try­ing, fail­ing, and beat­ing up on themselves. 

This hap­pens espe­cial­ly in the ear­ly going: they bend their will to their desire to change, and do indeed shift some­thing. Bet­ter results! They get all hap­py and proud of them­selves, and then, boom. The old thing returns.

Well, of course it did. Our inter­nal ten­den­cies make up who we are, and a lot of that stuff is ancient, and impos­si­ble to unearth, let alone get rid of. Miss­ing in all of this is the sim­ple real­iza­tion of what happened: 

  • a) iden­ti­fied an aber­rant behav­iour or belief. 
  • b) thought up and alternative, 
  • c) imple­ment­ed the alternative 
  • d) got dif­fer­ent results 
  • e) liked the new results! But! Here comes the error. 
  • f) thought the issue had been per­ma­nent­ly fixed (that they’d changed.)
And… here I am again!

Nope. All they did was make anoth­er choice, and there­by got dif­fer­ent results. 

The flaw is not rec­og­niz­ing that this new behav­iour will have to be con­scious­ly applied, each time, for­ev­er… or until you die, which ever comes first. 

Choice is ongo­ing, while our stu­pidi­ties are pre­dictable.

Yup. Noth­ing cre­ative about us. All we change is the dance part­ner and the loca­tion. The dumb­ness is con­sis­tent. That does­n’t mean we can’t choose anoth­er path. Noth­ing is stop­ping us from choos­ing. Except us.

This week, notice how often the things you don’t like about your­self are “just there.” Notice how easy it is to give in and “do the same old shit,” and how often you wish you were different.

Then, have a breath, and ask your­self, “What one thing, right now, can I choose to do dif­fer­ent­ly?” Then! Do. It.

It‘s the Zen of moment-by-moment choice!

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