I’ve been tracking the lunar months for a while now. Nick Fiorenza is an astrologer who generously offers a free lunar calendar at his site Lunar Planner every lunar month. He does a little write-up of the month’s theme, which he’s titled “Metamophosis” for this month (scroll down a bit on the page to find it). There are two things in this month’s theme that really resonate with me right now: moving from “lower-order” concerns to “higher-order” concerns and taking deliberate action for positive change.
“Higher-Order Concerns” versus “Lower-Order” Concerns
These are Fiorenza’s terms for a process that involves moving from unhealthy, impulsive behavior to more meaningful, healthy behavior. As an abuse survivor, I was taught many ways to avoid dealing with discomfort. I also think our culture reinforces this with things like non-stop television, on-demand movie watching, YouTube, social media, and junk food abundance. I’m not saying these things are to blame or that they should be abolished, but they feed into that desire to run away from what’s emotionally and practically difficult.
I’m now working diligently on launching my business very soon. I have an ambitious but doable schedule. There’s just one problem–I have to really stick to it in order to accomplish it. That means limiting what I call goofing off, i.e., the above addictive activities and others.
I sometimes wonder why it’s so difficult to do this. I know that what I want to do is way more meaningful than sitting in front of YouTube or Facebook for hours, yet I struggle. Fiorenza describes it this way:
The beast within does not go willingly to the sacrificial altar of the Centaur where such transmutation occurs. Conscious deliberation precedes deliberate action to energetically take hold of lesser self with determination and conviction to willingly choose a path of transmutation.
The part of us that wants to goof off, so to speak, is persistent. Why this is varies. For me, there’s a lot of fear and guilt associated with making my business happen. It will bring things into my life that my abusers taught me I shouldn’t have. It will demand things of me that I’ve never given before and that I fear I don’t have to give. It takes the rug of comfort right from under my feet.
But I know the beast, as Fiorenza calls it, very well because it’s held me back all my life. This business is the fifth I’ve launched in the last 3+ years. The desire to hide from all of the new things that a business forces you to deal with was stronger than my desire to make it a success. I’m determined not to let that happen this time by concentrating on the “higher-order” concerns rather than mourning the loss of the safe-feeling “lower-order” concerns.
Deliberate Action for Positive Change
The other part of this month’s theme that struck me was Fiorenzi’s repetition of the word “deliberate” in writing about it. In other words, positive change isn’t going to happen on its own. We need to take the initiative and make positive choices to bring them about.
This goes hand-in-hand with the beast that represents the lower-order self. When we’re controlled by this part of us, we make unhealthy choices, choices that keep us from achieving what’s meaningful to us and to others. We feel, in fact, controlled by the beast.
I’ve found that dealing with emotions underlying these destructive “beast” behaviors are the key to overcoming them, but the process is complicated. Sometimes the emotions are clear before we goof off. Sometimes they’re clear only afterwards. And sometimes, it takes making healthy choices over unhealthy choices and dealing with the beast’s dissatisfaction with that. All are challenging situations.
For me, this long-standing problem of choosing unhealthy behaviors over healthy ones has been of prime importance for months. It takes a lot of my willpower to choose an action that moves my business forward rather than one that saps my energy and leaves me with nothing meaningful in return.
Making my business launch schedule has helped a lot. I now know exactly what I need to be doing each day. It doesn’t make choosing to do those things much easier, but it does provide the basis for nagging myself to do them. For the past week, I’ve been following through on it, making the better choices, and it’s scary.
This came up in a dream I had a few nights ago. I was in a store in Japan because I wanted to buy new shoes. The woman who owned the store gave me a pair. I tried them on but they felt rather cheap, and I was suspicious that they wouldn’t last long.
The shoes in this case represent progress, or perhaps more accurately my approach to progress (note that shoes don’t walk but they allow us to walk further and with greater comfort). The ones I try seem to me not to be able to last me for long. In other words, the progress I’ve been making on my business in the past week feels to me unsustainable.
I think this is the sort of brain training that happens in many abuse survivors. We come to believe we’re not capable of things, and even when we see evidence that we are, the brain signals continue to fire off the same messages just because that’s how it’s been trained. This is also why sheer willpower isn’t enough to bring positive change. Those negative brain signals are stronger than pure willpower and will either bring our progress to a halt or make everything we do distasteful.
This lunar month is a time to persist in right action, so to speak, and accept the crappy feelings that will come from that. The brain does eventually learn with persistence. My focus this month is going to be on establishing a new routine where I make healthy choices with my time and energy rather than unhealthy ones. I will choose to do what is ultimately meaningful rather than what’s temporarily comforting.
Now You Reflect
- What goals do you want to accomplish in the near future?
- Do you struggle achieving them? If not then stop here because what I have to say next doesn’t apply to you.
- If so, how? In other words, what do you do instead of work on those goals?
- Would making a schedule help? If so, make one and do your best to follow it.
Note: Beating yourself up for violating the schedule, in my experience, won’t help. What does help is accepting that you made bad choices today but tomorrow you can make better choices. Willpower can help as long as you acknowledge the bad feelings that come from both doing what’s meaningful and doing what’s not meaningful.