Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You Can't Change What You Don't Acknowledge

“We’ve got them.”
.......General George A. Custer, on being attacked at the Little Bighorn, 1876

Be truthful about what is not working in your life. If you are unwilling to acknowledge a problem, condition, behavior, or emotion – if you don’t take ownership of your role in the situation – then you cannot and will not change it. If you refuse to acknowledge your own self-destructive behaviors, not only will they continue, they will actually gain momentum, become more deeply entrenched as habitual patterns in your life, and grow more resistant to change.

Imagine your doctor asking you whether or not you’ve been having dizzy spells, and rather than admit it, you say, “Well, no, not really.” What’s going to happen? The doctor isn’t going to address the problem, and you’ll keep getting dizzy. He might treat your sore toe or the ache in your elbow, but because you have lied to him, he may never deal with the underlying problem.

You may remember the movie A Few Good Men. There is a dramatic court room scene in which Jack Nicholson shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!” In our most candid moments, most of us would acknowledge the accuracy of this statement – we can’t handle the truth. Most people don’t want truth, they want validation. They want reinforcements for their thinking, right or wrong. Like General Custer, they seek out people and information that support the conclusion they’ve already reached. The only things they want to hear are things that give them comfort about who they are and where they are right now.

There is something very threatening about acknowledging a problem. It’s like a self-indictment. As long as you never admit your life isn’t working, you can just “coast along.” But once you admit something is not working, you’re also forced to admit that you are the one who has to do something to fix it.

Once you have acknowledged a problem and take ownership of it, living with the status quo becomes more difficult. You have broken through your delusional system; now you have to “consciously” self-destruct, or change. Once you admit ownership of your problem, you cannot hide behind other people.

Make a deal with yourself right now: There will be no lies, no excuses, and no conning yourself about what’s going on. This is not the time to cheat yourself with some namby-pamby self-evaluation. You have to be willing to ask yourself these kinds of hard questions and give yourself honest answers:

Am I living like a loser?... Am I lazy?... Is my life on a dead-end journey, heading nowhere?... Is my marriage in the ditch and emotionally defunct?... Are my kids self-destructing?... Do I have no personal goals?... Am I continually making promises to myself that I never keep?

You cannot change what you do not acknowledge. If you don’t answer self-evaluation questions honestly, then you are not taking ownership and you will never escape it.

You mustn’t be duped by your own self-talk, any more than when you listen to other people.

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