Staring at It Won’t Change It
At an earlier stage in my life, it was pointed out to me that I was fixated on everything that was wrong in the world. The observation was made at a dinner party with friends and wasn’t mean spirited. Since I had never noticed that pattern in myself for myself, I reacted predictably. I denied it.
The comment had struck something inside me though — created a disturbance of sorts — generated a peculiar type of mental nagging that demanded me to do something about it. The truth often works on us like this.
The truth doesn’t so much clamor for our attention as much as once it is pointed out, it just won’t go away.
So I conducted a little experiment on myself. Using lines and slashes to tally the frequency of my wrong-finding thoughts or statements, I kept a count on myself for a whole day (yeah, I know). I gathered the raw data without censorship, editing, or fudging and when finished, conceded the point. There were 177 instances of me remarking or thinking about something that was wrong with this or with that or with them . . . specifically and generally. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was amazing how adept and dedicated I was to finding faults. Even the positives I saw were quickly qualified by the negative I was sure was coming next.
This realization was an “Aha!” moment of the unpleasant variety. Very unsettling.
You see, I had always considered myself to be a very constructive and positive person. Not that I was particularly happy. In truth, I couldn’t understand why I was always so agitated. Nevertheless, my whole purpose behind finding the faults, the underlying reason that I gave myself for pointing all this stuff out, was so that the problems could be fixed. Even in myself. Then, perhaps, I would feel better . . . be happier.
Somehow in my thought processes back then, I had confused and convinced myself that ‘seeing’ a problem clearly was the same thing as ‘doing’ something about it.
I stared at the problem(s) and couldn’t understand how they remained unaltered by my intense scrutiny. I was a pain in the ass to many who knew me. I was frustrated and depressed with myself. I hadn’t yet learned that, in life, what you focus your energy on grows.
For sure, recognizing a problem is both initial and necessary.
However, being willing to step into the possible solutions is the only path to relief and joy.