On the Corner
Doin’ a “geography”
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –
I love New Year’s resolutions.
In fact, I love them so much I often make the same ones every year. For some reason, I don’t seem to love keeping New Year’s resolutions.
That’s a problem.
You see, I seem unwilling to change my worldview, my interpersonal style, the values that guide my choices. Therefore, while I might have sought change in relation to my behavior, the New Year’s resolution method does not address the fundamentals necessary to stimulate any profound change in me. I have not accepted that I need a new lifestyle.
I still procrastinate.
So—I get out my handy-dandy notebook and start to write “I will leave for appointments earlier” 500 times. But this seems very time consuming, so I put that notebook away and go to my other notebook—my computer. It goes much faster that way. I only have to press the copy button. I need to perceive the disrespect I show others in my selfish tardiness.
I still drive too fast.
Gotta fix that. I’ll look at my speedometer more. Sure! I won’t check my rear view mirror as much. Sure! I’ll listen to the plaintive pleas from passengers—mainly Diane. Her, I will hear and respect in everyway—at least for a few miles. Maybe a good stiff ticket will get my attention. Probably only for a little while. I need to understand that my speed places countless others in serious jeopardy.
I still eat too much red meat.
I suppose I like to chew, and it tastes terrific—especially medium rare. I know—I won’t go to any more steak houses. Not enough. I need to gain more insight concerning my own health.
Etc. etc.—and then some.
The term “doin’ a geography” entered the vernacular through addiction recovery. I suppose many alcoholics and addicts have tried to deal with their addiction simply by moving from one city to another, or one location to another, or one job to another, or one wife to another, etc. etc, and then some. It doesn’t work in recovery, and it doesn’t work anywhere else—unless the individual works to change attitudes, beliefs, identity and work ethic, and shifts an entire cultural orientation.
I guess addicts and the rest of us believe that those parts of our lives we hope to change with a resolution are caused by events external to us. What we don’t realize is that the problem is internal. External solutions can’t solve internal problems. We carry the problem with us wherever we go. If you’re going to deal with a habitual problem, your remedy has to be more profound—deeper. You must explore the roots of your thought patterns.
That’s why the 12-step program begins first with awareness that one has a problem. I suspect I believe I don’t have a procrastination problem. I seem to be able to “get by” delaying right up to the last minute. If I didn’t have deadlines I’d never get these columns written. I need to deal with my assumption that “getting by” is good enough. I haven’t done the first step, yet I don’t have full awareness that I even have these problems.
My awareness has elevated since talking to you. I think I’ve got a start on dealing with my resolution issues because increased awareness happens internally.
I’m pretty sure that sin works that way. Take the liar, for instance. Liars believe that protection of their fragile self is more important than the truth. We try to inhibit lying with rules—like “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” We’ve got a bunch of rules to run society, and they are important. BUT…they are externals. We know that something is “wrong,” but other motives seem more powerful.
Often, lying works—people tend not to check up on testimony—or explanations about conduct unbecoming. Therefore, the liar is positively reinforced while hiding behind the false protection of an untruth. Until the liar increases awareness of what these reinforcers are leading him or her toward, change won’t happen.
Rules will not save us.
They give us a list of do’s and don’ts. They won’t put us on the right track to recovery.
We must teach children the rules. They need specific instruction on what to do and what not to do. Adults are not children. Their potential for moral development is much greater. Adults need to understand why a rule exists and why a person might have a desire to ignore it.
Jesus had this point of view.
When discussing the law he made it clear that the law, the rules, were external to us—that we had to deal with the internal causes—the thought patterns, the feelings, the craving, the habits. Adultery, he said, is a function of the mind—of preliminary thought triggers that result in behavior that becomes habitual. Behavior is a product of thought—unless it’s a reflex, and reflexes are stimulated by old brain material designed to facilitate our survival.
So—be concerned about your resolutions—but don’t look on the surface of the do’s and don’ts. Get inside. Figure out the internals that make the resolution important to you.