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18 September 2011

narratives of transformation I really think the binary “let me write a book about this” modality of “I was doing the wrong thing, then I changed, and started doing the right thing” is a somewhat lacking way to approach personal change.[More:]

I mean there’s always the big-ticket items out there (I was an alcoholic then I stopped and it was wrong to be an alcoholic) but as my mindset has become more stable (even happy, what a feeling) over the last couple years I’m finding that for more gradual changes it’s completely ‘off’. Because it’s based on condemnation and a sort of guilt but the truth is I don’t want to cut off that previous version of me.

I’m not sure the cultural trappings in analyzing and effecting change in gradual matters even support an accurate understanding of such things because they’re based on the thing (“stop being ___”) when a lot of ‘things’ are basically interrelated with different feelings/thoughts/approaches/situations and even, well, personal capacity that may not be at a particular level yet. As long as things eventually ‘worked out’ previously (you didn’t end up murdering someone!11) I don’t think you have to forsake a version of yourself (especially cause you might go back and forth in certain approaches/behaviors/etc over long periods of time) you just have to say “this is working better and working out for me now.”

In other words, it was okay what you did then and it’s okay what you’re doing now. That’s the decisions that made sense for you then but now something else makes sense for you. There doesn’t have to be a sort of cleansing with every new phase, you’re still an integrated ‘you’ the whole way through, with a different approach.
"Because it’s based on condemnation and a sort of was okay what you did then and it’s okay what you’re doing now" but with an attitude like that you don't get to be self righteous. I used to be a drug addict, drunk, smoker, sinner, etc. but now I am one of the saved and you should be like me.
posted by arse_hat 18 September | 01:00
I also think having a more resilient ego based on being comfortable with 'suboptimal states' also helps you change rather than get caught in a neurotic mental posture where you either have to defend yourself or 'break' to the new way. It can just be like, yeah until yesterday I had the wrong-fitting suit at work today it's right. Last year I didn't go out of my way to visit a sick friend this year I'm doing it. It's just something I've become more careful about and interested in. I haven't read any fiction since college but now I'm making some time for it. etc. I guess what I'm saying is you can still see the wrong vs. right to something but one should jettison embarrassment or guilt when it's not healthy.
posted by Firas 18 September | 01:57
This is why I think fiction can be more "true" than non-fiction. "also helps you change rather than get caught in a neurotic mental posture" Yup. I think that being saved from your old life and waving your new life's righteousness in the faces of the losers who are still stuck in your old ways often becomes the crutch that replaces the old and now repudiated behaviour.
posted by arse_hat 18 September | 02:25
"Okay" is a variable dependent upon what you consider "okay". Every other person on the planet has a different version of "okay". "Suboptimal" is a particular version of "okay" that you use. If you ask me "wrong vs. right" is just another value judgement that you use to separate self from other.

Useful if that's what you're aiming for, but then isn't the result already decided? There is more to be gotten from starting with a single thought, unattached to value judgements, and working out from there in all directions.

Or perhaps from a concept, or a character.

Or am I totally wrong?
posted by Splunge 18 September | 03:43
I'm not sure I quite follow what you mean. I guess my example is something like, say:

-> Jack is always absorbed and obsessed with work
-> Now he compartmentalizes it better and spends more time helping out and being with people he cares about
-> The memory of the past acutely embarrasses Jack ← this is the step I'm saying to avoid, like, when he was cloistered and busy it's the short term decision that made sense, now it's something he balances out more

so in this example what's the non-value-judgement thought Jack could use to understand his change? Maybe I'm missing what you're saying
posted by Firas 18 September | 04:03
No regrets.
posted by Doohickie 18 September | 09:04
Up until yesterday I was callow, self-absorbed, petulant, moody, paranoid, lazy, unemployable, self-defeating, narcissistic, and snide. Today I'm having toast with butter and honey, and a cup of coffee.
posted by Hugh Janus 18 September | 09:56
Totally agree. In the psychotherapy trade, this is sometimes known as integration, wherein instead of chopping yourself up into parts which condemn each other, your seemingly contradictory ego states can learn to coexist amicably and even appreciate each other. This further allows you empathy with the unsaved since you are not condemning but understanding.
posted by Obscure Reference 18 September | 10:42
Stages of Change:

Five stages of change have been conceptualized for a variety of problem behaviors. The five stages of change are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

Precontemplation is the stage at which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or underaware of their problems.

Contemplation is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to take action.

Preparation is a stage that combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the next month and have unsuccessfully taken action in the past year.

Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, or environment in order to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy.

Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action. For addictive behaviors this stage extends from six months to an indeterminate period past the initial action.
posted by occhiblu 18 September | 13:37
btw I just read my post again and I want to underscore that the examples I gave are hypothetical especially the alcohol one, I should have put that in quote marks or something.
posted by Firas 18 September | 13:49
Me with two friends. || AskMe Crosspost: Can Anyone Recommend A Good Defensive Cologne?