Change, Failure and Discouragement
July 6, 2022 • Conversations on the Spiritual Path
People think that change is binary but it is not. It is not an on and off switch.
If you break an addiction or a habit you abhor for a while then there is a very high chance you will relapse at some point in the future. Should you have worked with yourself in a deep and sincere way to break the addiction then the relapse may not be as intense.
But it most likely will recur over and over until it finally never happens again if you continue to work at it each time it recurs. Everything goes in cycles….as long as you’re doing the work to change the patterns you want to change then each cycle will be less intense. A clear sign that you are making progress.
Often people don’t understand this process. Because their habit relapses they feel disappointed in themselves. They feel like they have failed when in fact, they have not. They feel discouraged because they had worked hard at overcoming it, enjoyed a period of victory then relapsed into the same habit again. Some people even beat themselves up about it ⸺ mentally, emotionally and verbally chastising themselves for their failure.
We do it because we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and we don’t understand how the mind works. We have, in recent decades, become accustomed to things (technological things that our lives are immersed in daily) that have the capability for instantaneous binary changes. We take that same expectation, apply it to our lives and guarantee failure and disappointment for ourselves.
If the app I am using has a problem I may most likely have to update the app, relaunch it or delete and reinstall it. One of these acts usually suffices in solving the issue. Often the problem is then gone forever. An almost instantaneous binary change has occurred.
We, however, are not digital software. We don’t work the same way. If we have an issue or problem within us then it is shaped within our subconscious. My guru put it so wisely in this quote of his, “Problems are not problems, they are just subconscious patterns that need to be adjusted.”
This is truly a profound statement and one that empowered me to look at my problems differently. I started to see that my problems were just patterns in my subconscious that I did not like and perhaps others did not like as well. In order to change a pattern I need to reshape it.
The same way an iron smith who is unhappy with the shape of a metal ladle he has just created will now have to heat it up again and then hammer that metal piece into a shape that he desires. This is not a binary process but rather more like kneading dough. A persistent massaging of mental patterns that we don’t like into ones that we do like. Kneading dough is a messy business and so is reshaping patterns in the subconscious. And often after some good mental kneading, our pattern may still have enough elasticity to return to its former shape, bringing about discouragement to many aspirants.
So as you work with the patterns in your subconscious, to remold them into wholesome patterns, be compassionate with yourself. Be patient. Express empathy to yourself. Expect that this process will take time. There will be setbacks. But never give up. Know that the patterns in your mind are no match for your indomitable willpower.
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