Tuesday 19 May 2015

Why do we do stuff that makes us feel crap? Was Freud right?

from loveyourchaos.tumblr.com
Why do we do stuff that we know makes us feel crap? Why do we hurt our bodies and harm our hearts and minds?

I know what makes me feel good. It's so very simple.  My body feels great when I eat light, easily digestible food (and not too much of it).  When I cut out alcohol and coffee and too much tea.  When I exercise, when I do yoga, when I stretch and sleep well.  My mind smiles when I meditate, my heart smiles when I laugh.
When I'm on retreat (doing all of the above) I feel pretty good.  Last year on holiday in Poland I added lake swimming, cycling and kayaking to the mix and felt fabulous (well, apart from a couple of rogue nights on vodka).

So what happens when I come home?  What's to stop me carrying on with what clearly works? Nobody is making me eat shit; nobody is forcing me to down half a bottle of Cointreau in one sitting. I can't make an excuse of time. I could easily fit in an hour of yoga and meditation; a salad or soup takes little more time to make than a crap sandwich.  Okay, so I can't go lake swimming or kayaking every day but I have weekends, don't I?

It's as if I want to scupper myself; to hurt myself.  Why? Why?

I remember when my (adopted) father was alive.  His doctor told him that unless he radically overhauled his diet and started exercising, he would have a heart attack.  It was that simple.  He chose to keep eating (and eating and eating) and to sit on the sofa.  He had a heart attack - a fatal one.  So, effectively, he chose to die.  It sounds brutal but that's the bottom line, isn't it?

Was dear old Freud right?  Remember, he reckoned that we all have 'an innate death drive' that impels us to pursue our own downfall and death.'

I hate to believe that.  So I started mosying around the Internet and found that what I'm doing is called 'self-defeating behaviour' (nice to have a name for it). It's defined as 'any deliberate or intentional behaviour that has clear, definitely or probably negative effects on the self or on the self’s projects.'

I carried on reading through the psychological literature and, really, it struck me as a load of twaddle. I read about 'trade-offs', about 'self-handicapping', about 'counter-productive strategies'.  I read about how we're more likely to behave in a self-defeating or destructive manner when we have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or emotional distress.  Apparently 'highly distraught' people are more likely than others to do self destructive things. Well, doh.

Then, apparently, there's 'self-regulation failure', a lack of self-control.  When self-regulation is working right, we can prepare for situations and adapt to situations.  We can make sure we succeed, or allow ourselves to fail (because sometimes failure is useful).

Okay, but why?  Is it back to Freud?  Is there really an urge to entropy?  Or is it lack of hope?

Today I am trying...once again...to flip the switch.  I've done it before so I know I can do it.  If I've done it once, I can do it again, right?  So I went to the gym and did some yoga.  I am trying to switch my mind, to feed myself messages that support health, life, happiness rather than sickness, failure, misery.  Because, really, it's all in the mind.  Don't you think?
Yes, yes, that's a baby barbell...at least to you all Cross Fitters out there.  But hey...baby steps.


Rachel Selby said...

I also flipped the switch today. Not on exercise yet (too hot here atm) but eating. I'm doing it with an overweight frined in the uk (support vis fb messaging) so I hope we can succeed tis time. I do not want another fat summer.

Alison Cross said...

I know this feeling!!

You read the War of Art by Steven Pressfield? He calls this enemy Resistance.

Exmoorjane said...

@Rachel - somehow you have to flip the switch, don't you? I'm just not convinced it's anything to do with willpower - it's about having something worth living for maybe?

@Ali - Nope, never heard of it or him... is it worth getting? Truly? I know it's resistance but WHY do we resist?

Rachel Selby said...

I think it's wanting to lose weight more than you need the comfort of food. You need to be in a positive mindset, happyish, and optimistic. The process needs to excite you. If I knew how to flip the switch and get into that zone every time Id be writing the book now. But I don't. I had a good enough firt day and I've a blog post going up about it in the morning.

Frances said...

Jane, as ever, I am so interested in what you are writing in these posts.

Without reading any scholarly books, or gym going, or other activities, I do think that each of us is responsible for our own travels though out lifespan. Yes, we inherit lots of genes from family members of yore, but those folks had very different lives than ours, war wise, food wise, insulation from winter chill wise, and so forth.

We do now have access to so much information about how to care for ourselves, and the option of seeking out any of that information. At the same time, there are all sorts of corporate, governmental, economic and cultural influences that add certain ingredients to our individual lives.

It's good to make choices, but also perhaps good to have a certain nonchalance about it all. Going with the flow, listening to any inner signals our bodies (including that brain part) send us.

I am glad that I do not smoke cigarettes as my parents did, eat processed foods, own or drive a car. And yet...I ride almost daily on the polluted dangers of the NYC subway. Choices.


janelle said...

...because living with oneself is a tedious thing. so we find ways of dealing with ourselves. unless one is beautifully delusional or has found god. x janelle

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