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Keeping a Bad Day from Turning Into a Bad Life
Of course, things would go to pot the day I decided to do a long fast. The day was bad from the beginning. I woke up groggy, and knew it was going to be tough. The next several hours patted me on the back and congratulated me on my predictive powers. As I had suspected, things had only gone downhill.
I didn’t feel great. The app I needed for work was slow. No one had responded yet to the important emails I sent the day before. These things set my mind on a downward slide greased with despair and doubt.
“Don’t forget all the losses you’ve suffered,” it whispered.
And “Don’t be so foolish as to think things can really get better.”
And “The problem is that you are cursed. There is just something about you that makes things not work out.”
And the biggest lie of all : “Keeping your fast is pointless.”
One benefit of having developed a bit of maturity is being able to sense the difference between lies and the truth even when you are telling them to yourself.
I’m happy to report that as miserable as I was for a few hours, I was able to recognize these mendacities for what they were and to decide not to heed them.
I told myself the truth: that I was experiencing a rough part of my path to growth, that this was a test and that if I pushed through, I would come out the other side closer to my goals, closer to being the person I truly desire to be.
I did not break my fast.
In fact, I did several other things that moved me closer to my goals. By the time dinner rolled around, I knew I had passed the test, won the battle of the day. The inward sun shone again.
This experience made an important principle plain:
The difference between a tough day and an ongoing depressive cycle is faith.
Not faith in the religious sense exactly, but rather a commitment to act as if the outcome of our choices will be positive even when our feelings and the looped recordings in our minds are telling us otherwise.
So often when we are in a negative emotional and mental place, we believe what we tell ourselves. We accept without challenge the propaganda of our self-protective hearts offering us the consolation of self-pity when the prize of fulfillment comes less easily than we think it should.
We often handle this pain by behaving in ways out of alignment with our deepest values and goals. We overeat. We treat others poorly. Some drink. Some seek to forget themselves in the malevolent world of online porn. We throw up our hands and break our fasts.
Whatever our pattern, when we seek immediate and easy relief from our painful feelings, we cause ourselves greater suffering.
Our deepest desire is to judge ourselves worthy, to look at ourselves as someone we can respect. When we give into the temptation to escape the pain of a difficult day, the terrible memories of earlier life, or the misery of our current situation, we lose respect for ourselves. We see ourselves as a breaker of promises, a ruin we know could be glorious.
The result of this self-hatred is then more pain, leading to more seeking of empty escape. Eventually we indulge our destructive habits as much to punish ourselves for our perceived weakness as to avoid the difficulty of change. This process becomes a habit, which then blossoms into a whole lifestyle of pain, self-deceit, acting out, and ever further loss of self-respect leading to more pain.
Truth and faith are the doorways out. If we can recognize our negative thinking, and accept that this cast of mind is temporary, we will do better. If we can act as if what we believe and hope about the future is more certain than our negative thoughts about the moment, we will triumph in faith. If we tell and believe the truth even when it conflicts with the witness of our feelings, we will be set free.
We must strive to become conscious of our mind’s activity, must see the lying trickster in there as the performer he is, a conjurer throwing up illusion after frightening illusion. Then, we can turn away from his pitiful little act and place our attention back where it must remain: on the path that leads us higher, no matter how narrow or rocky it be.