How strong do I need to be to change myself for the better?

‘Its True: People can Change. People can learn, grow, and surprise us. But if someone does the same thing, over and over again – if they keep hurting and disrespecting, or disappointing you – it’s time to accept the way things are and ask yourself if you can really live with this. You can’t make someone change their pattern if they’re not willing or ready, but you can stop participating in it.’ – Lori Deschene

I’ve always loved this quote. It’s funny how it can mean such different things to you at different times through out your life. Right now it reminds me of all of my own negative patterns. I’ve already done a lot of work and come a long way but I still have a very long way to go, a lot of changes to make and a lot of patterns to try and interrupt. To do that can take a Herculean effort, to fundamentally change yourself takes real strength. It doesn’t just take strength in the moment. For most people it takes a reapplication of strength day after day after day to continue to fight those patterns until you have new ones engaged and that can take years.

For many of us its our own minds and fears that block our path anyone who overcomes those is showing real strength.

Different have people have different journeys to navigate and different patterns to work with, some are lucky enough to have very positive behaviours in place, so more self destructive. But often it’s not clear cut. There is no way in telling where a behaviours pattern may take you. A pattern of being totally focused and giving everything you need to to succeed has time and time again pushed people to far.

For me there is something truly inspiring about the people that learn to truly change themselves, that succeed against all the odds. So no, the people that I find the most inspiring aren’t those people who followed a straight and narrow path from A to B to C. Yes its inspiring to see people commit to succeeding at all costs, to be completely committed to everything that they do.

Instead for me those who really deserve credit are those who have found the way through adversity, come out of the other end. Particularly those whose biggest enemy was themselves and their own behaviours, their own inbuilt patters. If we can learn how to succeed when we are trying to derail ourselves that we can learn to succeed in anything. We will never take on any challenge as difficult as taking on and trying to rewrite our own internal programming.

In this spirit I’ve often wondered about the strength that it takes people to overcome types of addiction. I have been lucky enough to dodge that bullet so far in my life, but in large part that is because I have been lucky enough to never be put into a situation to try addictive substances. I know what I am like and the behaviours that I naturally revert to and I know that on some level that its something that I could easily be susceptible to, I chose to stop drinking in my mid twenties because I didn’t trust myself to continue drinking, although I never felt any sort of compulsion to start drinking,  if I had one drink then I wouldn’t be able to stop for the rest of the night, my inability to stop ultimately terrified me and I elected to stop putting myself in that position. Thats not the only addictive type of I’ll always been predisposed to addictive behaviours, its one of those patterns which I am learning to reprogramme.

I first truly became aware of this pattern in myself and started to understand what it mean after reading Stephen Cope’s book, the Wisdom of Yoga which was one of the set texts for my 200hr teacher training.

I think of it as when I fall into hungry ghost mode.

The Concept of a hungry ghost in buddhism is essentially a ghost that being unable to fill themselves up hoovers everything up in front of them trying to meet their cravings. To quote Stephen Cope;

‘Those of us afflicted with this malady (and I say ‘us’ because many of us have at least a touch of it) exhibit symptoms of a gnawing secret hunger. Unlike ordinary hunger, however, this hunger is so desperate that we cannot actually bear to feel it. Rather than feel it, we ‘act it out’ – that is to say we unconsciously organise our life around trying to fill the belly that cannot be filled. Any object will do to fill the hole: Food. Shopping. Money. Sex. Love.”

I know I do this, I want so much to find that thing that makes me feel whole that I try and suck everything I can out of what I’m doing. Sometimes this helps, like pushing me harder to achieve everything I can like in my lifting, on others it’s just a way of numbing the world maybe through a temporary addiction to a game or the inability to put a book down, or an addiction to a certain type of food.

What I do know is that I’m never realistically going to be free of that hungry ghost and maybe never satisfied, but what I do have to be careful of is that I use that hunger to drive me to succeed to achieve my goals. In some ways it may be one of my weakest points but in others it could turn out to be my strongest, it makes me addicted to growth and improvement in a way that few people are. It just took me a long time to work that out!

It takes a lot of work to feed that ghost but constant and never ending improvement definitely seems to keep it quieter. That hungry ghost isn’t unique to me, and I know how lucky I am that it’s not taken me down a darker road like it has some.

Remember that you are the one person you can’t remove from the equation even if you’d love to avoid your negative patterns. But what you can do is be open to learning, open to finding ways to change yourself, and open to building on your self awareness so that you know where to focus those effort. Never give up with it.

We’reall strong enough to keep going and growing one step at a time.

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