I am a work in progress in certain areas of my life. Perhaps you can identify with that for a particular area in your own life. Sometimes acknowledging this fact is difficult to do, but I have found it to be freeing. It is freeing to realize that I do not have to worry so much about “having it together” all of the time. Instead, there is room for me to continue growing in those areas. Although we learn things in life, we will sometimes experience a discrepancy between what we know and what we do. To have knowledge of something is not the same as applying that knowledge. For instance, we can know the better or more appropriate way of addressing a conflict, but we do the opposite and potentially wound up with a much greater problem. I often reflect on what accounts for this discrepancy.
In my experience, part of what I have noticed is that often we live our lives being governed by our thoughts and feelings. We do not have to actually act on all the thoughts and feelings we have. That discrepancy between what we know and what we do is resolved when we learn how to be aware of our thoughts and feelings and choose to let those that are not in our best interest to float on by. As I said earlier, I am a work in progress because with some things, I can do this easily and with others, I get sucked into a thought or feeling and react to it. Once we give attention to negative thoughts and feelings we allow them room to grow. And, the more intense our attention becomes, the more likely it is that our behavior begins to align with those thoughts and feelings.
We have tons of daily practice with this. Just think about the times you’ve thought about calling out sick from work or the times you’ve felt like running someone over with your car who purposefully took his/her time crossing the street. You might have called out a time or two, but my guess is that you have not done so every time that thought or feeling has come up. Unless you wanted to face potential vehicular homicide charges, my guess is that you haven’t ran anyone over with your car either. My point is that we are always doing things that we don’t feel like doing or not doing things that we thought about doing. This tells us that we can choose to allow certain thoughts and feelings to float on by without giving them any attention or room to grow and dictate our actions.
As I see it, that’s the part that we must continue to practice applying to those situations that come up in our daily interactions and encounters with others. I think it is especially important to our relationships with significant persons in our lives as well as with our relationship with self. There are number of issues to include intimate partner violence and drug and alcohol relapse that arise to some extent because people allow their actions to be dictated by certain thoughts and feelings.
Being a work in progress is not a passive state. It is actively practicing how to do something different. Be encouraged.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.