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Negotiating with Terrorists

Note: I suppose that for those who struggle with self-discipline, this morning's post will provide a measure of empathy. For those who are masters of self-discipline, my comments will likely seem alien in nature and sad/entertaining/baffling.

Additional note: I don't suffer from tragic self-esteem *all* the time, I don't *really* hate myself (I just say hurtful things when I am mad), and yes I really do have these kinds of silent conversations with myself.

 Actual internal dialogue that took place this morning at 6am in my head between "Good Me" and "Bad Me":

(alarm rings)
GM: Time to get up! Time to go running! Time to tackle the day!
BM: It's cold. Going back to bed.
GM: NO! We are going running. Let's go. (gets out of bed and turns off alarm)
BM: It's cold. I don't want to go. And I'm tired.
GM: I'm tired, yes, but we need to get up and get going.
BM: Why don't we just sleep in till 6:30am and then go running then? We will go to work a lil later, but that's ok.
GM: Hmm. We really should go NOW.
BM: Come on! You kept us up till 10:30pm last night studying and you KNOW we need 8 hours of sleep to function. This is really all your fault. We need to go back to bed until 6:30am so we have 8 hours. We can discuss running then. (sets alarm down and goes back to bed to lie down)
(alarm rings at 6:30pm)
GM: OK! OK! NOW we go. (jumps out of bed)
BM: Still tired. Not feeling it.
GM: We don't just do what we feel like, we do what needs to be done. This is for OUR health. We love the way we feel after we run. So awake and energized.
BM: It's still cold out there. Maybe we could run this afternoon.
GM: No, we have other things to do after work. We don't want to let down Jonathan either- he is going to ask about our run. Let's GO!You don't want to be unhealthy do you? Don't you want to be healthy and pretty and fit?
BM: Don't want to go! (I stand, paused by the side of the bed, while they continue to fight it out for 5 more minutes).
GM: Ok, remember what Cleve (former mgr) told us once: just go through the motions and you'll start to feel it. So we are putting our running clothes on and then we will discuss further.
BM: *grumble grumble*
GM: (gets running clothes on) OK, time to go. (heads down the stairs)
BM: WAIT! We don't have our running inserts in our shoes b/c YOU forgot them at work on Friday. You know if we run without them we could injure ourselves and set back our progress entirely. We really shouldn't go. It would be a bad health decision! (smug)
GM: I really want to go. But you make a good point. Hmmm. Maybe we should try going and if we have any pain, admit defeat and come home.
BM: Better just not go to.
GM: I knew it! You are a pathetic loser just trying to get out of running again.
BM: Don't put this on me! YOU ARE THE LOSER. You went to bed too late, you forgot the inserts. You are mismanaged and irresponsible. You can't try to hurry up and do everything wrong an halfhazard after you caused all this. WE ARE NOT GOING.
GM: I hate you! You never will just shut up and do what is best for us. You are selfish, and greedy, and immature and totally lacking self discipline.
BM: (starts to cry as we walk ourselves into the shower). Yelling at me doesn't help!
GM: Well you deserve it. You suck! You are never going to accomplish anything! You are always going to be ugly and selfish and GAH I hate you! (cries).
BM: Now I feel ugly. I don't like me any more than you do. I don't think I even want to bother shaving my legs this morning.
GM: But I don't want to wear pants! That will just make everything worse. Need to shave to wear a pretty dress.
BM: Who cares. Whatever. Not shaving. (turns water off).
GM: Well we can make the day better from here (although I am still FURIOUS with you for not running, and mildly disgusted). Lets get dressed (pants ugh) and go downstairs and make breakfast and pack our lunch.
BM: I'm not sure I feel like getting dressed or going to work after all this. Self-loathing makes me feel terrible, and I've cried, and ugh my legs are hairy. And I'm wearing pants. I hate pants! I just want to go back to bed and get up later.
GM: WHAT ARE YOU CRAZY? We have to go to work. We are not calling in sick b/c you're a loser without self-discipline.
BM: (argues with GM for 10 more minutes, meanwhile the time is fast approaching when we need to go). I say we stay home. Maybe then I'll even feel like running in awhile. I know you want to run, right?
GM: (gets dressed, fuming, marches us downstairs). Now we don't even have time for breakfast! Or to pack a lunch! (Gets into car and drives to train station).
BM: Whatever.
GM: (arrives at train station just as train is departing). SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE NOW. I HATE YOU! OMG I HATE YOU! YOU SCREW EVERYTHING UP! EVERYTHING!
GM: I don't even want to talk to you. I'm going to read while we wait for the next train and distract myself from that fact that I HATE YOU.
 What I have learned from analyzing my inner dialogue is this:

1. Yelling at myself and being cruel doesn't help "good me" win the argument.I am simply left unaccomplished AND feeling terrible.
2. "Bad me" is quick to defensively attack and ridicule "good me" as a way to win the argument, also making me feel terrible.
3. "Bad me" will drag on the argument indefinitely to win. "Bad me" does not easily give in.
4. Because of items 1-3 noted above, almost every time I go down the road of arguing with myself, the "good me" loses the argument.

I was still crying and upset when I spoke to dear hubby on the phone later in the morning. I tried to explain to him a little bit of what happened in my head and he tried to give me advice (as men are prone to do). He said in the future I just need to get up and do what needs to be done without debate. Simple! I can't tell whether he ignores the steady whining from his "bad" self and refuses to have the inner discussion/argument, or if he doesn't have a "bad" self trying to argue the point to begin with. In any case, his comment got me thinking. Perhaps new strategy should be to refuse to engage AT ALL in the inner dialogue with "bad me". Sort of the way parents do with teenagers, right? "I don't care what you have to say, I am the parent and this is how it goes, I am not entertaining discussion or attempts for you to persuade me". Maybe, just maybe if I begin with this clear framework principle -WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS -I can get away from these terrible self-defeating arguments. 

What does self-discipline look like in your life? Do you have inner terrorists demanding to negotiate?How do you handle them- are you good at debating until the "good you" wins, or do you refuse to entertain debate?


Anonymous said…
I think it's absolutely normal to be forced into terrorist negotiations like this. Your Bad Self is holding hostage your productivity(, fitness, self-esteem, etc.) and your Good Self is trying to get them to put down the gun. Unfortunately I continue to struggle with this and don't usually win. :( When my Bad Self starts talking, it's REALLY persuasive (and abusive) and my Good Self is usually KINDA sure that what it wants is the right thing but not totally confident and, to compound the problem, avoids conflict, so it just rolls over with minimal fight.

In hindsight after writing this, I'm reminded of the (trite but still neat) story about the two wolves. (A Cherokee Grandfather tells a kid there are two wolves in each of us: "One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, [and other bad traits]. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, [and other good things]." The kid asked, "Which wolf wins?" and the grandfather replies, "The one you feed.")

I think my Bad Self usually wins because I spent (and struggle with still spending) time feeding it over the other. It's hard to change ingrained insecurities, bad habits, or paths of thought. When I miss a goal, I frequently fall back on the "It's because you're stupid and lazy and useless" line of thinking. It's absolutely unproductive, absolutely defeating and hurtful to myself, and I find myself absolutely doing it over and over again.

As I'm still struggling, I'm probably not one to be dispensing advice on how to conquer it (esp. since when I have the same conversation as you, I don't even get to the getting-dressed part). But keep struggling--keep at it. I don't know how to quiet that Bad Self, but I do know that it's important to keep attempting to. That's one habit that, like Cleve said, will also come easier the more you do it.

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