Self-knowledge can solve all your problems. Because it’s more difficult to understand what your problem is than to know how to solve it.
Most of the time we actually have the knowledge we need to solve a problem, but we don’t like reality, so we pretend to not have the knowledge.
This reminds me of the bazillion times I’ve told someone to take the Myers Briggs test. I think everyone should take it so you know your natural strengths and weaknesses. But most people already have an idea of who they want to be based on what their parents have told them about who they should be. And so almost most people are shocked and a little disappointed when they get their Myers Briggs score. Reality is almost never what we think it is when it comes to assessing ourselves.
So most people live in denial about their personality profile. I did that. I thought I was a writer even when I kept scoring as an ENTJ. But if you are an ENTJ, you need to do something much bigger than writing a book all by yourself, because you need some people to boss around. Or at least some people to leverage to get a bigger book written, like maybe the encyclopedia. So I pretended to not be an ENTJ by pretending that I was really one of those super creative people trapped in corporate America. But you know what? I love corporate America. I love the game part of it.
Okay. So this is how you solve any problem in your life: Admit the reality of your life.
Let’s use procrastination as an example. I spend a lot of time dissecting my procrastination habit. I am a great list maker. And I’m great at prioritizing. And then I do something that is not at the top of my priority list. And then I have a messed up day because I don’t get my important stuff done. And, on a large scale, of course, this is a messed up life.
I realized that a lot of times I procrastinate because I’m scared that something won’t work. Like, I should have gotten a spray tan a long time ago because it makes me look thinner and then I can eat more cookies with cellulite impunity. But I was super nervous to do the tanning.
I also realized that sometimes procrastination is okay. It’s a sign that I’m not ready to do something. So here, I am linking to a post I love, about my son being born deformed, and I don’t link to that one enough. You should read it. Anyway, I realized—while I was writing that post—that procrastination can actually be a learning tool if you listen to your heart and stop beating yourself up.
But then there are other times when I am not listening to my heart. Instead, I eat bagels. This is what I am working on now. I am trying to figure out why I have to eat each time something is hard. This is not good. If nothing else, there’s a limit to how much you can compensate for with a spray tan.
So I have been noticing how when I switch from one task to another, I want to eat. And then I noticed that when I want my son to switch, he throws a fit. And his therapist who specializes in transitions for people with Aspergers Syndrome says that he needs something to occupy himself physically in order to have a calm transition. So he has a ball to bounce from math to reading, a quarter to flip in his palm on the way to gym, and gum to chew as he gets ready to leave school.
So it hit me: eating between tasks is a coping skill because my body wants to be doing something to calm myself down. And the therapist says this makes sense. In the neuro-typical population (the nice-nice word for not-special-ed) people bite their nails, eat Ho-Hos, twirl their hair … there are tons of transitional tools people develop to help themselves along.
The problem is that if you get fat, or nails get bloody, or you start not being able to get out of your transition (my problem) then you are stuck. And stuck is bad. I’m stuck eating to procrastinate changing tasks because changing is hard and eating makes it easier.
To be honest, this is not helping much, because I’m at the end of the post, and I will want a bagel any moment. But I understand what is driving me to want a bagel during transitions: It’s a discomfort being between things. I could tell myself: only one bagel, only one bagel. I have tried that for thirty years, though. And it’s not working. And it’s not because I don’t try. It’s not working because it’s impossible. So instead I need to minimize transitions.
I learned this from my son, by the way. The therapist tells me to give him warning when a transition is coming and to tell him what we’re doing next. When I do that, he’s much calmer. So I am doing that with myself right now. I am going to type this last line, and then go to bed. I’m visualizing my transition: No meandering through the kitchen. Walk straight upstairs.
And then I’ll have a new problem: That I do not take time to plan each transition before I make it…