The New Year is a time when people look to start afresh, improve themselves, and take stock of their lives. Keeping a diary has always been a popular resolution but this year journaling is all the rage.
Seemingly out of nowhere, wellness and lifestyle coaches are promoting journaling to their clients as a form of self-care. The marketplace is cluttered with products for the perpetually busy, fitness fanatics, and gratitude seekers. Diaries aren’t just for keeping track of the events of one’s day anymore, but why do we do it? Why journal? Is it just a record of the things we achieved or does it do something more profound?
As it turns out, journaling is an ancient practice. There are, of course, different kinds of diaries, even thousands of years ago. There were travelogues like that written by early Christian female pilgrim Egeria. There were prison memoirs, like the one the Christian martyr Perpetua kept before her execution in the arena in Carthage in 203 CE. And there were ‘wellness journals,’ like the dream journal / medical tourism diary that the orator Aelius Aristides kept in his Sacred Tales.
Texts like this were highly unusual: it was rare for people to commit their inner journey and personal experiences to paper and in solitude. More regularly the process of reviewing one’s day and taking stock of one’s actions took place via dialogue, through letter writing with a friend, and in mental review. It’s a recognizable practice as early as Plato, who wrote that we should examine ourselves with great attention and that before we can become valuable members of society (as politicians, for example) we must, “before all else…attend to ourselves.”
Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?
These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.
The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades. Now it’s generally known as the “hard problem” of consciousness, after philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic paper and further explored it in his 1996 book, “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.”
Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.
We understand or at least I thought we had, that it is important to ‘Guard Our Energy.’
Guarding our energy basically means to preserve our energy. If we don’t do that, we will run out of fuel and wear ourselves down. It’s self-preservation. We need work time, chill time, downtime, social time and so on.
If we lower those boundaries of what each of us needs for a productive day, with time for work and time for everything else, we can soon find ourselves overrun by more or less needy demands.
Some time ago I posted this very interesting article on “Needy Friendships”.
If you need to set boundaries, do it while knowing that you are not signing up for a Popularity Contest. People will sometimes feel themselves entitled to trespass the boundaries you have set up. Perhaps they just want your attention. (Our attention is our strongest tool, which is why everybody wants it.) They can have it – on your terms – not their terms. Or better: on a co-working term that serves both well.
If this sounds selfish to you, I would advise you to reflect a bit on the concept of selfish and maybe reach the conclusion that if selfishness is the same as self-preservation it’s OK – it’s called Consciously Selfish. That is miles from the mainstream meaning of the word Selfish, which is: I only do things for myself – self-serving.
And speaking of serving…
This problem is really toxic if you are into spirituality, because that seems to equal being ‘boundaryless’: serving others when they see fit – not you. It’s a slow, slow, exhausting death of our energetic body until there’s nothing more than an empty shell left. Those who thought: “Wow-cool, she´s spiritual, that means that she can’t say no,” will long ago have moved on to the next host to suck their energy. And you’re left with a spiritual spine that resembles overboiled spaghetti.
Sometimes our empathy become our Achilles heel. That happens when we forget our own needs and ourselves.
There is a difference between self-sacrifice, self-denial and being an emotional asset in the life of others.
The mechanics gone wrong are often seen when we simply say: Self-denial, as in denying Self, is a way to deal with the ego and thereby take it down. Self-denial has never been a tool for that. Self-discipline has.
On the contrary, self-denial makes people very unhappy like: “I´m really helping out here, denying myself and my inner needs, but something is not right.”
We have to look into the mechanics of acquired helplessness, which is the Matrix in the balance between giving and ‘letting it be’.
All too often I have seen well-meaning folks unintentionally creating interdependence between the person they try to help/serve and themselves.
That can take a good warrior down.
It is difficult and it is a very fine balance of adding just precisely the amount of help needed on an emotional level, and by doing so, also being very vigilant towards the anatomy of the energetics in the loop between those of the helper and the person in need of help.
That goes for dependency and knowing that people have to ‘learn by doing’ and you can’t take responsibility for the outcome. That is not helping out, that is a control mechanism.
We have to go where the road takes us and there are obstacles on the way. You can’t foresee and protect people from the bumps on their path. If a person asks you to do so, you’re dealing with a person who does not want to take responsibility for their life. They have to learn that skill and then you can engage. Because their agenda, and it can be very well hidden even from themselves, is dependency in order to avoid that responsibility. Not cool. Leave them be.
The Matrix in that can be solved if the emotional architect is very well grounded, conscious, neutral and aware of their own energetic core.
If you have this skill, never allow yourself to get drained.