Wednesday 9 November 2011

Change and willpower

radiating energy

I was intrigued to read Leslee’s post this week about a new book on Willpower.

Oh god, willpower – I don't have much! I think I know why. I can flash back all too easily to the passionately wilful, screaming toddler I once was, the fierce rejection she met from her carers, the repeated warnings that they would abandon her; submit her will to theirs, or men in white coats would come and take her to the well-known insane asylum just outside the city where they lived! She did. She went very quiet and her will got lost. No will: no willpower. Of all the things that long ago went missing, it’s perhaps the one I’ve found it hardest to recuperate – my lifelong burden a bottomless inertia that must be struggled against every day. I know what I’d like to strive for, but lack the energy: this has so often been the story. Passive resistance, endurance: I’m good at those. Goal-setting and sustained positive effort: no.

I’m so scared and anxious and distracted since I decided to leave my job. Mobilising the energy and direction required to make anything positive of this decision feels so very far beyond me. Knowing it is really, this time, a question of sink or swim does not seem to be enough. Anything that might help deserves a look, so perhaps this is a book I need to buy, along with Switch, which Dorothee linked to and which I already ordered. Or is reading a book about it more of a substitute for action than a spur to action?

As I write, at lunchtime, there's a student demonstration taking place in central London, against the recent huge rises in university tuition fees. Helicopters circle endlessly overhead and we learn that streets are lined with police in riot gear and armed with plastic bullets. In these times, it's even harder, and even more crucial, to be strong and clear and in full possession of potential strengths. We must not let ourselves be crushed. Not by an increasingly repressive state and not by our own demons. Every time a rebellious soul succombs to despair, the forces of repression have won, without firing a single plastic bullet. Sigh. I'm getting too old for such thoughts. I know: you're never too old for such thoughts.   


Dale said...

Oh, clearly a book I must read! I think often about will power: especially the curious fact that others tell me emphatically that I have a large, even inordinate amount of it, while my own perception is that I'm peculiarly deficient in it. What's the truth of the matter? Is there a truth of the matter? Is it a meaningful concept? I have no idea.

Rachel Fox said...

Love the picture.
I don't think much about willpower... which I guess means it isn't one of my problems/weaknesses. But there are so many others...

litlove said...

I would strongly suggest you read anything by Winnicott on his concept of transitional space. It's the space between doing nothing and doing something, and it is hugely important in terms of our ability to create and to play.

But let's also pay attention too, to the wonderful photos you post here. They are gorgeous, often intriguing, and testimony to your steadily ongoing desire to witness beauty in all sorts of odd places, to keep a record of experience, to delight your audience here. This blog would have foundered long ago without your persistence. I shy away from the term willpower, because it so often means (on the quiet) forcing oneself to do things one doesn't really want to do. Hence I much prefer transitional space, which is about being usefully bored, until something you REALLY want to do formulates itself in your mind. You may have to be bored a lot in the coming months, so that you can find out what genuinely motivates you. That's okay, that's good. It's getting back in touch with yourself.

You possess every quality you need - all that's happened is that you have lost access to some of them. The great news is that in time, the access grows back. I've got every faith in you.

Lucy said...

I would hesitate to order the book in case I lacked the will power to finish it. No kidding.

I find the idea of transitional space rather interesting, so that's where I've been all this time!

I remember something at Kurt's I think a long time ago about how the idea of effort is a mistake, and indeed find that focusing on the effort it will take me to do something, the willpower I must summon, is often a sure way to block myself from doing it; sometimes thinking about something else, coming at the matter sideways and catching myself unawares doing it is more effective.

And of course you and Leslee and Dale all seem to me to possess and use enormous amounts of drive and will power, and achieve amazing things by it; most other people do.

Never mind, tomorrow I'm going to get organised!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry they did that to you--it's no wonder you feel as you do. I'm waiting for the book, but the authors seem to think that willpower is like a muscle. Even if yours was atrophied by that treatment, it can still be exercised.

Anonymous said...

and yes--what litlove said too. i agree!

Les said...

To Dale's point, I wonder if we all just use our willpower differently. We're disciplined at work but then go home and pig out. Or we have willpower to get things done but not to make our relationships work. We use up our willpower in one area and don't have it for others. But I haven't read the book (I suspect, like Lucy, I might not finish it!).

I like the idea of the transitional space litlove mentioned. I'm very bad at living with that.