Honouring Our Confusion
Honouring Our Confusion
By Kathy Ryndak and Gord Riddell
Confusion is not highly regarded in our society yet we all experience it. Being confused and indecisive is simply part of our mind coming to terms with new data and understanding about our self and attempting to integrate these new ideas and let go of old ideas. While we may learn new facts and figures easily, integrating new ways of thinking, behaving and coping with our world are much more difficult. As much as we may believe that we are flexible and can go with the flow as it is happening, the reality is creating change from the inside is never easy.
At various times throughout our life we come upon realizations that some ways of coping with our world may no longer be serving us. An example may be in your younger years throwing a temper tantrum may have gotten you what you wanted, or crying fits to get your way. However as you age you will discover that such behaviours no longer work for you. Other people usually will not tolerate it and you will end up isolating yourself due to your behaviour. The hard part is learning and implementing new behaviours that facilitate your ability to negotiate with other people not by demanding through unacceptable behaviour.
Why the Confusion
There are a couple of major things going on here. First, the subconscious is our very willing servant. When we have decided to think or believe something different about our self, our subconscious basically wants to make sure that we are absolutely certain that is what we want before it sets out to start, figuratively, erasing the old tapes installing the new data. If, for instance, in the past we did not get our way and resorted to temper tantrums we may now have learned new ways to voice our needs and wants which do not include the tantrum part. When we now come up against a situation that in the past would have triggered the tantrum we have a choice to go with the new behaviour or repeat the old one. At this point we may feel very confused and indecisive as to which route to take. Although we really want to go to the new behaviour our first instinct may be to throw a tantrum since that is where we are the most familiar and it did get results in the past.
It is at this moment of confusion our subconscious is patiently waiting to see what we will do. If we break through the confusion and implement our new strategy for voicing our concern then the subconscious will begin to install the new tapes that henceforth when confronted with a situation that requires this new approach it will become automatic, you will not have the confusion and you will not throw the tantrum. If, however, you return to your old behaviour then having a tantrum will continue to be your automatic response as your subconscious will not have taken the new learning seriously and changed to the new behaviour you had desired. Now while the subconscious is a very willing servant it does have a built-in testing system which it will somehow activate each and every time you set out to make internal changes to your world. So, if you feel you are being tested, well, you are. Not by the universe but by your own built-in reality checker that wants to make sure you are truly serious before the final changes are installed.
Secondly, more and more research is coming to light as to the role various neurological chemicals play in our ability to implement change. The primary chemical, dopamine, is very involved in our internal rewards system. In other words any activity we do that causes this chemical to be released makes us feel good. The list is endless and can go from eating chocolates to orgasms to smoking to throwing tantrums. Each activity releases its own level of dopamine. What science is unraveling is in order to implement change our brain needs to discover new rewards for us to feel good. Instead of going for the chocolates we can actually reprogram our brain to crave healthier foods like a carrot which will make us feel good.
We have known for some time that the brain can effectively rewire itself creating new neural pathways. These electrical pathways carry messages around the brain (think of it as your own internal internet highway) recording what is going on and activating chemical responses to various activities. We also know that when we stop a certain activity new neural pathways are set up to bypass the old activity and go directly to the new area and release dopamine based on this behaviour or thought. During this process when new pathways are being established, and it does take some time, we can feel confused, indecisive and even depressed. We may have strong urges to go back to the old activity in order to get some relief. Anyone who has ever stopped smoking or gone on a diet will recall these urges to return to the former to seek some relief.
Being Kinder to Yourself
As you can see changing our self is very complicated. It is not for lack of will power or commitment that we find ourselves drifting back to old thoughts and behaviours. It is a function of our actual brain that can impede the process. Being impatient with your self or finding yourself wrong and beating your self up does not help in the slightest. In fact it can make you feel even worse and then you internally begin to seek relief from the stress. In turn we will return to those activities which have a proven track record to give us that relief. We are now in a vicious cycle of use, reward and relief, feel bad and use again. Perhaps in knowing that we are not weak and that we need to allow time for our brain to catch up and transform to our desired changes we can be a lot kinder and gentler with our self.
The next time you notice that you or someone else is being confused or indecisive you are actually witnessing change in progress. Although you cannot see it the brain is rewiring itself and preparing to bring out a new belief system or behaviour. Instead of impatience try gentle understanding, we all change at different rates and at different times. The good news is sooner or later we all change and grow. It is the basic foundation of the universe.