Willingness vs willfulness
Friday, September 21, 2018
I wrote a blog about a different kind of willingness, or rather a specific application of willingness, a few days ago. I thought I would talk about the difference between willingness and willfulness tonight. What is the difference really? They look and sound very similar. But actually they are opposite ends of a spectrum. Willingness is being willing to do what is needed in each situation after accepting the reality of the situation as it is, while willfulness is doing what I want to do (which may mean doing nothing) with no regard for the reality of the situation. Willingness is acting with an awareness that I am connected to the universe (which means both the people I do like, and the people I don’t like, as well as other animate and inanimate objects), whereas willfulness is about me, me, and only me (though it may be disguised, as trying to “fix” every situation, which is really a form of trying to control every situation). Willingness is listening to your intellect... your wisest mind... and then acting from that instead of only from emotion. Willfulness is refusing to tolerate the moment and reacting from emotions alone, which usually ends up with doing the opposite of what works, and refusing to make changes. So which do I want to govern my actions and reactions? Willingness or willfulness? For me, for most of us, this would be an easy decision to make! Willingness, of course... but the application is harder than the intellectual decision when there is no pressure, no family dynamics or history driving us, no history or emotional baggage to sway us or influence us... no trauma or crisis to make us forget what we know in the immediate moment.
It would seem to be a simple decision to chose to live a healthier lifestyle. Really, it feels better, you get healthier, you can shop in a wider selection of stores, etc. but that does not take into account the emotional relationship many have to food, the preparation, the serving, the sharing (or not sharing), and for some of us the equation was simple... food=love... take away the food, or refuse the food and you take away the love, or refuse the love. So, even though the food may be off plan, unwanted intellectually, or even dangerous, we accept it and even enjoy it, because it symbolizes love ( or the lack of withholding of love). Instead of gently and diplomatically refusing or redirecting and practicing willingness, we act willfully. Acting from our emotions. We give up. I say “we”, when really I should be putting this in first person! I give up... the difference between now and 7 years ago is that now I recognize the behavior, and can work to rectify the need to control or fix everything. I can work on accepting reality as it is (radical acceptance) and work on doing what is needed in each situation with my wisest mind, rather than spinning wildly down the river that is my emotions. I can take care of myself without being so self centered that I am oblivious to the effects my actions have on others... (as an aside... my self care is not the same as being self centered... in fact it is modeling healthier behavior for my nieces and other family members and friends, and making it possible for me to be more present in their lives!).
Thing is it is impossible to fight willfulness with willfulness. It is like fighting a fire with more fire. I have to accept that I am being willful and move on... there’s that radical acceptance again! Willfulness is usually a response to a threat of some kind... whether to my self-image, a relationship, physical danger... or a response to an emotional trigger of some kind. So if I am feeling or acting willfully, and can’t reason myself out of it, then I need to identify and assess the threat. And sometimes it is just a perceived threat based on past experience, not an actual threat... while other times it may be an actual threat that I need to deal with from a place of willingness. But I cannot do that until I understand what I am facing.
For me, the social anxiety component of my mental illness contributed to my weight gain. But I did not understand or acknowledge that, I just ate the discomfort away as much as possible... until I began to realize that the bigger I got the more invisible I got. Whether it was socially, or to medical professionals. The heavier I was the less they “saw” me, and the more they saw just the number on the scale. So I saw no need to curb my emotional eating because it gave me an unintended, but positive (?) result of making me less “visible” to others, which eased my social anxiety... until I got to be so heavy that people started noticing me for how heavy I was! Willfulness at work...
When I became willing to make changes, and began making decisions more from my intellect, and not as much from unguided emotions, I could see what had led me to the point that I had reached with my weight, and sedentary lifestyle. I was not very impressed with myself. But, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time running myself down and yelling at myself and denigrating myself. I just put one foot in front of the other and walked away from the past me. I am connected to the universe, and every decision I make I try ( notice I said “try”) to make with an awareness that we are all connected, that it is all connected. Sometimes my emotional mind still wins and in the moment I make less than stellar choices that don’t take that interconnection into account (and it usually comes back to bite me!), but I figure if I make a good faith effort a majority of the time... then I am doing pretty good... or at least doing a heckuva lot better than when I set my feet upon this path.
Well, yet again I got all lecture-y! Dare I say a little preach-y? Ah, but if you finished reading you must not have been too bored. lol. Have a great day and don’t forget to be awesome today!