It’s time for the New Year’s Eve blog entry again, and I’m going to write about resolutions and goals. Resolutions can be such a trite thing to write about or talk about, but the process of reflecting on prior progress and setting goals for the future just fits so well with diabetes. I mean, it’s kind of what we do all year, right? We check our little logbooks (well, we used to — now we check our computer chart or our phone app, but still, same idea), we test, and we adjust future actions based on past and current outcomes.
So, I’m going to write about resolutions and goals, but not directly. As I was thinking about what it means to set goals, to make resolutions, I naturally started to think about all the peripheral issues that surround goal planning. A goal or resolution calls into question issues of motivation, our ability to turn an abstract goal into concrete, daily actions, and the issue of self-identity and self-judgment. Setting a “personal goal” isn’t a simple one-and-done activity, and I’ve often felt that one of the major reasons “New Year’s Resolutions” are so incredibly likely to fail is that we don’t really take the time to appreciate just how many issues are tied up in the process.
Let’s start with one of the big ones on that list, self-judgment. That’s a pretty common issue among us Diabetians. After all, self-judgment happens when we start trying to “measure” ourselves against the outside world. We do this in all kind of ways, all the time. We measure our career against other people we perceive as more successful (as a musician, I’m doing this WAAAAAY more often than I want to admit), we measure our relationship success against others, our homes, our cars, our success as parents by our children’s perceived success in THEIR endeavors. We measure ourselves all the time. And when it comes to diabetes, that measuring isn’t just some psychological neurosis running in the background. We are quite literally MEASURING our own progress against preset goals.
Now, measuring ourselves isn’t an inherently negative thing, but it’s so easy to let it slip into unhealthy judgments. After all, we HAVE to measure our blood sugars — so we’ve got to figure out how to measure what needs to be measured without letting that toxic spill of self-judgment loose in our minds. Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to manage the negative side effects of self-measurement. The first step is to “untangle” our feelings.
I wrote about this a few blog entries ago, the way we let our emotional responses “tangle up” with our feelings of self-worth and self-definition. When we’re angry about poor numbers, that anger has a tendency to act like emotional “glue.” The anger attracts our feelings of low self-esteem, our feelings of failure, our feelings of shame, and binds them all together in such a way that we often don’t even realize they’re all enmeshed. And so we get upset not just because our numbers are “not OK,” but because we’re subconsciously deciding that WE’RE not OK.
So how do we untangle those feelings and those ideas of self-worth when we measure our Diabetian progress? It’s actually pretty simple. We’ve simply got to recognize we’re tangled up. You see, the actual untangling isn’t the hard part — it’s spotting the mess in the first place, and then having the willpower to start untangling. There’s something oddly comforting about tangled up emotions. I was a therapist for many years, and I’m still not sure I really know WHY this is, but I can tell you for sure that it happens. We get attached to our tangled emotions. How many times have you had a high number, gotten upset, started beating yourself up, and then heard that LITTLE voice telling you that you COULD calm down, you COULD stop berating yourself, only to ignore it?
Once you do make that choice to follow the “more enlightened” path or recognition and let go of the tangled anger, the rest is pretty simple. We simply let them separate. Once we let go, all that glue that was holding them together simply melts and we can find our center again. The best methods for identifying the tangle and letting go of the self-judgment are those wonderful contemplative practices like meditation, yoga, daily thoughtful and deeply practiced prayer, martial arts, and so on. The more you do them, the more you train the “emotional muscles” involved in spotting the entanglement and letting go of it…
Next week, Scott Coulter shares how motivation and planning play a role in ensuring the success — or failure — of your New Year’s resolutions…
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