Monday, October 17, 2011

quality of life

Quite some time ago, I was talking with a friend who has suffered from depression, at times quite debilitatingly so, during most of her life. She is one of the few people with whom I have discussed my weight loss clearly and frankly and we talked about how I made the mental changes to get where I have. I told her some of the things that I've written about in this blog, but the process has been so vast and complex that it was hard to encapsulate for discussion.

One of the things which we spoke about was the general notion of using psychological techniques or intervention to improve quality of life. I told her that this all started when I modified my emotional state a very long time ago. That experience, in which I went from someone who was prone to angry outbursts, haranguing my husband when we fought, and raising my voice to being relatively calm, constructive, and moving past the issue far faster, was an object lesson for other changes in my life including my current situation with food. I learned that you can forge a new mental pathway and build a bridge from who you are now to who you want to be. I think it was helpful that I benefited from this technique twice (the second time had to do with reducing materialism) in situations unrelated to food. I had a template for making mental changes over a long period of time and transforming who I was in a fundamental manner.

As we discussed this, I said that one thing I realized was that we all have the capacity to be happier and maximize our satisfaction with ourselves. People often view the person they are as inevitable and concentrate mainly on improving the mechanics of their life. They focus on objective aspects such as schooling, skills, money, and possessions. They see "improvement" as it is reflected in these things and reject that they can or need to improve their mental capabilities. I told her that I saw this as sad because I believe people can be much happier if they focus on making mental transitions rather than believing they are locked into their mindsets. My friend said, quite correctly, that most people don't realize that they can be happier. It's not even on their radar to strive for such an improved state of being.

A big part of the problem is that people are always telling us what is required to be happy, and we believe them. They tell us we need cars, houses, certain jobs, kids, spouses, or to look a certain way. No one tells us to be better people by not getting so pissed off at the guy who cuts us off on the highway. No one tells us that building empathy for our enemies can be a path to reduced personal suffering. What is more, no one tells us how to manage these things even if we want to.

A lot of what I've endeavored to do with this blog, and perhaps failed in my efforts, is to demonstrate that one can make the transition mentally and that psychological change is a slow process with many failures and successes along the way. If you make that journey, through self-reflection, deliberate, but slow behavior modification and discussion with yourself about your thought patterns such that you direct them more toward who you want to be, you can bridge the gap between who you are now and your ideal image of yourself. It's not about your body. It's about your mind, but I think a lot of people miss that message and just see what I'm saying as being about losing weight. If that's what comes across, then I've not communicated my message as well as I'd hoped. But then again, half of understanding is the message that I put out there, and the other half is what other people hear. I think a lot of people hear only what they want to hear rather than what I'm actually saying, and there's nothing I can do about it.


the goddess said...

I haven't read every entry on your (most excellent) blog yet, but I've not seen any indication that you have any sort of meditation practice. And if you do, you may want to keep it totally private. This entry, however, sounds so much like brahma vihara practice that I have to make the inquiry. Namaste.

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, goddess, and thank you for your kind comment and taking the time to read.

I don't have any meditation practice. There's really no focused way of dealing with things and I'd never heard of brahma vihara before. It wouldn't be surprising, however, if psychological techniques and the positive outcomes of meditation had many things in common. I've wanted to meditate (though not in any structured manner), but find that I'm far better off with a mentally active approach (at least at this point).