I can be such an awful person to my boyfriend I’m not even sure why he stays with me. I’m always jealous and it’s always over nothing and then later I feel so bad about what I’ve said to him or done to him. I’m crazy. I’ve tried to change so hard but then he’ll talk to another girl and I’ll go right back to being a bitch. How do I change? I need to change. He doesn’t deserve this.
Hey, here’s a long distance ((e-hug)). I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling that way when clearly you have such a good heart. You recognise your boyfriend’s qualities and you value them. What you’re facing is the reality that all of us have strengths we have subtly developed as we’ve grown up. But we never notice those because we take them for granted because we’re busy looking at our blind spots or the other tender areas that we have not developed at all. This isn’t an oversight on our part—even if we noticed these invisible things earlier we still don’t have the time to become everything.
Some people develop remarkable patience, or work ethics, or moral codes, or fighting or debating skills, or creative abilities… there’s a lot of ways to be human. But you can’t do all of these things, and growing up is really the act of moving through these various becomings. You will be many people in your lifetime. But you can’t be everyone nor everything. So the trick is, you’re trapped as who you are and you’ve concluded that means you’re failing at changing into who you want to be. But I would argue you’ve changed into exactly who you asked to become.
You can’t simultaneously want to be someone and also be that person. The wanting is the antithesis of being. We are who we think we are and so thinking wanting thoughts is to reinforce the idea that you are not that other person you want to be. The wanting is a story you tell yourself about how you are not this other person.
Can you see how crazy it is when we don’t understand that our identities are made of our thoughts? You can intend to become someone but instead your ego accidentally confuses you into becoming someone who wants to become the person you want to be.
So how do you fix this? I’m happy to report it’s pretty easy. You just have to be kinder to yourself while you develop this ability. At first it will seem weird to let go of the wanting thoughts in favour of thinking the person you want to be’s thoughts. The reason it will feel weird is you will tell yourself another story that you’re just pretending and that it doesn’t count. But again that’s just another story you’re telling yourself. Because even when you’re being who you feel is the real you you’re still pretending, the only difference is that you’re thinking that person’s thoughts and you’re not judging whether or not you have the right to think them.
Do you know the dance The Bunny Hop? You jump forward twice and back once and you make this halting progress across the dance floor. Such is much of life too. So you’ll Bunny Hop through this too. Some days you’ll be good at catching yourself. Others you’ll choose more habitual thoughts, but the more you practice living different thoughts than those that you’ve habitually chosen the more you will begin to get a taste of how truly free you are.
You’re not anyone. You’re not someone. You are possibility. Your brain can think any person’s thoughts and in doing so you can literally be any kind of person you choose to be. The only thing that prevents that from happening is the story you tell yourself about how you don’t believe you’re that capable nor that life can be that easy.
Don’t want to be different. Think the new person’s thoughts as much as possible. Use your angry feelings to act as a signalling system that you are hurting the person you love. Use it as a signalling system to shift into playing the character of someone more confident and self-assured and eventually those thoughts will begin to feel more natural until you get to the point where you can own them so thoroughly that your beliefs will change and you will accept a new identity.
It’s clear you love your boyfriend and it’s sweet that you’re so dedicated to improving his life. But don’t beat up yourself to do that. He wouldn’t want that. Instead blossom. Become the next version of you right alongside him. And you do that by thinking that person’s thoughts instead of the ones you’ve historically thought. Fortunately that’s all very flexible and always has been. You just never realised that you weren’t you—but rather that you are an open, flexible, creative being that can be anyone, and that you had simply made an innocent subconscious choice to be the you you’ve historically been. But wakes don’t move ships so it doesn’t matter who you’ve been or for how long, you still have the freedom to think anyone’s thoughts you choose.
So relax. Remember your freedom. And when in doubt, do what love would do. ((big hug))
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.