If Something Doesn’t Change, Things Remain the Same (aka “Duh”)

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I hear it all the time; on an almost daily basis. “Why does all this bad crap keep happening to me?” The therapist in me recognizes the external locus of control. For some reason people do not recognize the simplicity with which change can occur in their lives. In Catholicism we refer to it as “avoiding the near occasion of sin.” The concept is very similar; don’t put yourselves in a situation in which bad consequences are likely to occur.

Spelling out for people why “all this bad crap” has happened seems to make a light bulb go off. Recounting the series of events and bad decisions that have lead up to the present moment seems to bring about an “aha” moment. But why? Why did the potential for these bad consequences not occur to the person prior to thinking and acting in ways that lead to the bad consequences? The initial response when I try to point out to the person why things have unfolded in this particular way is indignation. “How dare you suggest that I caused this to happen to myself?” But then, the “aha” happens. Then the “wow, how did I not predict that?” moment occurs.

I think that the way society promotes instant gratification has a lot to do with the problem. Because people want what they want right now, they do not bother to think any further than how to get it. If people would visualize the scene and play it all the way through to the end, realistically calculating the potential for things to go wrong, they may get better final results and avoid the mess that ensues by not doing so. For instance, if I am on parole, and want to catch up with my friend, Jimmy, who is also a felon and a known drug dealer, and I decide to run over to his house and have a drink or two, which leads to snorting a line off of his glass coffee table and then getting into a fistfight with his girlfriend because she was also drinking and did a line and doesn’t like how Jimmy looked at me while I was leaning over the table, I shouldn’t be surprised when the cops are called by the neighbors who hear the ruckus, and I end up back in lockup with my parole violated. How does the famous historical quote go?… I think it was George Santayana who said it; and I’m paraphrasing…”Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them?” Hmm, I think he’s got something there.

So… I guess the answer lies in learning to think before we speak or act. It lies in learning to delay gratification. It lies is learning to contemplate potential outcomes, both positive and negative, prior to acting. So breathe…and think…and then proceed.

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