The Problem with New Year Resolutions

The Truth Behind Our Excuses

We all make excuses. Even as we’re trying our damndest to believe that this year I am actually going to follow through on my New Years intentions, chances are a voice somewhere in the background is already preparing, rehearsing, and reciting the excuses you’ll tell yourself when you come up short.

Thanks to the beautiful, daring people who are helping me explore and flesh out this new self-hypnosis training framework, I’m starting off my New Year with a series of mind-expanding insights. I wanted to share one with you today because I think it has the potential to help you create or attract more of what you want in your life in 2016:

A frightened inner child lurks behind every excuse you make for why you can’t change your life.

I played the Georgia Powerball lottery last night. I rarely play the lottery, but my wife seemed to feel I had a little bit of luck on my side yesterday. I was going out to Kroger for supplies anyway. She said, “It’s something like eight billion dollars – I think you should buy a couple tickets.”

This got me thinking about a statement I heard several times this week. I’ve said this in the past, and you’ve almost certainly either said it, thought it, or nodded your head in sympathy as you listened to someone close to you saying it: “If I won the lotto, I’d…”

This is such an interesting thing to say! Can I break it down for you? “Let me take it to the bridge!”

  • Notice the wording: it’s “if I won” — not “when I win”. Yes, if is much more ‘realistic’ than when in the case of winning the lottery, but if is also the calling card of the excuse that’s lurking in the shadows. We already know we’re not going to win. We may desperately want to believe it. But we don’t. If we did believe, we wouldn’t be telling people, “If I won the lotto, I’d…”
  • This statement is actually the rationalization of a negative belief many of us share, but most of us feel uncomfortable saying out loud: “I’ll never have enough money to do what I really want to do.”
  • An even deeper statement of belief for most of us is: “I’m never going to do that thing I really want to do.” (Because you and I both know I’m not going to win the lotto – and I can’t do it unless a huge amount of money suddenly falls into my lap.)
  • If my whole being was committed to doing this thing, I might reformulate my statement about the lotto as: “When I can stop sabotaging my self with negative beliefs and habits, I’m going to…” Or: “When I can understand how to pull together the support I need, this is what I’m going to do.”
  • I felt a twinge of anxiety in my chest and a little pang of fear in my stomach as I was writing that last sentence. It activated my “negative sensory pathway” by challenging a core negative belief. This belief, which so many of us seem to share, says: “You’re doomed to never be able to get what you really want…”

“…so don’t even try”

That’s the even less-conscious conclusion of that belief system. We’re never really going to get what we want, so what’s the point in trying?

I used to boast about how I never made New Years resolutions. “No one keeps ’em anyway,” I’d say. “It’s just a set-up for failure.”

What my ego was really communicating – in its typically self-righteous ego style – is: “At least I don’t foolishly set myself up for disappointment the way those other idiots do. I know Life doesn’t really support me. So (me being smarter than most people) I just refuse to buy into that delusion.”

Typical egoic-mind bullshit line there: “I’m better than you because at least I don’t even try!”

The wounded child and the many benefits of awareness

The big insight this week – and I’m grateful to my beautiful, brave self-hypnosis training clients for helping me tune into this one – was recognizing that the excuses we say out loud and repeat ad nauseum in our heads are actually a clever cover-up for a wounded inner child or split-off soul part. This past self or ‘part’ is so afraid of having to re-experience the pain of disappointment, failure, abandonment, or shame that it fights like hell to stop us from even getting started down the path that leads to the life we really want to live.

James Hillman says that rather than ask, “Why am I experiencing this?” we should ask, “Who in the soul is experiencing this?”

Here’s the fantastic thing about becoming aware of who in the soul is generating the rationalizations we make to soften the pain of our imminent disappointment in Life – and of what this part is actually saying. Just having this awareness opens up potentials that were hidden a moment before.

You accelerate the individuation process

The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed that the inherent challenge of life was what he called individuation – learning to know the Self by differentiating “what is authentically me” from what I learned about myself from my parents, siblings, peers, and other humans.

As you first start developing the new habit of realizing that the voice inside who constantly churns out excuses for avoiding the inevitable failure or disappointment is not adult you, you are now beginning to automatically shift out of these powerless ego places and back into your powerful adult self. Your adult self has resources. He has successfully let go of bad habits and formed positive, life-changing habits in the past. She has survived periods of intense adversity and come out stronger, saner and more self-sufficient. The simple fact of becoming aware of who is making the excuses can change your life, because it differentiates you from your patterns.

Free will vs. Fate

We don’t tend to challenge an inner voice we think of as “me”. When think or say out loud a statement we’ve been repeating our entire lives, it feels uncomfortably natural.

As soon as we become aware of what’s really happening, though, we have choices we didn’t have a moment before:

  • I can challenge the validity of the subconscious belief system. I can realize that the frightened child who wasn’t getting the love or validation he needed may have formed this belief in order to protect himself – in order to survive. But I’m not a child now, and I have many more resources and much more autonomy than he possessed.
  • I can choose to engage in thought experiments along the lines of, “I’m going to pretend that this core belief is actually a falsehood for me now. In fact, I’m going to imagine that Life does want more than anything for me to do the thing that I love. I wonder how many ways there are for me to be supported that I have never allowed myself to become aware of…?”
  • I can choose to accept that – at this moment – I don’t feel strong enough to risk change. Or that – at this moment – I’m unwilling to even considering breaking that bad habit.*
  • I might even choose to take one small step towards what I want, demonstrating my willingness to believe in my soul, in Life, and in my own inherent value as a human being. Taking this step, regardless of the outcome of my action, feeds my soul and spirit and brings me energy.

* (Can you see how this ‘adult’ choice is still a big step into my own power? Now, at least I have agency. Whereas, a moment ago I was at the mercy of Fate – forced into a position where my only option was to defend a choice that was made for me a long, long time ago. To cover for this powerless, resentful, fearful person inside me – a person who should most definitely not be running my life at this time!)

We might just heal the wound of a lifetime

Once we are aware of the underlying negative belief – and the frightened child who is clinging so desperately to that belief – we can exercise true self-compassion. How terribly sad that this part of us is so afraid of change/success/love/connection/prosperity that it will sabotage our most cherished dreams! In my work with people in the soul realm over the years, I’ve found that people experience compassion given to their inner five-year-old as much more genuine and effective than repeating affirmations or, for example, trying to look at their adult face in the mirror and say the same things.

Hope this gives you some soul food for thought.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with New Year Resolutions

  1. Lisa says:

    Happy New Year, DK!
    I consider my greatest accomplishment for 2015 has been to discover “who in the soul” is experiencing this. You and I have been working on it for a while , thank you very much :-), and it has really landed this past year. It has taken some pretty painful experiences for me to differentiate my adult self but seeing a pattern as a pattern finally, really getting that it’s not just something I seem to be afflicted with, is hugely liberating. To be in the middle of paradise (in pretty much all ways) and find myself in struggle really made it easy to own the struggle as my own, all happening inside me, and choose to heal that part of me, instead of upping the defenses in an environment that clearly didn’t require that. I really appreciate my wounded child for teaching me to have really strong boundaries and take good care of myself. And now I see that I don’t need to strengthen them any more. When my value, esteem, respect, boundaries feel threatened the challenge then becomes choosing to respond from my adult self without repressing the little child. In conversation with a friend the other day I got the insight that all I have to do really is state my intention, my willingness, to care for and protect her in those situations. I don’t have to struggle with doing it right, or worry about whether I’ll know if it is the little child reacting or it is truly a moment requiring the establishment of a boundary. I think I’ll know, or get better at knowing. The other day I had to call a conversation about something but I could feel her righteousness continuously creeping in to my imagining of the conversation. Instead I prayed for love and gratitude and generosity. I cannot describe the gratitude – pure grace – I had for being able to enter that kind of a conversation feeling love. It’s so painful to go into something feeling like you have to defend yourself (as in undefended) or like someone is the enemy when you know perfectly well they aren’t. I think my point is, I got all the benefit. I felt good. I felt connected. I was able to be authentic and not be watching and directing the conversation. What a relief. She felt safe. How could I not want to choose this? I see it’s a journey, though, and hope to remember how good it feels to make a different choice every time she gets triggered. Love and gratitude! Lisa

    • DK Brainard says:

      Lisa! May we all be blessed to “get it” on the level you’ve gotten it! That is so wonderful and I am grateful for your unparalleled support and presence in my own process of getting it for me – namely, that I can choose joy in (almost) any moment. In fact, I saw your comment at the perfect time because – now I realize – the Resistance was doing its best to trick me into skipping or shortening my creativity time today because “there are important things to attend to”. There are, but none that need doing in the next 90 minutes 🙂

      Love you! More grace, more joy, more freedom <3

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