This week’s blog was written by my friend and colleague Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler. Her viewpoint expresses in clear psychological terms the reasons why our New Year’s resolutions too often fail. She points out that change of any kind is a slow process and one that involves persistent self-contemplation and self-reflection. She can be contacted at the following addresses: www.kavaleradler.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be back next week to continue the discussion of Internet use for children and their parents.
It is a long tradition for people to think of making “New Year’s Resolutions” each year. I have never done so myself. However, it is just now, at the approach of the New Year that I am thinking about why I don’t, and why I wouldn’t recommend doing so. My own belief is that New Year’s Resolutions not only backfire and fail, but they actually serve as a psychological resistance to self contemplation, and to actual growth and change that can be self enhancing. Just like any diet, new Year’s Resolutions go against psycho-physical organic change. The true psychological change and decision-making is based on an ongoing process of self reflection and internal conflict resolution (conscious, or opening up the unconscious aspects in psychotherapy) that takes place on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis. Attempting to jump-start this process by plugging in New Year’s Resolutions into your psyche, like one plugs in jumper cables to jump start a car, does not allow the process to unfold and be effective. First of all, you are not a car, so the use of external and urgent goals into your psyche–as if they were jumper cables that would to the job quickly–only feels to your body/mind being like an intrusion , like a foreign agent that needs to produce antibodies in the mind. These metaphorical antibodies can take the form of psychic rebellion against the dictatorial part of your mind that it’s telling you what to do. So like a two year old in the “terrible twos,” or an adolescent with an attitude, you oppose every New Year’s Resolution change you make by rebelling against it and sabotaging yourself. Further, urgent cognitive goals–without the affective feeling process (which includes your heart and stomach)–only disrupts the contemplation process of day to day self reflection, and self awareness that can lead to true change and true self and relationship development. True change only comes through conscious awareness, and the ongoing growth of conscious awareness. As Bradshaw on Channel Thirteen specials said years ago, “We are not Human Doings. We are Human Beings.” D. W. Winnicott also said the same, but in his own way, that the core of our True Self development must evolve from our being allowed to just “be,” and to have a mother or mothering environment to facilitate that core sense of being, by being with us in an alive feeling way, without intruding with controlling directives for us to “DO” anything. The Doing in our lives–through which we actually manifest our intentions and decisions–can evolve naturally from our Being, if we allow conscious awareness of our thoughts and feelings (and fantasies), and conflicts between our thoughts, and between our feelings, and between our thoughts and feelings.
HAVE A WONDERFUL, HAPPY, AND JOYOUS NEW YEAR!!!
Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, D.Litt., NCPsyA
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.