There are days when I just can’t seem to shut up. Even if I am alone, for everyone else’s sake, I’ll be posting twenty things per minute on Facebook and working on multiple blog entries simultaneously (maybe even on that book that I told everyone I am writing). People who, unlike me, understand something about managing blogs, advise to schedule posts wisely, but on those days I feel like, “What do you mean schedule?? I have to say ALL of this RIGHT NOW! It is quite crucial that this information is released immediately!”
Then, there are days when as much as saying “good morning” will feel like a big achievement, a milestone I am not necessarily able to reach. If I am alone, for everyone else’s sake, I will be seriously questioning the purpose of getting out of bed. My answers to anyone who ventures to ask me anything will mostly be monosyllabic.
In between, there are also days when I feel adequate. The predominant emotion on those days is relief, whichever one of the extremes the adequate days follow.
I can almost predict those states and they definitely don’t come as a surprise, none of them. And yet, I inevitably fall into the very same trap every time. Whenever the state changes, I am thinking, ‘Now! That’s it! THIS is who I really am!”. If it’s the uplifted state of not being able to shut up, I will think: ‘Finally, I am in line with my cosmic purpose!’ When it’s the other extreme, I will think, ‘I’m just a depressed cynic, everyone knows that and this is why I only got ten likes on Facebook today”. And when I feel adequate, I think, ‘Nothing is really wrong with me, thank god!’
I am sharing this because I believe it is a good illustration of how we cannot with all seriousness identify with our moods, thoughts, and emotions. Those things come and go, and if we attached our sense of self to them, we would have to admit that we are not one person, but rather an army… Who are we then in reality? If I am not an inspired and creative person, not a depressed person, and not just an average normal adequate and boring person, who am I? I am someone, who can take a step back, observe all of those personas impartially, and maybe even slightly affectionately, and laugh at them, just like I am doing now by writing this post.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, psychologists use the chess game metaphor to illustrate the same point. Let’s say you have an internal conflict about some issue. For example, you can’t decide whether you should change your job. One part of you, the white figures, says you should stay because the job provides financial stability. The other part, the black figures, says you should quit and follow your passion. If you identify yourself with either black or white figures and try to suppress the “wrong” thinking, to win the argument, you are at war. With yourself. One implication of being at war with yourself is that if you win, you also loose. There is no good outcome when you fight with yourself. But if you are neither the white figures, nor the black figures, who are you then? What are other choices? One other choice is that you are the board. No matter what happens with the figures, you are just there, aware of and observing the game unfold.