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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Stop Stopping Yourself

Stop fighting yourself before you knock yourself senseless!

Stop fighting yourself before you knock yourself senseless!

By Rosanne Bane

My friend Melissa and I were laughing about how silly our rebellious natures can be – especially when we get “oppositionally defiant” with ourselves. (Oppositional defiance is a significant disorder for children and adolescents, but when you’re our age and you’re only defying yourself, it’s pretty silly.)

“I hate it when I try to tell myself what to do,” Melissa said.  “No one tells me what to do. Not even me!”

“Yeah, who do I think I am,” I added, “telling me what to do?”

For Melissa, the resistance is around cleaning. If I lived alone, I’d probably still be fighting with myself about that. When I did live alone, I knew it would be nice to have the living room vacuumed and free of pet hair, but it never seemed worth the effort of actually dragging the vacuum cleaner out of the closet, turning it on and pushing it around the room. When Claudia and I became roommates umpteen years ago, she had a routine: do your half of the cleaning on Thursday so the weekend isn’t dragged down by the need to clean. It seemed reasonable and I’d made a commitment to another person, so for years I’ve cleaned on Thursdays.

I don’t have to fight with myself about cleaning. I don’t have to even think about it. I just do the cleaning on Thursday. That’s the beauty of a habit: it’s just what you do. You don’t really think about it, so you don’t have an opportunity to start arguing with yourself about it.

For me, there always the potential of resistance around writing of course, but my habits of Process, Self-care and Product Time generally keep me moving. Where I get oppositional with myself is around food. There have been times when I’ve finished a package of cookies (or whatever) just to get it over with and stop fighting with myself.

“I won’t eat cookie” – “But I want cookie. Just one cookie won’t matter.”

 Which was usually followed by “I won’t eat another cookie.” – “Just one more won’t matter.”

Which was followed by “Ohmigod, I’ve almost eaten the whole package.” –“Well, one more cookie certainly won’t matter now.”

Some of you know I lost 50 pounds five years ago. I managed to keep 35 pounds off and now I’m back to a net loss of 45 pounds. Five more pounds and I’ll be back to the former “low” and I’m going to keep going until I’m normal-weighted.

I know I need habits (an exercise habit, meditation habit, tracking my food habit, grocery shopping habit, and so on) because without them, I fight myself too much. Funny thing is that all that fighting doesn’t seem to burn calories, just like fighting with myself about writing never seemed to create drama on the page (i.e. fiction).

I’ve noticed that when I’m oppositional with myself in one area of my life, I usually get oppositional with myself in all areas of my life. Fortunately, the reverse is also true and good habits in one area promote good habits all around. Exercise, meditation, recording what I eat and providing myself with healthy, appealing choices are all part of the Self-care practice that supports my writing life.

So where do you tend to get oppositional with yourself? What habits do you have or could you acquire to move yourself past that opposition (aka resistance)?

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