I used to try to control myself. It felt like there were two different people in my head, Good Robyn and Bad Robyn. Good Robyn was always trying to get Bad Robyn to do what she thought was right, and Bad Robyn just wanted to do whatever felt good in the moment.
I vividly remember once such instance, when I was in the middle of a breakup. Good Robyn was telling Bad Robyn not to text the guy she was breaking up with. “It’s a bad idea. Don’t do it!” But, Bad Robyn felt like she just had to text him. “We have to fix this! Now! This feels so BAD! A little text won’t hurt.” The battle was on between Good Robyn and Bad Robyn. Good Robyn usually won for a while, but fatigue would set in and Bad Robyn would end up taking over, usually after a long day.
In an effort to pause and practice self-control, I messaged a friend. “Can I text him?” I asked. She knew exactly who I meant - the guy I’d been off and on with for a while and had sworn to never text again. The same guy I was breaking up with.
Her reply: “You can text him if you want, but why do you want to text him?”
It wasn’t asked with judgment or shame. It wasn’t implying that I shouldn’t text him, or that I should. It was honestly, curiously asking, why?
This question, “why?” without judgment, has completely transformed my relationship with myself. I went from trying to control myself, to trying to understand myself.
Why did I want to text him?
This question requires so much more of us – self-awareness, understanding and compassion. It requires us to face ourselves and our most deeply held beliefs.
Asking why frees us.
When we stop trying to control ourselves, and start asking why we want to do something, we become closer to ourselves. We start to get in touch with our deepest needs. We start to see how often the actions we take to meet these needs (such as texting an ex) aren’t meeting these needs at all (the need to feel loved and wanted). This opens up the door for us to find new, healthier ways to meet these needs.
Once I was able to ask the question, why was I wanting to text him?
I was able to see the answer: I was wanting to feel wanted. I was wanting to feel loved.
And I knew how to meet these needs – or at least, I learned how to meet these needs once I became aware of what I was really wanting underneath the immediate impulse.
I could feel loved by loving myself. I could feel loved by sitting with myself and asking what I wanted instead of trying to control myself.