It’s not ‘will’ but the stories we tell ourselves, that give us power–or have power over us.
Do I take the day off, or go to City Hall “just to see how things are going?” Do I go the Wine and Spirit Store, or save the money and do without? Such choices are made, not by “will,” but by imagination.
Will power is helpless against habit. It isn’t even real.
If I give in and go to City Hall, even though I need a full day off; if I go to the store and buy a bottle of wine, it’s because I more powerfully imagined having done these things, internally imagined them, and that imagination overrules attempts to “will” myself to make other choices. Every time.
I think that’s how I quit smoking almost 40 years ago. Quitting was hard, not because I lacked sufficient will power, but because Not Smoking, was impossible to imagine, Not Smoking brought to mind flickering pictures of the many situations where I really wanted a cigarette: after morning coffee, after a nice meal, when I felt stressed out and needed something to distract me–but I could imagine, stripped of any particular context, giving up just one cigarette–the next one.
Is it possible then, when I feel that internal “choice” to have already determined, to tell myself a different story (and this is the deeper meaning of how stories effect us, isn’t it?) I spin out a picture narrative, of what I will do…no! Not, what I WILL do, will to do–framed as a choice–but DOING it. I am catching up on my journal. I’m making rice and beans, step by step. I’m tapping down a piece of watercolor paper, preparing it for a painting. One thing at a time (that one-day-at-a-time) thing is useless, if you can’t fill the day ahead with a story powerful enough to carry you through).
If I find myself trapped by habit, by neurotic compulsion… –what are the stories I’ve been telling myself?
But then, imagination is all entangled with desire, so the question is, what do I want? But what I want is shaped by the stories that have shaped me. So who and what is it that tells us our stories?
Why psychoanalysis has more to tell about about ourselves than any of the behavior modification theories.