on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

breaking out of rigid thinking

I was very disorganised and messy when I was younger, and I often could not get things done. I was also very unfit – who wants to exercise when one can lie horizontal in bed and do nothing? I only realised in recent years that these are all symptoms of being chronically depressed and basically having nothing to live for. I believe that we are only truly interested in being healthful when there is a baseline amount of self-love. There must be an incentive to want to be more alive.

As I got older I learnt how to use the concept of habit streaks to incorporate activities I didn’t really want to do in my life but knew they were important – like exercise. So I did things like run 60 days in a row, only to learn much later that taking breaks are important for recovery. 

I am on one of my healthiest periods of my life in terms of physical fitness. This did not come easy as it took me months of strictish dieting and a slow gradual buildup of exercising to get to a point where I can jog for 5km almost everyday without hurting my biometrics and triggering a migraine. It seems all good, except I become extremely anxious and fearful if I have to deviate from my routine. I journalled about this every morning. I think this behaviour is an over-compensation for the lack of discipline in my youth – which I wish to clarify that it is really never about discipline but finding the right motivation and incentive to do something, on top of true emotional healing. Messy emotions result in messy actions, or it may manifest in their other extreme as an obsessive compulsive complex: a desperate need for order.

I feel like I have come a long way in terms of emotional healing, but I am definitely not healed. I am not sure if I’ll ever be healed, or if human beings are capable of walking around in a non-wounded state since everything seems to be wounding in this world. But I know I am not healed, because I am aware that my responses to the world are not reasonable, measured or regulated. I still feel disproportionate emotional pain to the most ordinary of stimuli, like a conflict with my partner over whether to make a certain purchase.

In many ways I am afraid to unravel like a ball of yarn, afraid that if I step out of my routine I may never find the inner strength to resume again. It has take so much momentum and energy to get here. I see that this is partially a matter of trust, do I trust myself enough that I will still be capable of making the correct choices over the easier ones?

I realised that being too disciplined has a negative effect on me. I have become rigid in my thinking, unable to exercise flexibility or creativity in my life. I became anxious when I have to eat out or stop exercising for a day, in a very disproportionate way. This sort of rigidity underlies other parts of my life too. I was too dysregulated aka spontaneous when I was younger, now I am over-regulating myself but this is still masking my dysregulated emotions.

An emotionally healthy person (if you can find one) treats hiccups in life lightly, they would probably see it as a minor inconvenience and move on; a person like me sees every hiccup as a major roadblock and as life threatening.

illustration of being trapped in rigid circles

I am trying to break out of this rigidity. Some times I feel like I walk round and round in circles until I finally breakthrough, then I wonder why I made myself suffer so much for holding on to something so tightly in the first place. Other times I am not even aware I was being rigid until many days of repetitive journalling. Sometimes it takes extraordinary effort to walk on a certain path so we want to keep going, only to realise later that it was time to switch paths instead. I think most of us are very stuck in the throes of daily life and it takes something to jump out of the water we’re swimming in and take a good look around.

How can I get better at noticing this rigidity, that many times I am not seeing things from a wide enough vantage point? There are some things that have to be evaluated from the grand scheme of things, and then there are other things that have to be considered in the present, because the passage of time is not guaranteed. I am still developing the wisdom to discern.

When I get confused I ask myself: what is the sort of life I want to live? I still want to be more alive first and foremost, so to achieve that I do need reasonably good physical health, but it cannot be so much of an obsession that I limit the spectrum of life I am leading. What is the point of being in hyper-optimal health when I feel dead inside?

I think about seasons. A certain approach may work in a certain season – we just need the flexibility to know when to change approaches when conditions change. Through all that journeying I have also become a different person, but I still install guardrails around myself as though I am guarding against my old selves.

A good therapist would probably point all of this out to me at appropriate times and I could have saved myself a lot of grief and confusion, but they are rare, especially here in Singapore. I need to think of ways that can provoke me to keep reevaluating my life choices. Perhaps once a month I answer some designated questions designed to evaluate whether I am still spiritually aligned to my decisions?