Psychological Stone Soup: A Recipe for Self-Development

When I get someone’s ear long enough to get up on a small soapbox and suggest an entry to the path of self-development, I always point to making the bed and washing the dishes. These habits are all about starting small. So small, if fact, that they might barely even be considered self-development. Let me explain why I think both are key habits to establish. Continue reading “Psychological Stone Soup: A Recipe for Self-Development”

Perfectionism, Procrastination, the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset & Mastery

Regular readers know that I am am a huge fan of Stephen Pressfield’s ‘artist user manual’ book “The War of Art”. A central focus of the book is the concept that Pressfield names “Resistance”, and it symbolizes all of that psychological stuff that keeps us from creating our work.

Resistance = Perfectionism?

I’ve come to believe that what Pressfield calls Resistance is another name for Perfectionism — at least for me. Perfectionism is a tricky term, because most people (as I once did) think they already know what that word means, and that it doesn’t apply to them. I suggest that anyone who can commiserate with the lack of motivation to start or maintain progress in their chosen creative outlet look into perfectionism a bit deeper.

My research and reading led me to a quite succinct and insightful book that really opened up perfectionism in an easy to understand manner, and offered specific solutions to get past it — yes, it thankfully can be unlearned, and I discuss below some of the excellent tools I’ve discovered to do so.
Continue reading “Perfectionism, Procrastination, the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset & Mastery”

Mysterious Corridors: Recent Drawings

I started allotting weekends for personal, non-illustration/cartooning artwork. The days fill up quickly, and I wasn’t getting to work on any of this stuff in the evenings as originally planned.

Here’s a collection of all the drawings to date. You can see more over at my personal art portfolio website. The term “visionary art” seems most appropriate to this kind of approach, so that’s what I refer to the art I create in this style as. Definitely influenced by H.R. Giger, Alex Gray and others.

More Halloween Monster & Creature Art

More recent Halloween-themed illustration artwork I’ve been creating for my Daily Sketch practice. Be sure to follow my Coghill Cartooning blog on WordPress.com to keep up with all the Daily Sketches.

Fantasy As Control

Fantasy has a connotation of something pleasurable or desirable. But to the perfectionist, control is pleasurable and desirable. The perfectionist has externalized their ego — they have identified with their possessions, their talents, their failures and successes, the attention and approval of the hive — and thus seeks control in the external world in order to preserve self-worth. The perfectionist, in attempting to control the external world, is attempting to protect his sense of self, his ego. The perfectionist perceives it as “out there”, exposed, defenseless.

Rumination is a core tool in the perfectionist’s kit. Rumination is a distorted form of fantasy. A fantasy for those who want control over the external world. Fantasies where we can alter the past or manipulate the trajectories of present circumstances (in other to words, “the future”). Rumination always seems to take two forms: rehearsing the future, and replaying and reworking the past. The story we tell ourselves is that somehow we can analyze the past actions, and then plan perfect future actions. Only it seems we never actually seem to do this. We over-identify so deeply with the outcome that when actually in the present moment, we freeze up.

As the Stoic philosophers point out, we can only control our actions and our responses. Not circumstances, nor outcomes/consequences. Perfectionists seem to be avoiding the only situation where they actually have control: the present moment.

The fool attempts to control consequences; the wise man seeks to control his actions.

The Inertial Mind

One insight I’ve had lately regarding meditation sits (and other habits in general) is how often I’m not so motivated to sit, but once I do I find myself quickly getting into the mood, and then I do not want to stop. This then repeats for the next activity I am resistant to begin, and the cycle repeats. I then began to notice this in pretty much all aspects of my life: exercise, art, writing. The activity didn’t seem to matter, it was the shift to a new one that was the crux of the resistance.

It made me realize that the mind is an inertia machine — it prefers to keep doing whatever it is it is currently doing. Helpful or detrimental, it doesn’t seem to care or recognize the difference. The mind just prefers to keep doing what it is doing right now. The insight here is to just commit to getting started, and putting 5 minutes/reps/sentences/notes/brushstrokes/etc into action.

Perfectionist/procrastination advice of “just get started” comes to mind here, as does the idea of tiny habits and mini habits.

You don’t need much time to shift the mind over to the next thing it will get attached to, but the shift is where the struggle happens. It’s as if we have this impetuous child within, as if we do not evolve our personas but rather accumulate upon an ancient core that cannot be matured, evolved, ignored or reasoned with. We just need to understand how it functions, and find ways to work with it. The real key here is that it will never “go away”. We will never “get past” these struggles. Once we learn to accept and work constructively with these ground rules in mind, the easier it is to get past them.

It’s easy to think to yourself “I am lazy” and explain these behaviors away. But I don’t think there is any “I am” in these behaviors. I think these are artifacts of the structure of mind/brain/body. Once we realize these are impersonal, external to the self, and permanent, functional “hard wired” aspects of Mind, we can stop identifying with them and start looking for solutions to work around them. Work with them. Use them, instead of fighting them.

These struggles to sit in meditation, to exercise, to create — they are not signs of personal flaws, weaknesses or limitations. They are signs that the system is working normally. A bicycle only maintains balance when in motion; this is not a flaw, but an unavoidable and intrinsic aspect of the design. There is only one solution: start pedaling.