Musings: A Recovering Absolutist

Black and white, all or nothing, should have or should have not…

Do you ‘absolute‘ things in life? I have. I always have. It’s taken some (re: a lot) of self-reflection to understand that I am an absolutist.

After doing a quick Google search about this type of thinking, it makes so much more sense why I react to certain things and situations like I do. I want to think I’m a ‘go with the flow’ type of person, but really, I’m not. I want to be and am going to work towards adopting that mentality, but it will be hard. Really effing hard.

I also realized my Momma Bear is very much like this, as is Lil too. I think I’m the least on the spectrum, but we are all similar in this way. I first truly noticed it more with Momma Bear, I mostly saw it in how she prefers to start something with a specific start date. I always thought it was her rigidity, only to realize I do the same thing in my own way. In no way is this blame, but just an understanding of where I might have learned this behavior from. I’m sure I’ve picked it up from a variety of people and circumstances, but I think it is mostly from her. I’m glad I’ve realized my absolutism and I’m even happier I’m going to move forward to be flexible with my thoughts.

I truly believe I was destined to realize this during this time in my life, as it manifested as one of my lessons from all of the recent messiness I’ve been living. It’s just another part of my growth process. At first, the idea that I’d be growing and changing at 35 seemed ridiculous. Then I sat there and realized, why the hell is self-growth at any age ridiculous? Why do I think that? Why am I judging myself, my process, and my life? That is unfair.

In hindsight, small ah-ha moments over the years have highlighted my absolute thinking. I’m this way with the gym, it bleeds into my thoughts about gym attendance. I stay going every day and don’t ever want to stop, because I think if I take a rest day, one day will turn into two, then to three, and so on and I’ll have missed the gym for three weeks straight. I also noticed it after running my first marathon. I stuck to my training schedule like it was life or death, for the fear that if I deviated I’d fall off completely. Again, because I know I fall victim to my absolutist thinking. While cognitively I know this isn’t true, I live and practice my absolute thoughts. I know bodies need rest days. I know MY body needs rest days. But my absolutism takes over and I think the worst, even though I know I make the choice to come back or not come back after a rest day.

What I’m slowly, VERY SLOWLY realizing, is that this all-or-nothing belief system causes unnecessary emotional suffering. By allowing myself to adhere to this type of belief system I am opening myself up to continual contradiction to my beliefs. When these contradictions arise, I sense them as a threat to how I see everything. It also makes sense that when I feel threatened, anger is usually to follow. I impose situations upon myself, that do not conform to what I think ought to happen. Unnecessary emotional distress, essentially. Does this make sense at all?

From what I read, empathy is a great way to not continue this thought process. It will remind me that my thoughts can be flexible. It will help facilitate the idea that I am powerless over certain things in my life, regardless of actual or perceived circumstances. After understanding what I have been allowing myself to do for 35 years, choices, reactions, and things in my life make much more sense now. Conversely, I have a lot of work to do to undo this type of thinking. 35 years of doing something will be a hard task to try to undo, but I am here, aware and willing to work on changing it. It truly is all I can ask for.

As I explored my absolute mindset, I realized the should mindset also plays a part in this larger mess. I needed to ditch the “should,” “should have,” or “should have nots!” Overall, should needs to be removed from my vocabulary.

I should graduate from college in four years.
I should have a career right after college.
I should get married by 30.
I should be dating now that I’m single.
I should have kids soon.
I should own a home.
I should be making six figures.
I should be in a managerial position.
I should.
I should.
I should.

NO!

I shouldn’t do anything. I will live my life as it feels in the moment and allow it to happen organically. I will live in the here and now and not place stringent standards or expectations on my life. I don’t need to live in black and white. I need to live with flexibility and an openness to what is unknown. This isn’t to say I won’t have goals established or go against my morals, but I won’t take societal, internal, family, or friend pressures and conform to them. I will live my life for myself. Those that want to be around will stay and those that don’t will make room for those that do. It truly is that simple. I’ve been overcomplicating my life for far too long.

I don’t know for sure, but I think this is also why I have a hard time letting things go. If it doesn’t fit into my absolute thought process, I cannot let go of whatever it is. I want finality, I want everything to fit neatly into my little black and white box. And, to my emotional avail, life does not work that way. At all. So, here I am, learning to be flexible in the way I think and accept or let things go. I need help with this, which is where my friends, family, and therapist will come in and remind me, daily, hourly, weekly, or monthly.

Life is the exception to the rule…and that’s all I have to live!

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