Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My topic for yesterday's Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group was Motivation, part 2.  The previous session, I did Motivation, and the people in attendance were really struggling with even motivating themselves to taking care of basic needs, so I decided to do a continuation of the topic.  Yesterday we focused on three things: pros and cons, self esteem, and 'parent'/'child'. 

In any decision we consciously make we weigh the pros and cons, even if we don't realize we are doing it. Pros are reasons in favor of whatever it is, cons are reasons against it.  
Self esteem may play a big part in motivation. If you feel good about yourself as a person, you are more likely to make choices that support your well-being, and to be willing to put in effort to take care of yourself. If you don't feel good about yourself, you are more likely to have thoughts such as 'It doesn't matter, anyway, why bother,' and 'I'm not worth fussing over', and to not take care of your needs.
We all have within us different aspects of ourselves. One aspect is a childlike part of us that doesn't want to do anything that is hard or painful or not fun. Another aspect is our 'parent', which takes responsibility for getting our needs met, and for taking care of business. Another way to look at it is the child wants what it wants now (immediate gratification), while the parent looks at the big picture, and is willing to delay gratification if that will give a better deal in the long run.
We did an exercise yesterday that illustrated how these can be applied to increase motivation.  The topic was 'asking for help', an area with which many people have difficulty.  We listed pros and cons of asking for help.  Pros included getting it done, its easier, having company, more fun, etc.  Cons included feeling indebted, embarrassment, having to accept you need help, etc.  The lists came out fairly even, as far as number of items on each list.  We talked a little about how some things on the lists may be more important than others, and if we wanted to, we could assign each one a weight, perhaps 1-5, where 1 is not very important, and 5 is very important.  You would add up the numbers on each side, and see if the pros or the cons added up to the most.
We then decided the 'parent' would probably say, "If you need the help, ask for it".  The child wouldn't actually ask for help, he would just complain that the task is too hard, it isn't fair, etc.  Though asking for help may seem like it would lower your self esteem because of feeling needy or dependent, it actually raises your self esteem, because you are being assertive, taking care of yourself, and getting your needs met.  I asked the people in the group what they would do next time they needed help.  It was unanimous: they would ask for help.  
This exercise can be used for any decision, to motivate you to do whatever you need to do. There is sometimes conflict between what we want to do and what we 'should' do. These 'should's may come from others expectations of us, or what they think is best for us. Or they may come from ourselves, what we know or think would be best for us. Why don't we 'just do it'?  Too much effort, too much pain, not enough incentive... or just plain old fashioned 'I don't wanna'.    
Sometimes we need to call on the 'parent' aspect of ourselves to override the protests of the 'child'. Ask yourself what a good friend who cares about your well-being would advise you to do. That is likely what your 'parent' aspect would advise you as well. Look at the big picture, not just how this decision will affect you immediately, but how it will affect you in the long run. If your 'child' is protesting, you have the choice of going along with the 'child', or with the 'parent'. Which do you choose?

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