Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ON MINDING THE GAP BETWEEN SELF-AWARENESS AND BEHAVIOR CHANGE




In working on my "clutter" issues in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), I was shocked when my supportive therapist did not "buy" my romantic explanation for why I find it so hard to get rid of things. I described that tendency as: "I see the poetry in everything." I was shocked and dismayed to hear him say the equivalent of "Poetry Shmoetry! That's hoarding!" 

Now even I knew that to be a hoarder did not sound as nice as any of the euphemisms I assigned to my clutter-producing behavior. These included:

I am economical (this is the fine-motor-coordinated 3-yr.old kid who got extra points for cutting the napkins in half to save $)

I come from a family that is missing the throw-away gene.

I have such an empathetic relationship to history that I need to save everything in case there's another Depression or Holocaust

Maybe that___(fill in blank with any useless object, here) will be valuable some day

Save it for the Tag Sale (not likely to happen in this lifetime.)

Well, the move to Italy seems to have had a salutary effect on my most problematic issues. When I was down on myself for not being able to change a particular problem behavior, the encouraging therapist would say that I should cut myself some slack--that the first step toward changing a behavior is to be aware of it. 

So it is in this spirit that I, with a mixture of embarrassment and frustration, include the following photo.
 What's that on the clothesline? (No, not the towels.)
Could it be that some nut case is hanging out to dry a very used ziplock bag and a piece of plastic wrap???

Yes, it's true, and here is my excuse. Since the quality of the plastic bags and food wrap available here in Italy bears no resemblance to what we get in America, I bring along however many of these products fit in my luggage. And then, even though I know intellectually that they are not meant to last forever, and that to hoard is not healthy and leads to clutter and the need for more Cognitive Behavior Therapy, some irresistible force has led this poor woman to hang out her well used plastic wrap to dry.

HOWEVER, at least she was aware enough to laugh at herself while doing it, and to grab her camera to document this phase of her journey toward self-improvement. Thank you, Dr. D! And grazie to Bella Italia, for all that she is teaching me! 

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