I have always thought of death as a sort of dénouement. The mysteries of existence will be revealed to us at the moment we die. And one of the biggest mysteries I’m anticipating that death will dispel is: why do we resist ourselves?
Why do we need resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise? Why do we need so much high-powered resolve to do things that are meaningful, important, good for us, or desirable? Why do we need so much encouragement to accomplish our goals and dreams, some of them quite mundane: getting up earlier, writing two blog posts a week, eating better, or exercising?
Those tasks in and of themselves are not that onerous. Some may even be pleasant. What is the internal obstacle that resolutions are meant to undo? Why is the human condition so fraught with inner resistance?
Of course, there is always the possibility that we are in fact pushing ourselves in the wrong direction, choosing goals and behaviors that are inherently wrong for us. In this case, resistance means we need a course correction. This is the plot of so many ‘mid-life crisis scenarios,’ in which the hero wakes up in a life that is not his own and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. But there are many cases where we resist having to do something we choose or want, feeling like something is being done to us.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about and anguishing over this problem. I don’t think there is only one reason nor one solution for it. But I see it having to do with the problem of power. It’s like a “feudal hangover.” Centuries of being victims of tyrants, monarchical and otherwise, means that every inner voice or sense of force we use against ourselves hits a sore nerve. We instantly go into a resistance: “I know I should do X, Y and Z, but I don’t want to.”
We feel victimized by any use of power, even our own. And this triggers a retreat into resistance, or indulging in self-soothing or addictive behaviors which provide instant relief and feel entirely justified, at the time. But of course, these behaviors exacerbate the problem and create the need for ever more serious and enforced resolutions that now have to be capitalized to successfully overcome the resistance, hence the New Year’s Resolution.
My resolution this year: focus more on undoing my resistance so I don’t need to enforce my resolutions.