It is a cliche that the definition of neurotic person is someone who keeps doing the same thing, while expecting a different result. There is surely a good lesson in that expression. However, I often find it useful to think about things from the outside, in ... instead of inside, out. Especially with stubborn minds.
What do I mean? Erik Erikson famously said that "Psychotherapy begins where common sense ends." I like that. Despite being a psychoanalyst and thus by definition a happy diver into the human depths, I rarely take anyone deeper than is necessary. You don't want people to run out of air on the way down, or to get the bends on their way back.
This is why I like the idea of Reality Therapy. You may call it God, or Life, or Reality, or Chance, or whatever you chose, but It has a funny of way of teaching, and re-teaching us whatever we need to learn until we finally learn it, or die first. For me, this is analogous to the image of Christ at the door of our heart, knocking and knocking until we open the door.
Life is always trying to teach us something, and we all have problems and weaknesses and blind spots and areas of stupidity and of emotional immaturity where we can improve our mastery of life and of ourselves.
Sometimes, all we need to do is to stop, look, and listen to find what it is that life is trying to teach our stubborn minds. While I would rather piously - but truthfully - say that the red buds now emerging on my antique French Roses are teaching me that God is in his heaven, instead I will offer a timely but trivial example from my own life. I will quote myself:
An area of life in which I do not function well is with paperwork and book-keeping. I could find plenty of excuses for this, and plenty of fancy psychological explanations, but I was raised to never make excuses. The truth is that it is a character flaw, a flaw which is thrown in my face every tax season. I procrastinate - which is precisely what I am doing right now by writing this piece. I love Quicken, but I don't enter my checks. I save business receipts, but they collect dust in piles and drawers and and pocketbooks. I have delivered three Suburban loads of good outgrown kids clothing to Goodwill this year, but God knows where those lists are. In the glove compartment, maybe? And what about cost basis for stocks bought in 1987? The computer those numbers were on died years ago. No clue. And since then, I have changed brokerages and the old guy retired.
I try to pretend that April 15 is an absolute deadline, or I would never get this chore done. And I cannot rely on the hubbie, because he will have nothing to do with my mess, so we file separately.
The lesson is just not the annual miserable last-minute hassle to get everything together. Last year, I had a fine of over $3000 for errors and lateness. Ouch. There is just nothing like reality to hit you over the head and force you to learn.
Life is the real final exam, but you get to take it over every day. I will never forget my favorite Neurology professor in medical school who overheard me and a friend bitching about an exam in the hallway. "This is nothing," he said. "Every patient you will ever have is the real exam. These exams are just for you to find out what you don't know, before it's too late."
Keep knocking, Reality. Eventually, we will get it. Thanks to God that every day is a new chance to learn and change.