Thursday, April 17, 2014

Willfulness vs. Willingness

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about willingness and willfulness, probably something to do with the fact that it seems like every time I have a conversation about my ED, it comes back to those two words. In DBT, there is a lot of talk about willingness vs. willfulness. Marsha Linehan describes willingness and willfulness like this: 

Willfulness is... 
Sitting on your hands when action is needed, refusing to make changes that are needed. 
Giving up. 
The opposite of "doing what works," being effective.
Trying to fix every situation. 
Refusing to tolerate the moment. 

Willingness is...
Doing just what is needed in each situation, in an unpretentious way. It is focusing on effectiveness. 
Listening very carefully to your wise mind, acting from your inner self. 
Allowing into awareness your connection to the universe--to the earth, to the floor you are standing on, to the chair you are sitting on, to the person you are talking to. 

In skills group, we've talked about how willfulness tends to create more black and white thinking and, willfulness usually ends up hurting you in the long run. We also discussed how you have to decide whether you want to work on being willing, but your motivation has to come from yourself. 

I  don't feel like being willing at all right now. I don't feel like being effective, listening to my wise mind, acting from my inner self, or allowing into awareness my connection to the universe. I feel like sitting on my hands and not making changes. I feel like giving up. I don't feel like tolerating the moment. I don't feel like doing what works. 

I feel really willful. 

I've been working with my therapist a lot about how to be more willing, and the last time I saw her, we talked about how even though I am doing things as if I was willing to do them, but I'm not feeling willing at all. And she said that willingness does not equal feeling willing, but that willingness means doing the next right thing, even if I don't feel like it and I hate it. Willingness is a behavior, not an emotion! 


I don't have to feel the least bit willing to be engaging in willingness. I just need to be doing the next right thing in that moment. Which means eating my next meal or my next snack. It means taking my meds every day. It means getting up, taking a shower, and leaving my house every day. It means doing all of these things, even when I'm having a bad depressive day, even when I'm overwhelmed with anxiety, even when I'm having a bad body image day. 

And maybe, just maybe, doing these things will seem less robotic and feelingless. Maybe one day, I will actually feel willing, instead of just behaving willingly. Maybe one day things will get better.

But for now, I guess I'm just stuck going through the motions. As the saying goes, "You don't have to want to... Just be WILLING."