Promises, resolutions, commitments. How do they differ?
In my experience with people, promises are made by children, or the child within the adult. A child that is being compliant to an authority figure, inside or out. Have you ever seen children make a promise with fingers crossed behind their backs? A “child’s” promise is not a healthy use of our power.
Resolutions, which are made on New Year’s Eve, have become a joke. The connotation is that the resolver will fail. That’s why so many articles and media interviews address the theme of New Year’s resolutions. That’s why – perhaps – the title of this article caught your eye. Resolutions are not a healthy use of power, either.
A commitment can be made by the child within the adult. And it can become a failure. But if those who commit fail, it will be because they don’t know the deeper meaning and workings of commitment. Learning, utilizing, and acting upon the real essence of commitment is an exquisite use of power.
First … if you make only a partial commitment, you will create only partial results.
Contrary to some new age teachings, you cannot simply make a commitment, intention, or wish and bring it into reality. The commitment requires not only the inspiration and the intention, but also the follow through, the step-by-step work to birth it into reality.
Second … as soon as you make a commitment, anything in you that needs to be healed in order to take the next step in following through on your commitment . . . will come up.
Your commitment, in addition to solidifying and grounding your intention, is a signal to your heart and soul. A signal calling forth whatever needs to be healed next. And lo and behold! A part of you will raise its hand and say, “Me next! If you want to take the next step in your commitment, heal me next.”
If you listen to that aspect of yourself . . . If you open yourself to what it is showing you . . . If you really do the inner healing work it is asking you to do . . . that will be a huge accomplishment. And you will proceed in just this way, step by step, through the fulfillment of your commitment.
If you disregard, discount, ignore, or run away from that facet of yourself, it will call you again. Maybe in a different way. Maybe in a more uncomfortable way. Maybe in a more convoluted way. Maybe louder. Maybe in an escalated way.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know this. And when that-which-needs-to-be-healed comes to the forefront, they utilize it to justify breaking the commitment. (People who know about commitment may do the same thing, just with awareness.)
For example, let’s say you commit to exercise regularly this year. The first few days go great! You wake up and enjoy getting on the treadmill or doing that exercise routine. But the next day, you’re tired from a late night the night before, and you decide you’ll exercise later in the day. And the day after, the weather – rain, snow, ice, wind, mud – will slow down your drive to work, so you’ll need more time for your morning commute. You never quite seem to get to exercising. After several days of this, you hear yourself say, “There are too many obstacles! I knew it. I knew I shouldn’t have made that commitment!”
You will use the late night, your tiredness, the weather, anything . . . as a justification to break the commitment. Instead of wondering, “What is coming up in me that wants to be healed?” Instead of exploring, “What am I feeling that needs to be healed in order for me to take that next step in my commitment?” Instead of knowing these are not obstacles, these are signals to healing. Whether in the outer world, like the weather, or the inner world, like tiredness . . . these are clues. These are mirrors.
Let’s continue with the example of exercising . . . What if you start to explore what you are feeling when you think of exercising? No matter what appears to be the difficulty in following through, it is usually a feeling or a big kettle of feelings you are having. Feelings you are afraid to feel. You may say, “No, no. I’m not afraid of feeling. I feel all the time. I do my work.” But let me tell you, this is what I’ve found with people year after year for over 30 years! Taking the next step and the next step after that in following through on a commitment brings up not just here and now feelings, but also unconscious ancient feelings from long ago . . . and these feelings must be tended to, worked with, seen as clues to our own healing and to succeeding in our commitment!
So let’s say you’re lying in bed and it’s time to get up, prepare yourself for exercising, and begin. What are you saying to yourself? “I don’t want to feel how out of shape I am? I don’t want to experience being out of breath?” What do you feel about being out of breath? Frightened? Feel the fear. Why are you frightened of being out of breath? Perhaps you don’t know for a few minutes, while feeling the fear. Perhaps you don’t know for days, as you stay open, wanting to know. And then one day, perhaps you remember your older brother chasing you ’round the house when your parents were out. You were frightened by his chasing you. You were frightened about what would happen if and when he caught you. And you were frightened because you didn’t think you would be able to breathe anymore. You felt danger . . . unsafety . . . life and death.
Whew! You’ve struck gold! Knowing this, you can really go back there to that memory and work with it* . . . feel it . . . resolve it so eventually you can exercise without that fear being so enormous. Or perhaps without feeling that fear at all. And as you heal the memory, you continue to exercise, perhaps slowly at first. Soon you find yourself feeling better physically as a result. You may even find yourself enjoying the exercising. Imagine that!
Imagine if you stopped without finding the root of your ‘no’ to exercising! Imagine the loss to you on every level of your being.
And imagine the loss to all of us if we do not work with commitment in this aware, open-hearted, vital way.
And third … if you truly work with whatever comes up for healing, your commitment can be not only something you do, something you make, but it can also become a strong container that holds you through each step of the healing, each step of the follow through . . . all the way to the fulfillment of your commitment. This is not something you can “get” in your head. Your mind may even fight you on this. It is the experience of going through the process of fulfilling your commitment that will bring the gold, step by step by step.
*You may need a therapist to help you with an experience and feelings so primal. If you don’t have a therapist and are looking for one, you may want to read “What to Look for in A Therapist …” on my website. You can also read about How to Choose a Therapist or Counselor on GoodTherapy.org.
© Copyright 2010 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.