Clean up your act

If you've been told to clean up your act, good luck with that. You may have tried repeatedly and discovered you cannot clean up your act in ways that last for more than a day or two.  That's not a copout or an indication that you're not trying hard enough. There is no solution at the level of how you're acting.

People, who tell you to clean up your act, need to clean up their own acts. They're assuming the ways you're acting can be cleaned by trying. They are showing signs of matching luggage with you. They may be assuming they don't need to change, only you do. They may be projecting on to you what they find offensive in themselves. It's easier to find fault in others than to find what's bugging us deep down inside. They've opted for what's easy by taking cheap shots at you. There may be some truth in putting you down, but no exemplary conduct by them about taking responsibility, looking within or solving their own problems at the proper level.

We cannot clean up our acts because the ways we are acting are fallout from the two-sided condition of our minds. We're torn up about lots of things and not capable of getting it together. The solution integrates the opposing sides. That usually seems unattainable or a very long ways off. It's far from obvious how to change our minds in ways that better behavior falls out naturally. The kinds of thinking we're doing preclude seeing how to change our minds.

For starters, here's some ways to visualize our minds when they are divided against themselves. We may be:

  • full of pride, conceit, hot air, arrogance or over-confidence
  • fixated on cause-effect, linear explanations while deny the cycle we're in or the ways we're feeding the chronic problem
  • finding fault with others as if they bear no relation to what we'll find inside ourselves or where we're coming from 
  • oscillating between two extremes which continually overcompensate for having gone to the opposite pole of the dichotomy 

There's something missing when our minds function like this. Dr. Dan Siegel offers many possibilities from cognitive neuroscience in his book: Mindsight:

  • the prefrontal cortex may be under-developed for detaching and observing the flux of thoughts and emotions
  • the body may flood the mind with panic reactions when touched in ways that evoke painful incidents
  • the left brain and hippocampus may have been precluded from forming an episodic memory of a traumatic incident
  • the right brain may be impaired by an adaptation to significant others' coldness, indifference, intolerance or perfectionism
  • the left brain may address relationship problems with pure logic and rationality
  • the right brain may cling to unresolved dependency, power and respect issues
  • the brain stem and amygdala may overtake the left brain when hyper vigilant about hidden dangers

Fortunately our brains demonstrate amazing plasticity. They form new connections and integrate what's missing as long as there is blood flowing in our craniums. By using our brains differently, we change our minds. Our acts get cleaned up in the process. We've found the level below how we're acting where lasting changes can be made.

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