Hold On – the battle between the higher and lower self

By , January 26, 2013 5:17 pm

Getting control of an appetite is very hard. One problem is simply that it’s Hold On boring and only an attractive option when viewed from a distance (usually tomorrow).

“I’ll start tomorrow” is repeated day after day with some conviction and hope (how else could one keep doing it?). One shies away from the decision to start NOW. It’s too painful and pointless-seeming. But one needs to accept that pain, even welcome it.

James Frey’s novel ‘A Million Tiny Pieces’ tells a story that gave me a push towards the pain of getting oneself under control. It looks like hyperbole calling denying oneself cream cakes or cream sherry ‘pain’, but it can be REALLY HARD.

James Frey is writing about more than food and drink. He’s talking about every drug he can lay his hands on, but the extremes of his story translate so well to the ordinary disciplines ordinary people want to impose on themselves. In fact their very ordinariness makes them harder to maintain – after all, no one will die because I’m a bit overweight, so why shouldn’t I choose to be miserable because I have no self-control, rather than be miserable because I’m not eating and drinking everything I want when I want it? (because I am exercising self-control).

James Frey got in trouble on Oprah Winfrey’s show when he first had his huge publishing success with ‘A Million Tiny Pieces’. It purported (and I see still does) to be a personal memoir – but it isn’t. Some probing questions from Oprah left him having to own up to the lie he had allowed in order to get his book published.

He is rejecting (largely) the AA twelve steps program (implicitly, through the story). Though I see the benefits of the AA approach in relation to most addictions, you can’t help but be bucked up by his ‘I can do it. I will grit my teeth, take the pain and DO IT!’ attitude.

There is an incident in the story when he is about to give up and he’s told to ‘hold on’. This is repeated once or twice – and, in truth, there really is no choice but to hold on through those difficult moments of temptation when you’ve lost what the point of it is, any feeling of nobility or dignity in discipline, or any idea that there is ANYTHING that could be more worthwhile than eating that food, drinking that drink.

Holding on is so dull. It hurts. But … if you view that rogue impulse as a kind of enemy (or little devil if you’re me and a Christian) there’s some sense that there is a battle going on, and welcoming that teeth-gritting, agonizing holding on thing is a bit exciting and very satisfying afterwards. I’d say it’s good additionally to call upon some strength from outside yourself (God if you’re me), but that’s in addition to, not instead of, your own resources. I found that idea inspiring and energizing. Give it a go!

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