Demons on autopilot.
Last updated: Aug 31, 2021
Learning how to drive was, for me, like juggling plates.
I could press the accelerator, but not too hard. I had to look in the mirror, but not for too long. When I made a left, I had to do it smoothly, but not too fast. Then I was asked to do it all together in one go – and the plates all came tumbling down.
It was nightmarish and frustrating. For months after getting my license, I couldn’t drive and talk at the same time. It took too much from my poor brain. I could barely even listen to music while driving.
But it got easier and easier as time went on. Now, I barely even think about it. My body seems to drive on auto-pilot. One minute I’m pulling out of my driveway, the next I’ve already parked and I’m halfway into the mall.
The longer you do something, the more transparent it becomes to you. I don’t think about it. It has become a habit. Driving is now (thankfully…) invisible to me.
But because it’s invisible, it’s out of sight and out of mind. It’s easy to lose track of the things I’ve learned once I’ve internalized them. If you asked me how a three-point turn is done, I’d now have to trace the steps in my head before I could tell you. I just do it, and everything turns out just fine.
What else is invisible to me? Well, I don’t know, because it’s invisible. Chances are, I’ve forgotten about it, too.
And that’s the problem… a habit that’s invisible can be a dangerous friend to have. When habits go invisible, they can go rogue, and you can forget they’re operating on you. What’s worse – you might end up identifying with them so completely that, when they do show up, they’re seen as an integral part of you. Not as a behaviour to be groomed, but as a part of what makes you the person you are.
(Yes, I am an excellent driver. Thank you very much.)
This is where personal demons hide all the time – in the invisible corners of your mind. This is where the troubles that truly make us suffer find their reserves of energy.
Fighting these bad habits – or, more colorfully, these demons – is a matter of constant vigilance and regular changes of perspective. Mindfulness meditation, i.e. staring at things as they unfold, lets you see things that you hadn’t noticed before. Regular reflection can also help you catch patterns which you hadn’t noticed before. Asking for feedback from others can help you see things from a different point of view.
But even after seeing these patterns, they are difficult to fight. How do you fight these demons once they have been revealed?
With self-compassion, kindness, and a lot of grit.
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