The more work I do with Therapist 2.0, the more I’m coming to understand the huge significance of language and (mis)interpretation of ideas. She gave me a handout on distress tolerance last week, and I had to take her up on it this week because it made me really uncomfortable. Two of the behaviours that were described were willingness and willfulness, with the latter ideally being replaced by the former.

Willingness is defined 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.

Willfulness is defined as:

  • sitting on your hands when action is needed, refusing to make changes that are needed
  • giving up
  • opposite of ‘doing what works’, being effective
  • trying to fix every situation
  • refusing to tolerate the moment

If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve taken extreme umbrage to the definition of willfulness. I read it as pure criticism, and ultimately, that the situation I’m in is my own fault because I’m not trying hard enough. It kind of felt like the exact opposite of everything I’ve been doing with her so far – where’s the compassion? And also, if making the changes that are needed was so simple, surely I wouldn’t sharing airspace with a psychologist in the first place?

I brought all of this up with her yesterday, and needless to say, my tendancy to leap to the worst possible conclusion may have led to a slight (read HUGE) misinterpretation of the definition. Another way of looking at it is to think of willfulness as stubbornness, that little voice in our heads that pushes us to do the exact opposite of what’s helpful. I suspect it’s a close relation of Bitchface, and gets a lot of encouragement from her. My understanding of it now as opposed to when I read it initially, is that this is quite an angry little voice, fighting with the compassionate one. It’s the one that says ‘screw it, I couldn’t be arsed’, when in fact I know that if I can just get myself up and moving, I can be arsed. I think it’s probably different to those days where action really is impossible.

I realise I’m not explaining this very well, because I haven’t fully gotten my head around it yet. I think that ultimately it’s coming back to acceptance – of the moment I’m in, the situation I’m in, what I’m telling myself about the situation. If I can recognise and name when I’m being willful/stubborn, then hopefully I’ll be able to take a step back and do something about it.


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