Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Personal Time-Binding

An aspect of time-binding involves each of us learning from ourselves, learning how to make the most of our individual experiences. My wife has referred to this as "personal time-binding." Becoming conscious of yourself as a personal time-binder, you can recognize that you communicate with yourself as well as with others.

We talk to ourselves a lot. We can use this internal chatter for worse and better. When we label ourselves “stupid” or with similar negative higher-order abstractions, we create a negative environment for ourselves. When we make perfectionistic demands on ourselves, unconditionally and absolutistically telling ourselves what we “must” do, we diminish our chances of fully realizing our potentialities. Instead, as Albert Ellis has emphasized throughout his writings, we can extensionalize our internal chatter, just as we extensionalize our talk with others. Ellis’ books provide valuable material for learning how to talk to yourself in this way.

For example, I can change absolutistic demands, such as “I must have good relationships” into probabilistic preferences, such as “I prefer to have good relationships but I don’t absolutely have to have them.” Rather than absolutistically ‘shoulding on myself,’ I can use conditional or non-absolutistic shoulds instead. So I can tell myself that “If I want good relationships, I probably should accept other people and take responsibility for how I act. However, it is not absolutely guaranteed that people will accept me just because I accept them and act responsibly. Moreover, I am not a total ‘shit’ if I fail to do this perfectly all of the time even if it might seem more preferable.”

In learning how to talk to yourself this way, you not only take greater responsibility for your behavior, but take responsibility for treating yourself well. Thus, you can learn how to use your capacities most effectively by cooperating with yourself — enhancing your realistic self-acceptance.

Your personal time-binding includes both the environment you create for yourself and others as well as the personal legacy you leave for future generations. As you act in such a way as to bring your legacy to fruition, you contribute to your own and others’ daily well-being. Time-Binders — go for it!

[Adapted from the article Living Extensionally, published in ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, July 2004]

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