Why can't i change?

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    Most of my life has been run on autopilot. I do what I am good at and at least from the outside appear like I handle it well. And I do handle it well when things run smoothly. However when major issues arise I get a lot of anxiety & depression and almost feel paralyzed by a “fear of failure”. In addition, I operate with a “worst case scenario” approach with respect to problems I am currently dealing with. This leads to me constantly playing back the worst outcomes in my mind.
    Also, in running my life on autopilot, I tend to isolate myself from my family and spend a lot of time working and making independent decisions. It takes my down times to really understand the importance of my wife and children but with the down times comes my down attitude which makes it difficult for me to communicate to them how I really feel. And then the guilt because it is only in down times that I realize this – why can’t I always operate that way so they know that I do love them deeply? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I keep them at the forefront at all times?
    This “fear of failure” is constantly on my mind and creates a wall between me and the ones that I love.
    Another issue is that I look for escapes, the most hurtful of which is an affair. In a sense I was living in a fantasy world stripped of the day to day decisions and the stress associated with them. But the part I didn’t consider is the effect that my actions had on my wife and kids because if I had and I truly loved them I wouldn’t have done this in the first place. I took the attitude that my kids are adults and that this wouldn’t affect them. Now I realize the hurt and the pain that I caused and wish I could turn the clock back to make the right decision, but I can’t.
    Right now I am very down about decisions I have made in my life and the lack of care and understanding that I put into some of these decisions. I play it over and over again in my mind which just takes me more depressed.
    I have started in therapy and realize that my belief system doesn’t allow for mistakes and errors in judgment. And when I screw up I come down relentlessly on myself which just drives me down further. I constantly play back bad decisions in my mind and wonder why I couldn’t have made a better choice.
    What I keep hoping for is some form of an inner peace with myself yet I can’t seem to get there? And the ability to always keep those that I love first when I make decisions.
    Thanks for listening.



    I’m sorry for your suffering. I know how dark and disorienting it can be when we startle awake and look around and realize we have no idea what we’re doing or what to do next. We have some hope that inner peace is available, but it seems like such a far way off… like a glimmer or a star on the horizon.

    That star helps move us, but then we have to go through a cleansing process… where we uproot unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior and instill noble qualities of thought and action. It can be painful, but it does get better. As we keep walking, we unpack and unload, and our burden gets lighter and more workable.

    When I read your words, many things flitted in and out of my heart, but the most important one that came up was a teaching by the Buddha. He taught us that we have something called fundamental ignorance. When we are born, apart from a few instincts such as suckling, we are completely ignorant of what to do. We don’t know how to read, how to count, or how to act in skillful ways. We rely on our teachers to teach us… parents and community present to us situations that help us discover a way to interact. However, these teachers are imperfect, and are often ignorant themselves, and pass down maladaptive patterns. Which is what was shown to them. On and on and on it goes back to primal man and woman trying to figure out what the heck to do with a frontal lobe and thumbs and urges.

    This ignorance cannot be helped. Because of that, “perfection” and “blame” don’t fit very well. There are actions and consequences… such as the pain your affair caused. If you had, at the time of choosing to stray, known then full impact of the pain it would cause you and those you love, you never would have unzipped your fly. Instead, you were ignorant and caused suffering. That’s the same thing we all do. There was no maliciousness there, only ignorance.

    So, regret is good for us, because it fuels our growth away from the patterns that caused suffering. However, you also have a wild stallion of a brain, which takes a few bite of regret and goes galloping off into different directions. This is normal, but also painful and unneeded. The solution for an unkempt mind is a meditation practice.

    Consider looking up “Ajahn Jayasaro Counting Breaths” on YouTube. A beginners mind is often quite agitated and irritable, and so instead of trying to give it “nothing” to do, we give it a task which develops our concentration. Like Mr. Meogi on Karate Kid setting tasks such as wax on, wax off, sand the floors, paint the fence… we set our mind to counting and breathing. The concentration not only helps us become more discerning (such as zip or unzip) but also removes the autopilot sensation.

    Please don’t be too hard on yourself, it is very normal to seek warmth and love in unskillful ways. You can’t change the past, but you can honor it by using what you’ve done to take a seat on a cushion and get to know Ed a little better… so he becomes more skillful.

    With warmth,


    The why and the what are not as important as the when and the how

    We are in a very similar situation… to be faced with the we we created… mindlessly… I started drinking alcohol about 5 1/2 years ago.. 1.5 hours til 9 days sober..

    But the odd thing is.. how did I even survive all those years and how detached I became from reality.. from the me I would rather be…


    All of that above is based in fear of something… but that is not as important as protecting you and all you are responsible for

    You sound like you are fully aware the past being put at the front of the mind can kill the now

    Do not go into Guilt.. focus on the emotions of progress and clarity and understanding

    You mentioned above that “if I had truly loved them”
    ^^ This is not about them.

    “If I had truly loved myself”…..

    Try to repeat that

    Why do we choose pain… This is a moment in time that will be an incredible abundance of improvement

    They all love you.. this is your time to show them how much you love them by choosing to truly love you…

    I will share a story from
    Peace Is Every Step
    The path of mindfulness in Everyday Life

    When I think of my mother, I cannot separate her image from my idea of love, for love was the natural ingredient in the sweet, soft tones of her voice. On the day I lost my mother, I wrote in my diary, “The greatest tragedy in my life has just happened.” Even as an adult living away from my mother, her loss left me feeling as abandoned as a small orphan.

    I know that many friends in the West do not feel the same way about their parents. I have heard many stories about parents who have hurt their children so much, planting many seeds of suffering in them. But I believe that the parents did not mean to plant those seeds. They did not intend to make their children suffer. Maybe they received the same kind of seeds from their parents. There is a continuation in the transmission of seeds, and their father and mother might have gotten those seeds from their grandfather and grandmother. Most of us are victims of a kind of living that is not mindful, and the practice of mindful living, of meditation, can stop these kinds of suffering and end the transmission of such sorrow to our children and grandchildren. We can break the cycle by not allowing these kinds of seeds of suffering to be transmitted to our children, our friends, or anyone else.

    A fourteen year old boy who practices at Plum Village told me this story. When he was eleven, he was very angry at this father. Every time he fell down and hurt himself, his father would shout at him.. The boy bowed to himself that when he grew up he would be different. But last year, his little sister was playing with other children and she fell off a swing and scraped her knee. It was bleeding, and the boy became very angry, He wanted to shout at her, “How stupid! Why did you do that?” But he caught himself. Because he had practiced breathing and mindfulness, he could recognize his anger and he did not act on it.

    The adults were taking good care of his sister, washing her would and putting a band-aid on it, so he walked away slowly and practiced breathing on his anger. Suddenly he saw that he was exactly like his father. He told me, “I realized that if I didn’t do something about the anger in me, I would transmit it to my children”. At the same time, he saw something else. He saw that his father may have been a victim just like him. The seeds of his father’s anger might have been transmitted by his grandparents. It was a remarkable insight for a fourteen year old boy, but because he had been practicing mindfulness, he could see like that, “I told myself to continue practicing in order to transform my anger into something else.” And after a few months, his anger disappeared. Then he was able to bring the fruit of his practice back to his father, and he told him that he used to be angry at him, but now he understood. He said he wished that his father would practive also, in order to transform his own seeds of anger. We usually think that parents have to nourish their children, but sometimes the children can bring enlightenment to the parents and help transform them.

    When we look at our parents with compassion, often we see that our parents are only victims who never had the chance to practive mindfulness. They could not transform that suffering in themselves. But if we see them with compassionate eyes, we can offer them joy, peace, and forgiveness. In fact, when we look deeply, we discover that it is impossible to drop all identity with our parents…..

    couple more paragraphs…

    Feel fortunate you want to change.. you are willing to improve..

    Focus on all the good in you and around you and increase it..

    Do not go into guilt… stay focused on who you want to be

    Rush “even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”

    Control your choices and control your life
    “The habit is the problem. All you need to do is be conscious of your choices and responsible for your actions.”

    Peaceful Warrior – Nick Nolte Drinking at a Bar


    Celebrate all the good and you won’t have time to complain

    Thank you for starting this topic… must rush to lunch time


    Ed….I am undergoing a “waking up”. I have found the work of Nathaniel Branden extremely helpful…..about self esteem, responsibility and conscious living.

    I have realised how beautiful life is…and am now appreciating my personal challenges ..I think we all have them! The fact you have posted shows that you care, but you are searching…..wonderful….let the past go and credit yourself for your awareness. All you need to do now is act.



    Thank you for your response. I realize that I cannot change the past and a primary task for me now is to let go of the past and pay attention to the present. My focus on the past doesn’t let me appreciate the present. I have just viewed the YouTube video. It makes a lot of sense that to truly meditate that you need to focus on the present (in this case the numbers) and clear your mind of everything else. It is the clearing the mind part that I struggle with. But I will work at it.

    With thanks for your response,



    Thanks Maitri2all for taking the time to respond.

    First of all congratulations on the sobriety!

    One nail you hit on the head is that I don’t love myself and am constantly pushing for perfection in my actions which is unattainable. I am trying to learn to lower that bar and to give myself some room to not be perfect yet still be happy with my actions. Also it is foreign to me to think in terms “If I had truly loved myself” as I never equate the word love with myself. A great story as well. Finally, do you have any sites where I can learn more about the concept of mindfulness?

    I appreciate your thoughts.




    Don’t worry to much about “clearing the mind”. As you follow the process the mind will struggle to reach and remember what number comes next. If you lose confidence in what number comes next, just start again at 1-5. The concentration is a natural result, it is not something we have to do. For instance, we don’t have to try to make our muscles stronger, we only have to lift the weights. The muscles get stronger as a natural result.

    With warmth,


    William, thanks for your thoughts.

    I will check out Branden. I am searching and having a very difficult time letting go of the past (I have had 60+ years to live by not letting go). A lot to unlearn.

    Have a nice weekend,


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