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Thoughts on Spontaneity, Weight Management, Discipline, and Role Modeling

Freedom and spontaneity imply no limits on doing whatever we want. Absolutes of all our gifts-values imply having it all without limits. This violates the logic of Reality because we live in a state of opposites, a condition where logic says being or having it all without limits is impossible. Defying this truth can have painful consequences. The way we go about using our gifts requires discipline.

Spontaneity that’s allowed to cross this line will insist that the only permissible approach to feeding the body is to gratify-indulge its senses for our wants-pleasure (excess). It will overrule an approach that recognizes and respects limits (moderation) in order to care for its needs-health. Spontaneity will do this because its purpose is happiness-fun that we experience from living uninhibited in the moment. It will do this especially when it is an idea raised to the level of an ideal -- when it’s part of a value system linked to a feeling that’s compelling because it’s become an absolute, because it’s idealized.

Weight management requires spontaneity management. It requires discipline that respects the logic-limits imposed by mind-reason and Reality. Evidence that spontaneity has been allowed to rule beyond reason is arrival of the opposite of pleasure-fun: disabling abuse and pain. Our bodies are saying they need less pleasure-gratification from spontaneity and more health-nourishment from caring-discipline. They need less free-spirited happiness-feeling and more disciplined reasoning-thinking.

Excess weight is concrete evidence of an imbalance between body-feeling-spontaneity and mind-thinking-order within a sensing-feeling-perception (spontaneity) personality type. The conversion of feeling-pleasure into its feeling-pain opposite is the body’s signal that it’s time to correct the imbalance. It’s a necessary stage in personal growth that focuses on the role of youthful passions in obstructing maturity.

The creative sanctuary that makes spontaneity and freedom possible has boundaries that protect as well as confine. The onset of body abuse-pain says the time has come for the Illusion of spontaneity without limits to cease its irrational rebellion against confinement. It’s time to recognize and appreciate the protection of boundaries. Accepting limits on our gifts, respecting the mind-logic that put them there, bringing thought to our choices as well as feeling, keeps us within our boundaries and safe from opposites.

Strenuous exercise while carrying serious excess weight beyond our youth is physical abuse. Straining muscles-tendons-joints-nerves to “burn calories” can wait until after healthy weight is restored by light exercise (walking) and by managed diet. Risking permanent damage and chronic pain is not rational. If burning calories by intermittent strenuous exercise was once rationalized to permit bouts of undisciplined excess – the joys of youthful spontaneity, -- those days are over. Undisciplined excess is over.

Attempting weight loss while preserving the ideal of youthful spontaneity is unworkable. Our bodies carry us forward inexorably. Clinging to youthful spontaneity is pointless. Resistance to parting with youthful fun that imagined it could do whatever it wanted, without consequences, is pointless. It reflects not the exhilaration of life but morbid fear of the loss of life.

Too late, we declare, “I’m going to beat this.” What clinging to an idealized spontaneity translates into is, “’I’m an exception; I won’t have to part with my youth.” It translates into “I insist on being who I’ve always been: a loving-lovable, happy-go-lucky, live-in-the-moment, carpe-diem guy.”

The pain, the loss of resiliency, that accompanies aging requires adjustments not only in how we live but who we are. The old identity delivered a cornucopia of benefits for family, community, and profession. It wants to prevail beyond its time because it was hugely successful. But time requires identities better suited to changing circumstances when our bodies can no longer support the fantasies of youth.

Willpower – psychic energy -- that’s needed to remove excess weight, restore health, and avoid pain is now directed toward preserving an idealized self-identity that can never grow old. The feeling that’s getting in the way of doing what circumstances call for isn’t just spontaneous pleasure, fun, and happiness. It’s fear of separation from a self that served its purpose and belongs in the past.

Being overweight may actually reinforce the illusion that it’s not necessary to let go of the past, because it’s become a part of the self-identity that experienced the fruits of spontaneity: gratification, indulgence, fulfillment, camaraderie, contentment, and pleasantness. This may explain why obesity has been so well tolerated. The onset of chronic pain could be a wake-up call that forces a more realistic calculation, an awakening to costs that now outweigh the benefits.

All these considerations lead toward a new paradigm, a new definition of self and the world the self occupies. They lead toward acceptance of what mind-thought-logic can contribute to the life of a mature person, along with feeling, in achieving a kind of happiness that’s better suited to circumstances: happiness with limits and discipline, happiness that may never deliver super-bowl euphoria but it can let our bodies live in contentment without pain.

If our youthful objective was achieving pleasure, our objective beyond youth becomes preventing debilitating pain. The balance is tipped toward realistic thinking-logic-discipline and away from when idealized experience-feeling dominated. It’s tipped from needing constant contrived action toward the calmness and serenity of thankfulness for life-being, from the joys of sensation (indulging the body) to the joys of thinking and awareness (indulging the mind). And always connecting.

Why do selves who idealize spontaneity falter in their efforts to manage weight on their own? Why do they need to borrow someone else’s self-discipline to succeed and lapse when it’s gone?

The sensing-feeling-perception personality type who idealizes spontaneity has purposely deprived himself of the function of self that’s essential to management – mind-logic-order-discipline, i.e. deliberation. This is done to allow instinct to open him to unlimited possibilities to feel and express the joy of living (joie de vivre), creativity, happiness, fun, pleasure, and gratification in the moment.

In pursuit of an ideal of fulfillment that’s rooted in gratification of the body’s senses, the deliberative self that normally imposes limits is discarded in favor of impulse whose only guide is the “moment.” The void this leaves in self-management reveals itself when obesity calls upon willpower, an essential attribute of self, that’s been turned over to its opposite, the “moment.”

Precisely what’s been sacrificed to achieve the ideal of spontaneity is self-discipline. No wonder the perception-spontaneity type can’t manage weight on his own!

The personality type intuition-thinking-judging experiences satisfaction and contentment from continuous learning and growth. Yes, without super-bowl rapture but also without debilitating pain. This can’t be a role model for an opposite personality type. Or can it? If needs and aspirations come together as we age, maybe it can.

Children will have recourse to their immediate ancestors’ examples to guide their own choices – their parents and their grandparents. They deserve to experience their own youthful spontaneity. They deserve the gift of role modeling that lets them express the joys of life without being conditioned to believe that their gifts come with no limits, that discipline isn’t necessary, and that excess has no consequences. What will be the legacy, the imprint, of an overextended youth troubled by its consequences and preoccupied with its preservation? What can it offer to guide its children’s choices if it struggles with its own?

The role modeling that guides children toward happiness can’t come from other children. It can only come from parents and grandparents who put their own childhoods behind them, who take their responsibilities seriously, have their acts together, and pay attention to role modeling. It can only come from grownups.

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