For the Babylonians and Romans the new year was a sobering event, a time to renew allegiance to pagan gods, emperors, kings.
The consequences for making unrealistic and unkept promises to a pantheon like that had teeth, by Zeus!
There’ve been no teeth for a long time. We might as well be gumming to death our intentions for all they mean to achieving concrete consequences. Pledges about mental health and wellness issues like partnering, parenting, drinking, drugging, smoking, lying, overeating, overworking, or staying in a bad marriage lack the oomph to make a significant difference.
Resolutions, it seems, have gone the way of personal accountability.
A promise made might just as well be a promise one can take back. So pervasive is the attitude of predetermined failure there’s often an automatic fall-back to why something doesn’t get done. (Anymore, kids don’t bother to lie about the dog eating homework: it just doesn’t get turned in. That the consequence doesn’t matter says a lot.)
As a culture seeking instant gratification, impatience may cause the failure of many resolutions and may color the worth of resolves when our magical thinking says that life ought to change just because behaviors do. Psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues describe the “false hope syndrome,” where people’s resolutions and affirmations are in opposition to their beliefs about their ability to succeed — kind of a well-intentioned blow to self-esteem.
How much more wiggle-room can resolutions be given when the expectation is they’ll be broken? The most egregious example of society’s turning away from promise-keeping is the notion that marriage ought to be for as long as “whenever” rather than “forever”.
I think most successful change happens not because we think it’s supposed to, or even that we want it to, but because we choose it to and take an active and consistent part in making change happen. Change is something much greater and often tons more weighty and harder to handle than a New Year’s resolution.
Sitting here at the end of December, I’m in solid company: According to a December, 2016 poll authored by Statistic Brain, 55% of Americans infrequently or never make New Year’s Resolutions. Of the 45% who do, only 8% report success.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes working with couples looking for change within their relationships. Married for over 30 years, she and husband, David, lead Couples Communication Workshops to create relationship improvement and longevity. They live in Colorado with their two change-aversive cats, Petey and Lucy.
Coming in February, 2017. Read more about The Couples Communication Workshop and Register!
copyright, 2016, Being Heard, LLC