Welcome back everyone, to what I think will be the final installment of our little series. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed how our view of health may be incomplete, and how improving our internal life has to be about more than just our willpower. Today, I’m left with the difficult task of explaining how one can seek internal health in a way that does not rely on willpower. As usual, keep in mind that I do not expect to solve all the world’s problems in just 500 words. But I hope that I can stumble across a gem or two that might help a few of you.

Let’s begin where we left off. Last week, I ended with the idea that willpower is only a resource, which is part of a natural cycle in our mental and emotional lives. An unhealthy internal life will naturally lead us to have less willpower to spend, which of course means that a healthy internal life will lead to us having more.

Another way to think of this is the “spoons” theory that my wife and I learned many years ago, during her depressive years. The idea is that you have a limited number of “spoonsful” of energy each day—say thirty, for the sake of the metaphor. Everyone gets the same number, but where it gets tricky is that some people have a lot more obstacles to spend energy on than others. I didn’t understand at first that Hope had to spend a few spoons just to get out of bed in the morning. Another one to settle into work, a few more every time something disrupted her schedule. It adds up faster than you’d think—or faster than I would, anyway.

This is useful because it is good to think in terms of removing obstacles, rather than in terms of endurance or pushing harder with the same energy. But I suppose I can’t put off the question of how exactly to do that any longer.  Of course, there are a lot of possible answers, but one in particular is on my mind today:


Almost every internal obstacle that I’ve ever encountered was based on some kind of lie, falsehood, or illusion. Usually, this comes from a true memory which is being misinterpreted into a fear-based negative belief. Often, the subject is aware of this, but still weighed down and unable to shake off that burden. Of course, my interventions are designed to help with this, and must always be a part of my recommendations, but fundamentally, the search for wellness is also a search for truth—about life and about yourself. And the willingness to find and embrace truth as we find it must be just as important as willpower.

This, I think, is one of the main reasons why people sometimes avoid taking active steps forward in their lives. Because it means confronting and experiencing pain in a way that they can (or at least think they can) avoid by seeking short-term pleasure, or simply by ignoring the problem altogether.

If willpower is a kind of focused energy, then I think there is an even more fundamental precursor here, without which willpower cannot last long. Call it willingness. There’s an idea in psychology that most people want to get better, but they don’t want to change. Willingness, then, might be defined as the quality of facing the realities of one’s own life, and accepting change as the necessary and unavoidable price of growth.

Willingness is made easier the more you are confronted by problems and consequences, which explains why so many people are finally able to make significant changes after hitting rock bottom. Happily, this is not a necessity. The need can be filled by a resolution to seek truth: about life, about others, and about yourself.

Have a blessed, wonderful day!

Dr. Alex Loyd



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