One of the main activities my husband and I do every night is watch TV. If I had to guess, I’d say we watch 3-4 hours per day.
It would be an understatement to say that I have a lot of judgements about our TV watching and almost all of those judgements lead to feeling shame.
In coaching, one of the first things we do with any problem area of our lives is to become aware of the thoughts that are causing our feelings.
We do this because the only way to solve for something is to be really honest about what’s there and to look at those thoughts with curiosity. When we are not honest with ourselves, we stay in judgement and the shame we feel around those thoughts leads to avoiding thinking them altogether.
I can see this very clearly with an activity I tried a few weeks ago. I decided that I was going to plan my TV watching 24 hours ahead of time and write down what I usually do and commit to doing just that. The plan looked something like this: I will watch four hours of TV from 5pm-9pm.
When I saw what I had written, I shrank. Committing to what I already was doing felt like I was admitting I was one of THOSE people. Why couldn’t I stay in a place where TV felt like it just happened randomly as if it wasn’t a habit?
Ignorance is bliss, right?
Not really. The thoughts I’m currently thinking whether consciously or subconsciously are anything but blissful. They create a lot of unnecessary suffering.
Here’s an abbreviated list…
- I watch too much TV
- This is a waste of my life
- I’m missing out on my life when I watch TV instead of doing something else
- This is a problem
- People who have sworn off TV are better than me
- I don’t get anything out of this
- My life would be better if I didn’t watch so much
- People who watch a lot of TV are boring
- It’s his fault that I watch so much TV and have become the type of person I don’t like
- I’m sad that this is what we do most evenings
It’s hard for me to see these thoughts written out. Now that they are out in the open, I can view them with curiosity.
I notice that what I’m really missing out on when I think this way is creating a positive experience for myself around an activity that my husband and I do together.
When I blame him or TV for making me into a type of person that I don’t like, I render myself powerless to creating a positive experience for myself.
It might seem that the answer would be to just watch less TV, but that’s missing the point. The amount of TV I watch isn’t good or bad, nor does it mean anything about me until I decide that it does. The reason I feel terrible and ashamed is because of the thoughts I listed above.
I know this is true because my husband watches TV with me and loves it. He’s a writer and sees TV watching as one of many tools he has to analyze and think about storytelling. His thoughts about TV are very different than mine.
Now that I know what the problem is (my thoughts) and can see the ones I’m likely to think, I can continue watching them with curiosity and without judgement. I can accept them for what they are instead of avoiding them. I am also going to try the exercise I mentioned above where I plan my viewing ahead of time so that I can really own the choices I make in life instead of blaming things outside of me.
In time, I may reduce the amount of TV I watch (or not), but the only way to create lasting change is to do that from a place of love instead of shame. Changing the number of hours I watch TV will not make my life better or worse. It will be the reality of the situation and how I choose to think about that will be up to me. I can’t shame myself into feeling better about that.
I’m excited to be able to see this, because I suspect that what I’m doing with TV is a pattern I’m repeating in other areas of my life.
If I can change how I think about myself when I watch TV, I can change how I think about myself in other areas of my life.