For the past few weeks I have been grappling with a new concept that was brought to my attention—the concept of hidden and undeclared commitments. Essentially, guiding all of our actions or inactions, there is a hidden commitment that is operating in the background. Those commitments are sometimes in line with our universal needs.
This concept of hidden commitments has been explored by various psychologists, and can be hard to wrap your head around. It is probably easiest if I give you examples from my own life so that you can understand what I am taking about. Here are some of my hidden commitments and how they manifest in my life.
What are your hidden and undeclared commitments?
Have you ever secretly been happy to get sick?
I don’t mean the running nose and slight cough where you still have to go to work. I am talking about the full on cold or flu where it is miserable enough where you can’t really function at work, or catchy enough that you will make others sick too.
For me, when I worked a “regular” job, those days were amazingly awful. The sickness itself sucked, but I got to finally take a break. I could stay in bed all day in my pajamas and not feel guilty. I could watch any movie I wanted, even the bad ones that my husband or friends would never watch with me. I could ask people for help and support, without worrying about looking too needy. Of course I need some warm soup, or another box of Kleenex, or more cough syrup from the pharmacy.
Sickness actually requires that we take care of ourselves.
What about the rest of the time, though? What would our lives be like if self-care was actually a part of our every day, instead of just our sick days?
Last week I was reminded of the Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper.
It is summer time, and the ant is busy preparing for winter by storing lots of food. Meanwhile, the grasshopper is singing and dancing, while also making fun of the ant. As fall turns into winter and snow covers the fields, the grasshopper can no longer find food. Thinking back to the summer, he knows that the ant has food, so he goes to the ant to ask for food and warmth. The ant doesn’t help him out, and reminds the grasshopper about his idle ways over the summer.
What immediately comes to mind with regard to this fable is whether we are spenders or savers, but I started thinking about it from a different angle—our health.
If we take these same roles and apply it to our health, then the grasshopper would represent those of us, or those times, when we overindulge in the present without regard for our future health. The ant would represent those times when we think twice about something, knowing how it will impact our future health.
Herein lies the problem; as humans we do not have great self-control, so we tend to act like grasshoppers more often than like ants. We have what is called a present focus bias, meaning that we tend to put more stake in our current situation than we do in our future. Things in the future seem less important than what is enticing us in the present.