Compartmentalization is an illusion one with real consequences

“How you act in one part of your life bleeds into all the other areas of your life,” Chance had said in the car. It wasn’t to me, but I was listening, even if I couldn’t yet fully hear – or process – what he was saying.

And it wasn’t then that I consciously realized that compartmentalization – how I (attempt to) discretely separate my behaviors based on, for example, social context, fears, or interpersonal or internal whims – is an illusion, but it was then that the seed for such a realization was planted.

I really want to box things away, hide my behaviors, keep distinct my triumphs and the actions I’m ashamed of – keep you (yes, all of you) at a distance.

I do it with my intellect (look how smart I am), my emotional acumen (look how mature and loving and accepting and deep I am), my looks (god I’m handsome), and my writing. I want to keep you from knowing me because, ultimately, I’m afraid you won’t and can’t truly accept me or love me if you know me.

And that’s why compartmentalization is so handy. It’s a way of hiding atop my mind’s attic those things that you can’t see. If you don’t see them, then I’m safe. I’m loved. (Keep telling yourself that.)

But it’s an illusion, because my brain – and yours too – is so powerful and adept at learning that each moment, every word, is training. It’s all practice, creating habits, pathways in my brain that become how I act in other avenues.

The bad news, according to Chance and my reflection? Change is going to take time and diligent (yet compassionate) practice, and it isn’t going to be easy. It’s also going to be messy, complete with the accompanying grief that attends any loss of a previously cherished thing (in this case, a piece of my identity through 28.5 years of life).

The good news? Not only is change possible, but it’s probable. According to Chance, we can’t become anything that isn’t already latent within us: “I’m only offering you a different reality,” Chance says.

And there’s plenty of opportunity to practice.