Ghosts in the machine.
And a goal worth pursuing in 2024.
This is not your typical New Year’s post.
No inspiration to be your best self.
No irrational ambition to 10x your results or crush your goals.
And no empty words, as I think we all see and hear enough of those.
And no matter how much I try to cheer you (or myself) on for the year ahead, the reality is that life is hard. Sometimes really f-ing hard.
Instead, this is a post about ghosts in the machine.
In software development, ghosts in the machine are lines of code that cause current and future problems.
Bugs. Unexpected behavior. Confusion.
But all software has bugs. The ghosts in the machine are different. They’re typically old code, nested deep within the abyss of thousands of lines of connected logic that can be difficult to pinpoint and fix.
It’s the natural course of software that’s been built by many people over a long period of time. Of course there’s ghosts in the machine, because software and the humans building it are imperfect.
What does any of this have to do with the New Year, New You?
A lot actually.
Because while we aren’t pieces of software, we all have ghosts in the machine; unconscious programming that was coded into us long ago by other people. Our parents. Our early influences. And even our ancestors that passed long before we arrived. We didn’t choose the code. And we certainly didn’t write the code. But the ghosts in the machine are there regardless.
How do we know if it’s a ghost in the machine, and not just bad habits or us intentionally choosing to be an ass? That’s where the unconscious part comes in.
It’s the things we do that, in the moment, we don’t even realize we’re doing. The unconscious programming kicks in and takes over, and by the time our awareness comes back it’s too late. We’ve put the bug on display, scratching our heads as to where it even came from.
And there’s a key attribute that almost always accompanies the ghosts in the machine.
We feel guilty because we know we shouldn’t have done it, and worse, we don’t know why we did or how to fix it.
When I snap on one of my kids for a minor inconvenience?
When we shut down and close off the people around us?
When we respond irrationally with a friend, colleague, or significant other?
When we stress eat our way through a bag of chips before we even realize what we’re doing?
These are the ghosts in the machine.
I wish I could give you a magical formula to root out and fix the ghosts in the machine. That’s a tall task, as it’s wired into the human condition.
But I know that awareness is the starting place.
Meditation. Breath work. Cold exposure. Psychedelics. Therapy. They’re all pulling on the same thread of the human condition - awareness. We cannot improve something until we’re aware of it, and our awareness will grow with the attention we give it.
As you and I settle into 2024, building awareness of our own ghosts in the machine seems as noble of a goal as any. Because regardless of how fit we are, or how much money we make, or how many goals we crush in the year ahead, none of that matters in those moments of unconscious programming when our ghosts in the machine get the best of us.
But awareness of the ghosts, and being compassionate with ourselves when they rear their ugly heads?
That will transform 2024 more than any goal could.
Sometimes our fear, and our self-hate, is so great that all we can do is love it. I have watched, deeply moved, as many people have discovered the power of love in therapy. I have seen people love their anger, their fear, the wrongdoings of the past, and the transgressions of others against them. I have seen love smooth out the roughest of vibrations that shake the human organism.
✌️ and ❤️,