Personal Growth

Many of us get stuck in life situations from which we may never emerge. The situation might be one of never establishing a full and satisfying sexual relationship; constantly feeling hurt by the actions of others; existing in a state of depression or anxiety; forever having to seek activity or company to deal with ones own inner emptiness; experiencing enormous jealousy or anxiety in a relationship; feeling you have never made it in life – the list could be endless.

Orthodox medicine, recognising how difficult it is to help people move from such mental emotional prisons has turned to chemical attempts to shift the person’s inner state. Overall this sometimes seems to aid, but is not a universal answer to the human condition.

There is however a self help path we can take that can radically change such situations. The first step is to recognise how we personally hold such inner conditions in place. Maybe we might even ask the question as to why we maintain such an awful relationship with life.

The answer to that question might very well reveal the most powerful process that freezes us in our difficulty. The power is self justification. This needs some skill in self observation.

I recently asked a man who had experienced enormous pain through, as he felt, being misused by a woman friend. When I pointed out that this was the woman’s normal behaviour that he himself had described to me, so why was he hurt by it, he said that she should have been more caring for his feelings. I then asked him if perhaps he was asking her to act like an adult while he maintained the emotional level of response normal in childhood – namely blaming someone else for his hurt. In response he again justified himself by saying that it was normal to feel hurt from such an action. See Beware of Love

Such justifications, and the statement that it is normal to feel pain in love, at the death of someone close, at the twisting and turning of life events, or because of the unthinking remarks of someone, are the chains that bind us to that misery. Carl Jung wrote, “If we could fully meet our shadow, we would be immune to any moral or verbal insinuations. We would already have seen this for ourselves.”

 Example: We all have so many feelings, like keys that can be pressed, and when pressed by outer influences such as social pressure, beliefs or things said to us, we can be played like a merry or awful tune. We react to them all in various ways.

And nearly all reactions are habits, and the trick of shifting them is to start a new habit. Such habitual responses may be built into us as instinctive reactions – to scary circumstances, feeling hurt, the fight, flight or freeze response and so on.

Habits are hard to get rid of, but it can be done. I remember when my first wife divorced me because I had left her I was told many things such as what a bad father and husband I was, and how could I do it to my children. So each time I visited my children – almost every day – when I left the house it felt like my world had collapsed and also I felt that my new wife was like a prostitute who had tempted me away from my children – despite the fact that they visited us almost daily. My children were so important to me that the idea that I was a bad father tore me apart. I recalled a man living down the road from us who had left his children and married again. I asked him how he managed it. He said that he had killed any thoughts and feelings about them. I felt that was not for me.

I suffered that torment for years, messing up my life, until a dream showed me what I had been doing. I had thought the pain and misery was from some earlier trauma, but could not find one. And the dream showed me that it wasn’t a trauma but cultural programming that said that I was a bad father, and also a bad husband, both true from a certain viewpoint. The view that I was shown by the dream was that my pain was from habits created by the culture I grew up in. I realised that I could create a new life by changing the habits of a life time. So every time I left the house and the old habits started tearing me apart again I stopped just outside the door and looked at them.

I had tried positive thinking and that didn’t work. What I saw, and reminded myself, was that I had gone down that road a thousand times and it always led to self destruction. So by seeing it I decided to change the habit and reminding my self, not that I was a wonderful person, but that I was a human man, who did not want to make his wife suffer from my awful moods, and also I saw from the dream that we are always free to go in any direction, and that sense of freedom enabled me to start a new life.

It didn’t happen suddenly, but each day it got easier until I walked in peace. It was the recognition that my state of mind led me to self destruction every time it took that road that resolved me to change outside the door. See – The power of Habits

To meet our shadow – to acknowledge our own follies – to see our own childish behaviour – to be self aware. It takes some skill in self observation. Remember that our reactions are largely caused by our emotions, and emotions can be triggered by differen things in different people. To quote research about this, “Researchers who looked for consistent physical and mental effects were completely baffled. Slowly the conviction grew that most of the effects attributed to LSD were products of the subjects’ emotions. As the emotions varied, so did the physiological effects. Nearly every trained researcher knew of the psychosomatic effects of emotion; few were prepared to believe they could be this intense, immediate, and changeable.”

Of course that path is not for the weak hearted. It means to stop the continual justification of why we feel and respond in the way we do, and instead, to pull back what we hide from ourselves to reveal the underlying causes of our responses and behaviour. It lies in taking ourselves by the scruff of the neck and perhaps saying, “I am still responding to this as if I am a three year old. Come on, time to grow up, and stop justifying myself for feeling angry, jealous, afraid, and ill.”

Growth is an innate urge in us. If we stop holding it back we will emerge from childhood and our countless justifications. See Life’s Little Secrets; Avoid Being Victims; Martial Art of the Mind; Self Observation

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved