Self Improvement

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Overcoming The Obstacles To Self Change   By R.E. Darby

The extent of the psychological and or emotional damage we sustain from the process of growing up in, and adapting to, a dysfunctional society, will determine the level of damage control and difficulty in overcoming the effects of those early influences. Here are a few guidelines that helped me get past the more difficult challenges.

The Dysfunctional Landscape

It should be stated from the start that the obstacles mentioned in this article are those of a severe nature. I share the strategies and techniques for dealing with them because they are the same for minor dysfunctionality as they are for major train wrecks, the difference is only in degrees and depth. Also, one of the most common questions people ask concerning self change is "how can things that happened to us so long ago still affect us now?" and the second most common question is "how do you know if something is wrong in the first place?".

The answer to the first question is that those early influences are still playing out in our lives, we just don't recognize their existence because we closed off the awareness of them long ago. Yet they manifest themselves in subtle ways that limit and interfere with our lives in areas like success or failure in achieving goals and objectives. For example; early childhood messages from the power people in our lives such as parents and teachers that leave us with the idea or belief that we are incapable or stupid or clumsy or can't do anything right, affect our level of confidence and self assurance by creating mental and emotional conflicts and inharmonious rhythms that work against our efforts. If we do not believe in ourselves and our abilities, we will be the victims of chance rather than the recipients of the results of our own power.

The second question leads to the first door in the journey of self change, which is self awareness. The first challenge here is that most of us already think we know ourselves. But what if the person we think we are, is only the person we created in order to avoid realizing the actual truth about ourselves? A self built in response to our fears and weaknesses rather than courage and strength. The telltale sign of this is usually a tiny seldom acknowledged intuitive suspicion that there might be something about ourselves that we don't want to know about, much less face and deal with.

We live with the effects of damage because we no longer recognize them for what they are. We take them for granted, we've become accustomed to them, we are comfortable with them and so we do not question them. Even the physical component of damage is hidden from us because we have become numb to the pain of severely tensed muscular systems. Yes, there is no separating the mind from the body, we can separate them intellectually for the purposes of talking about them and studying them, but in the real actual world, damage to the mind has a collateral effect on the body, a fact that will come in handy later on. For now though, just know that the effects of damage take the form of self deceit and denial as well as numb areas of our bodies that we are no longer aware of.

Self Awareness, The Scary Ground

Of course this is the first door because of the hidden nature of the problems. Hardly anyone realizes that they have sustained any damage in the first place so why would we need to fix what we don't think is broken? The truth here is that we have become so good at self deception that we can now almost get away with anything, and the only price we need to pay seems to be awareness. Ah yes, self deception and awareness cannot share the same space. This is the first, and one of the most difficult obstacles we will face.

First we need to arm ourselves with some information, a little prep work so to speak. By its very nature, the journey of self change is a journey into unknown and unfamiliar territory. Think about what that is going to mean in terms of our comfortable feelings of security, the security built on the foundation of our denial. Prepare to feel threatened, prepare to feel uncomfortable, prepare to encounter the specter of occasional feelings of panic. So, how do we prepare ourselves against these experiences? We stop at the pump and fill up on compassion, forgiveness and patience.

Those early childhood messages can have a deep and lasting impact by forming our core beliefs, and if those core beliefs are negative and or self deprecating, then in time we grow up with the idea that we are undeserving and have little value. These kinds of basic self evaluations tend to limit and hold us back from achievement, and program us for self destructive behavior. After all, why try if we already believe that we don't deserve to succeed? Core beliefs and life scripts are a subject all their own, but a basic awareness of their existence is helpful when trying to unravel the often tangled mystery of just who and what we really are.

The Lights Are On But Are We Home?

In a world oriented to the instant gratification of every whim, desire and impulse, which is reinforced by the merchant agenda which serves the best interests of an economic system rather than the interests of a species of life, is it any wonder that self awareness efforts, if begun at all, rarely get past the first encounter with frustration? The idea that we don't live in the here and now rarely occurs to most of us, so we don't realize that we live mostly in the past and future and fantasy land.

Our success in this journey will depend a great deal on our ability to understand our enormous power, which in itself is sometimes a big challenge. We must understand that while thoughts are a part of that power, thinking is not knowing, that thoughts alone are sterile and have little power to effect anything. We must bring the power of intense feelings into the equation. This is what makes the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. The first feelings need to be the desire to change and the will to see it through.

Armed with these, we can begin our journey of self discovery, and the first and most powerful tool for this will be meditation. The concept of meditation has become associated with various religions because it is a great tool for developing the particular skills necessary to the achievement of spiritual awareness and enlightenment. But meditation is a multi benefit tool that develops focus, concentration, awareness, silence and the ability to remain in the here and now. It is also the mechanism by which we can get in touch with our physical bodies in such a way that will result in deep psychological and or emotional issues being revealed, that otherwise might be out of our reach.

Getting in touch with our bodies can be achieved through rare epiphanies or by meditating with an exclusive focus on deep slow breathing. One of the things that many people miss while trying to change some behavior or another, is the fact that our failures can and usually are the most valuable event we experience. For example; When I first started working with affirmations and meditation I brought a pretty standard mindset to the effort, that is, the instant gratification mindset which went like "oh, all I have to do is repeat some words and or phrases over and over and I'll be good to go" or as in my sessions with meditation, "Ok, I'll just focus on being in the present for a few minutes and wait for the results to come in."

Well, after a period of time past and my rather adolescent and naive expectations were not realized, I had to step back and re-evaluate reality. A process by the way, that I had to engage in many times in the beginning. But each time I re-evaluated, I was able to get back on the horse with a little more understanding. One day I realized that over time I had been creating affirmations and changing them out for others and when I looked back at them I realized that what I thought were failures were actually successes that I misread.