The first critical step in the self improvement process is to discover what needs to be improved. We can't do anything about
what we are not aware of. But some problematic behavior patterns are more difficult to discover and replace than others, such
as those that get suppressed deep down into our subconscious mind. Such deeply suppressed events and experiences are protected
by systems that are resistant to standard frontal approaches and sometimes we have to sneak up on them by using a back door
strategy. The degree of difficulty here is directly dependent on how powerful the initial experience was and thus how deeply
we buried it.
The back door approach is simply the reverse of the process by which we avoided dealing with the situation in the first place, so it would help to get a general understanding of how we dealt with these experiences at the time they were perhaps too powerful for us to deal with at that particular stage of our personal development. So, perhaps we were young and vulnerable and have not yet developed the tools and skills necessary to protect ourselves from what life throws at us, especially traumatic events and experiences. How will we deal with them? How will we survive?
Mental and emotional survival strategies take many forms and styles and at the time of construction we are not normally
aware of just what we are doing or what is taking place. All we usually know is that we need to do something to save ourselves
from some extremely painful and emotionally charged event or experience. These can sometimes actually become physically painful
as well. So we don't know how to deal with them but we are afraid they will overcome us and even harm us, so we undertake a
process by which we can remove the threat. We conceptualize it in our mind which removes it from direct experience, but in
order to keep it from wandering back into awareness we must force it to remain hidden from us by calling up various muscle
groups to help us achieve this strategy.
I can remember experiences that hurt me so bad and were so powerful that my stomach muscles tightened up so hard they began to burn and the pain was unbearable so I mentally disassociated myself with the pain and this made my mental compartmentalizing and conceptualizing much easier but it didn't loosen up those muscles, it just allowed me to take my attention away from them. However, unfinished business has a way of bubbling up into our lives and becoming problematic because they represent limiting blockages in our capacity to be aware. This is the process by which we are able to numb ourselves to feelings and emotions that represent a threat and about which we develop a subtle undefined fear.
There seems to be a department in our subconscious mind whose job it is to protect us from any unauthorized attempts to
access sensitive data. A little piece of awareness that detects the approach of the curious mind getting too close to these
areas, raises the alarm and sets into motion any and all defenses available to it, and those defenses take the form of
resistances that can be formidable. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators and this situation makes it necessary to
adopt a devious strategy. The clue is in how these experiences are kept outside of our awareness, which is through the muscle
systems that we tightened up to help us avoid the experience in the first place.
Those muscle systems are still locked up tight but we are just numb to this reality, we must be or they might get away from us and reveal what we so desperately are trying to avoid becoming aware of. But here is where our hope lies. Since we can't access these experiences from our mind, we can unravel them by attacking the muscle systems that are maintaining them. If we can loosen up those muscle systems the whole construct will unravel into our conscious awareness where we can finally deal with it appropriately now that we have the skills and ability to reason things out in a safe manner.
The back door strategy to self awareness requires two main tools used in combination; yoga and meditation. Yoga because of
its unparalleled ability to gain access and control over our physical bodies and meditation, specifically awareness meditation
like the ancient Vipassana technique, to allow us to watch our minds activity from a safe position of detachment. The Yoga allows
us to access the systems and the meditation allows us to safely deal with the experiences. This is a powerful self help combination.
But be careful, some of our deeply held conflicts are best left to professional resources like psychologists and councilors and if
you reach a point that you begin to feel like you are not ready to do this kind of work, please stop and step back.
Also be aware that this kind of work is not for beginners in yoga or meditation, self awareness is a process that takes time, patience and commitment to accomplish successfully. But the sooner you get started the sooner you will achieve your goals of self awareness.
Here is an excellent resource for yoga and meditation.