Are You REALLY Working on Yourself or Just in Denial?

I attended an experiential seminar a few weeks ago called Hearts of the Courageous, which explored decision-making based on fear, anger, and confidence. A friend invited me and I agreed to go along for the experience. I was planning on learning what I could and taking away any wisdom and value that was provided, however, what I got was an entire paradigm shift related to how I process my emotions and feelings. To be frank I didn’t think I had much work to do related to anger and fear, but when I walked away from the seminar after the second day of experiential exercises a door opened to my emotions that had been closed my entire adult life. I had been repressing my negative feelings out of shame and guilt. I was unconsciously avoiding dealing with my problems. Over the last few weeks I began really feeling my emotions. Until I started to do this I didn’t realize how much I intellectualized my pain and problems. I was stifled from making spiritual and emotional progress because of this. It was a blind spot that I simply needed to be made aware of, and once I became aware of it I was able to embrace what I needed to work on and what would really improve my life.

We all have personal “junk” to deal with.

We may not want to acknowledge it, or we may tend to blame others for our problems, but we all have work to do on ourselves whether we want to accept or not. We can always better ourselves and develop greater awareness and self-compassion. Unfortunately, we can’t change or fix what we don’t acknowledge, and often we do everything we can to avoid admitting our weaknesses. When we don’t acknowledge the personal “junk” we could work on, we make excuses for why we can’t change or we blame others that it’s their fault and not ours. We limit our true capacity for tranquility, peace of mind, and contentment because we feel ashamed we’re not already there. Learning to change this perspective is freeing. Weaknesses are not a bad thing but are a powerful teacher.

What do you do with your junk?

When you encounter an emotionally painful experience do you try to avoid it? Or, do you fully embrace the feelings as a lesson and teacher about what we still may need to work on? Sometimes when we confront our weaknesses or emotional pain we shut-down and don’t want to deal with it. We may try to block our feelings or even make them worse by telling ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way!” “This is a bad feeling!” This will lead us to experience shame and guilt and make us feel even worse. If we can embrace and experience our feelings, we can begin to utilize this energy more effectively.

What blind spots do you have?

As we begin to practice being aware of our habits and dysfunctional behavior we will start to notice more and more moments where we don’t handle ourselves well or where we give into our emotional urges. Don’t be discouraged. This is a wonderful thing because it means we are coming to terms with what we can work on. We may give into urges to use drugs and alcohol. We may give into urges to slander and yell at others. We may give into our urges to physically harm another. We may give into our urges of sexual desire. Regardless of what urge or craving you succumb to, it’s crucial to forgive yourself for this weakness. For one thing, if you have been living without awareness of this you probably didn’t even recognize it as a problem, and further more you may not know anything different. Forgive yourself and recognize these weaknesses as blessings to teach you what you still need to work on.

How to forgive yourself?

Psychologist Everett Worthington Jr., a pioneer researcher in the field of forgiveness, constructed a 5-step model to facilitate the process of forgiveness. Worthington’s 5-step technique of forgiveness is based on the acronym REACH, which stands for the following: Recall the hurt, Empathize with the one who hurt you, or with yourself, Altruistic gift of forgiveness, offer Commitment to forgive, take Hold on to the forgiveness Become aware and accept the faults and weaknesses that you try to even hide from yourself. Be aware of what you may be trying to cover-up on the surface. What is really at the core of your challenges and issues? Whatever it may be, work to acknowledge this and remain kind and compassionate toward yourself. Recognizing and acknowledging our weaknesses is something to be grateful for. We are all works in progress and recognition is the first step.

To really make a difference in the world, work on yourself first

When we are able to deal with personal suffering we can then begin to deal with the suffering of others. I believe self-compassion and self-love is a crucial starting place before we are able to fully invest and be compassionate toward others. Practice mediation as a way to develop greater awareness. Take ten to fifteen minutes of quiet time daily to spend in prayer or meditation. This changes brain waves and creates a sense of peace and calm. As we slowly gain awareness of our thinking, emotions, and behavior and we can start improving and developing ourselves in order to make a greater difference in the world. The deeper we dig the more we can uncover and begin to heal from and work on. Think of it as your preparation and training for your bigger purpose. You must be prepared to take on great things before they will arrive. Photo credit: Lel4nd