Who among us has not been on some type of self-help journey or exploration at one point or another yet still bemoans the fact that we're honestly not experiencing true and real inner peace, balance or harmony in our lives, or the change and transformation we've been seeking? Is the opposite true?
We seem to be experiencing a sort of internal agitation, or antagonism that says, "Heck, the more I read, attend lectures, seminars and workshops, meditate and chant, pray and say affirmations, the less I seem to be getting anywhere." What's really going on here?
Like it or not, much of what we consider "self-help" does not result in true and real change or transformation - the type of change and transformation wherein one can say honestly, sincerely and self-responsibly, "I really am not the person I used to be. People I knew and know would not recognize how and who I am now. The 'old me' has truly died and re-birthed."
Thinking positively, saying affirmations, using willpower, engaging in chants and rituals, reading voraciously, praying and meditating day and night seldom leads to true, real and lasting change or transformation. Why?
True change and transformation requires a conscious connection with one's deeper soul consciousness - above the mind or the intellect. Most of what passes for self-help today goes no deeper than engaging one's mind, intellect and ego.
True change and transformation cannot be realized by thinking and doing alone. True change and transformation comes with be-ing, but not the superficial be-ing that has the appearance of change, but be-ing that reflects the deep work, struggle, and challenge that one experiences when dealing with one's unconscious and darker forces within.
Self-awareness and a conscious understanding of "who I am" and "how I am" in one's core, is the basis of becoming "conscious" and becoming conscious is the foundation of true change and transformation. Becoming conscious is not about having an "idea" of who I am or "rationally" exploring who I am. Rather, it's as much about "not knowing" who I am "deep down." It's about turning inward and exploring my self from the deeper recesses and dimensions of my being - i.e., my unconscious self.
Folks who tend to take a "rational-thinking" approach to self-awareness are good examples of folks who are deluded about the notion of self-help.
Self awareness, the building block of true change and transformation, can only come from an exploration of "what I don't know" and "what I don't know I don't know" about "me." The truth is we are more often influenced by what we are unaware of (in ourselves) than what we are aware of. True change and transformation cannot evolve from "playing it safe" - dealing only with the parts of myself that I know, or feel safe with, or am familiar with.
Do you ever dream about folks you dislike or with whom you have a contentious relationship? Do you ever wonder why you take an immediate dislike to folks you've never met? Do you ever think about rash judgments you make about people, places, events or circumstances? Do you ever wonder why people push your control, recognition or security buttons - at work, at home, at play or in relationships? The "rational" person, of course, has all the answers and reasons why. The rational person also has the most difficulty when it comes to true change and transformation, to walking the "self-help" talk.
When we become curious about "who I am" and "how I am" and about "what's going on in me?" (from a non-judgmental place of "not knowing,") we allow parts of our unconscious self to come to the level of awareness. Rather than be reactive, or "rational," if we are curious, for example, about why we automatically like or dislike someone, or automatically move into a power and control stance, or automatically judge something as "good" or "bad," we can begin to appreciate what's operating in us - our unconscious - qualities, elements, emotions, and feelings, which can support us to better understand why I am the way I am. Most often what's operating on the unconscious level are uncomfortable, fearful, resistant or angry parts of ourselves that both need to be explored and worked with (not suppressed, repressed or denied) if we choose to truly change and transform.
If we become curious, for example, about why I need to soothe my anxieties by shopping, eating, drinking, or controlling, we may discover that part of me, that insecure child within who feels abandoned lost, or unseen and is searching for mother in materialism. "Rationally," many will agree (from the "self-help" stuff they've read or heard) that materialism represents "comfort food" when love, appreciation, or acknowledgment is lacking. But many of these same folks are reluctant to go deeper to explore "why?" They can't or won't tolerate exploring the unconscious addictions that drive them to behave in ways that bring them a false sense of comfort and security or ways that help them avoid or deny their feelings.
True self-help is not about tap-dancing around the truth of who we are, our fears, or the discordant music playing within. It's about trusting our Innate Intelligence and self-love and compassion to deal with what's really "up" with me. That means being open to, aware of and reflective about my subconscious self when my behaviors, my thoughts, words, feelings and emotions are triggered in my interactions with my life at work, at home, at play and in relationship (also, in my dreams.)
When we approach our life with curiosity, without judgment, and welcome our deeper self, our unconscious, to bubble up, we embark on the journey to wholeness, and discover "who I am" and "how I am" in the greater context of healing our self. This is the true and real self-help journey of change and transformation.
So, some questions for self-reflection are:
Would you consider yourself a "self-help junkie?" How is this working for you vis-à-vis genuine change and transformation? Are you behaving differently as a result - at work, at home, at play, in your relationships? What would your friends, co-workers, spouse or partner say? Honestly.
Do you explore and work with your feelings, emotions and your darker side? If not, why not?
To whom or what are you strongly attracted? What aspects of your subconscious might account for this attraction?
Do you feel a strong prejudice, repulsion or hatred towards someone or something? What in your subconscious might account for your reactivity?
Do you ever explore your dreams?
Is your experience with self-help more about "information" than "be-ing" and behaving differently?
How much do you spend on "self-help" a year?
How often do you engage in deep self-reflection (not "thinking"), or journaling - i.e., consciously, honestly, sincerely, and self-responsibly exploring not "the way I am" but "why am I the way I am?"
What was "self-help" like for you/your family when you were growing up?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching and counseling. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, Peter's 'whole person' coaching approach supports deep and sustainable change and transformation.
Peter facilitates and guides leaders and managers, individuals in their personal and work life, partners and couples, groups and teams to move to new levels of self-awareness, enhancing their ability to show up authentically and with a heightened sense of well be-ing, inner harmony and interpersonal effectiveness as they live their lives at work, at home, at play and in relationship.