DEEP PERSONAL CHANGE
Change is very stressful and most people, consciously or unconsciously, avoid it as far as they can. Usually we get forced into it by traumatic circumstances such as life-threatening illness, accident, arrest and imprisonment, natural calamity or war. We can change temporarily during times of crisis, which can bring out the best, but also sometimes the worst in us.
For a person of their own free will to undertake the internal journey towards deep personal change requires courage and commitment. We really don’t know what we are getting into, and if we did at the onset, we probably would not do it because the journey can be quite rough at times.
Deep personal change means we have to face many things about ourselves. Our “stuff” comes bubbling to the surface and our egos rally to strengthen our denial and stop the process. Breaking the denial is a big job. I don’t know if there is anyone who can break their own denial. Maybe some very great souls can do this, but for most of us, certain people around us and certain circumstances combine to attack our denial and ego defense systems. Our total cooperation and willingness is essential also.
Our false pride will not allow us to see our own faults. This blindness is such a powerful structure, invisible and fog-like in nature, that it has us in its power. We behave inappropriately without realizing it. If anyone is courageous enough to draw it to our attention we retaliate with anger and vengeance, attacking them and vigorously denying that we did anything wrong. Only a very powerful, skillful and loving friend would be willing to face the barrage of negativity we hurl towards them in response to their concern.
The journey of deep personal change requires us to take an honest look at ourselves, which is difficult if we are not that honest with ourselves in the first place.
The inner work of deep personal change is spiritual. Deep personal change means a change of heart, a change of attitude, and change of consciousness; a change within one’s very soul. These are levels where we do not often or easily go, so we can use as much information as we can get about the inner workings of the soul. A regular spiritual practice provides an anchor while we allow everything that has been our support system and source of all the influences, which have shaped our character to be scrutinized and re-evaluated.
What has to change? Take for example the habit of lying. How can a person know very well that it is wrong, still do it and yet not know they are doing it? How does lying work? We tell a lie and then conveniently forget about it. When we are confronted with it, we vigorously deny we ever said it. We are convinced and do our best to convince everyone else. We become good lawyers. Even in the face of all varieties of evidence, we will deny it. More insidiously, something terrible happens to us at an early age and we forget it. Not out of dishonesty, but in order to survive. Sometimes a whole series of terrible things happen, the environment is unhealthy for our emotional and psychological development and we create various ways to cope with stress and confusion. These then become our habits and dictate our ways of behavior for the rest of our lives. When later on the situation is no longer the same, even so, the habits remain and we react in similar situations in the old way.
How we grow up, our relationships with our parents, immediate family, culture and traditions of society, our education and surroundings are the most pervasive and powerful influences on us. Yet, we can detach from them as an exercise, superficially using our creative imaginations to invent a more utopian dream, but this in fact barely scratches the surface. It is nice while it lasts, but it does not do the job of creating deep personal change.
Deep personal change can begin to occur when we separate ourselves from those influences. First we must see exactly what those influences have been. A good influence leaves a good impression so change is not required. Only the bad influences have to be discovered, identified, seen clearly and faced. How do we recognize a bad influence? One way would be to locate incidents which happened during early childhood, particularly with those who were closest; who acted with violence, hatred, greed, unkindness, insult, humiliation, deception, cheating, lying and so on. A child has a natural sense of justice. A child needs to be loved and validated. A child loves his or her parents and when that love is not reciprocated, many negative traits develop. That child then feels it deserves to be mistreated and learns to mistreat others, considering it normal and appropriate. Low self-esteem and high levels of self-doubt become that child’s foundation in life, upon which layers of anger, violation of others, egoism, etc are laid.
A person might also ask why or how did I get born into such a family where this kind of treatment was experienced? We can say that is “karma”. In a previous life a person would have had those experiences, which created those habits, which motivated those actions, which resulted in that situation. “What goes around comes around,” goes the saying. The work of deep personal change therefore takes into consideration elements that are outside the range of conscious memory. However, we can only act upon aspects of ourselves that we can perceive. Intellectually, we can understand there are deeper causes, but the work of deep personal change is furthered by seeing clearly what the bad influences were and how we personally took them as our own heritage, perpetuating them in our lives and actions.
How do we undo those bad influences? Perhaps even before undoing the bad influences it is also good to quantify the good influences and add to those the good qualities a person has innately. Add to these the ancient original qualities of the soul, the goodness, light, peace, love and happiness that we are all endowed with eternally, and there is a good solid foundation. The work involves remembering who one really is and separating off or resolving those parts of the self or values that were absorbed through bad influence.
Most of us learned our values based on our race, color, gender, physical age, looks, bank balance, and success rating in the “real world”. We find, much to our consternation, that we are severely affronted if someone suggests we are showing signs of aging. Which woman likes to be told she has wrinkles and is losing her looks? Hidden vestiges of vanity flare up and we react with anger. How do you feel when you, who used to consider yourself as the affluent, white majority suddenly find you are no longer top dog? You get afraid. How is it when you lose your position, prestige, and don’t have money to live as you used to? It hurts. Your pride kicks in and you have to quickly create some fine speeches to prevent people from seeing you as you really are. The lying starts. How do you feel when you have lived by a certain set of values and created your position in life? You think you are just fine, you are in charge, you are the authority, and suddenly everything about you is called into question. A new generation of people is around you with new ways of thinking. They confront you on your old ways and challenge the validity of the old system you so carefully built your identity around and which is represented in all aspects of your personal, professional and social being. How secure do you feel when the ground beneath your feet is moving? You feel like a tiny boat on the high seas in a big storm and you can do nothing about it. It is a rude awakening to the face that our sense of security was based on insecure foundations.
Deep personal change happens when we start being honest about these things. First I have to be honest that I want everyone to love me and think well of me. I have to be honest that I have doubts about myself, and look deeply at the habits and actions that have come out of my life experience. I recognize that both have been bad and have robbed me of my self-worth. To protect myself I have created a complex ego defense structure. Deep personal change involves seeing this clearly within oneself and systematically dismantling it. Each negative character trait that is discovered has to be renounced and replaced by a characteristic that is true to one’s innate and beautiful self. I must recognize that the experiences and negative habits have damaged me and I need time and space to repair, to heal. Inner silence, meditation, opening oneself up to the love of the higher energy of the Supreme Being, accepting the love and friendship of positive people around us melts the ice around our broken, damaged heart and the true self can emerge as a beautiful rose after the winter storms and snow.
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