(... NOT WHO I BELIEVE I AM)
Previosly I described how we create a sense of personal identity, a "character within a story" that becomes who we believe ourselves to be. But who are we outside of our personal narratives? What might happen if we give up identifying with thoughts, feelings, and actions carried forward as story from past to present? Any step into the unknown likely will be associated with intense internal resistance from a variety of ego defenses that recoil from leaving behind what's familiar. And yet change cannot effectively happen without taking a risk and stepping out of the "comfort zone."
One way to proceed down such a path toward liberation from attachment to one's "story" is to sense inside and say hello to each responding element that arises in reaction to the prospect of letting go of ingrained ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting. Expect to find lots of fearful parts that are used to reacting against any perceived insecurity by employing strategies to protect, defend, or control. There will undoubtedly also appear parts that long for change to bring relief, reward, or renewal. In addition, don't be surprised to encounter critical/judgmental thoughts that complicate matters with their "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts."
By compassionately sensing into and following the thread of each responding part back to its source within your past, rigid patterns of defense and self criticism will begin to loosen up. Since this can bring up disturbing bodily sensations and feelings, it is wise to go slowly and reach out for plenty of emotional support from trusted friends and counselors.
THE HUMAN MIND: BUILT TO LEARN AND TO UNLEARN
We human beings invest enormous energy in learning. Sensing, thinking, feeling, and responding are used to explore, discover, distinguish, define, understand, interact with, and manipulate each environment. The "wiring" of the mind develops and is molded in concert with one's present and prior observations, experiences and interactions with the outer world, especially other people. We even create out of this a sense of personal identity, a "character within a story" that becomes who we believe ourselves to be. This innate tendency of the mind to build upon what it "knows to be true and real" makes it a construct based largely in the past, meaning that any significant "changing of one's mind" requires investing considerable energy over an extended period of time to rewire the brain.
Unlearning is not a simple process of deleting or forgetting, however, but is more like rewriting or overwriting. This is why learning any new skill or way of behaving requires dedicated practice, not simply will. One way to develop a new mindset based more on what is real and true in present time is a regular daily practice of "being present with what is" while noticing, acknowledging, and accepting any thoughts and feelings that surface during the process. To attend each thought and feeling, albeit present or past-based, with curiosity and compassion is an exercise of loving presence and can open doorways to deep healing and profound personal transformation.
Find out more by viewing my ePublications in the Books/Resources section of this website.
THE MYTH OF POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
We are born into the world with a brain that first operates from instinct and feeling to promote survival during a relatively long vulnerable period, as the young child's body and mind develop together. Young children unconsciously adopt thoughts and attitudes about their emotions in order to adapt to their environments and situations. In many ways the mind sets preferences for some feeling states being more desirable (positive) than others, seeking behaviors (by self and others) that are somehow "rewarding" in this respect. Although necessary in childhood, this system of labeling and reactively chasing or avoiding feeling states becomes subconsciously incorporated into our personal identities and carried forward into adolescence and adulthood. It is then that we experience their limiting effects through work and relationship challenges and a wide variety of unfulfilling behaviors and life choices.
So how can we unlearn the preferences and aversions adopted long ago? By establishing a regular practice of compassionately sensing into the body and welcoming each element that appears, we can begin to observe the complex interplay of the mind's thoughts and judgments with bodily feeling and sensation. Grounded in the security of present time reality it is possible to unravel deep seated entanglements that trap, limit, deny, or control the flow of valuable life energy within us. Courageously acknowledging sources of early childhood longing or fear that attached to ways of feeling or not feeling opens a doorway to deep self acceptance, as the innocence of your childhood approach to survival is recognized and appreciated. From this perspective, feelings now can be sensed freshly and, free of limiting judgment, their energy allowed to arise, move through the body, and transform. In a sense they become, like the rest of your body, all good.
THINKING FEELING AND ACTING FROM "SURVIVAL MIND"
Our identifications with our selves and others are bound up by the complex interplay of instinct, thought, feeling, and acting embodied early in life, modified over the years, and influence us in the present, One purpose of this site is to help liberate human beings from the self oppression imposed by this mindset. Looking at the image representing the vortex created by thinking and feeling may give one a sense of being overwhelmed or spellbound by the machinations of the psyche. "What's the use?" "This is too much!" or "God help me" may even be heard coming from inside. Yes, it may seem like change in the way we view our selves and our place in the world is next to impossible, so why bother putting much energy toward such a daunting task.
Well, there is bad news and good news with regard to changing your individual mindset. The bad news is that it does not happen overnight like winning the lottery or discovering buried treasure. It takes some regular effort over many weeks to months, or even years, for your mind and body to unlearn an ingrained method of operating. The good news is that a transcendent operating system is already present and available within you, just waiting to be utilized to bring you an infinitely vaster life experience. And all that is required is to choose no longer to believe and create meaning from what you have thought or felt in the past. Another way of saying this: Stop taking seriously the stories that you created.
If your initial reaction to this idea is to reject it as absurd or to withdraw from it for fear of experiencing uncomfortable feelings, then you have confirmed that your "survival mindset" is still working strongly. Perhaps allowing a new mindset, grounded in a present-time awareness of "not knowing", threatens the very fabric of who you believe yourself to be. The essential elements needed to break away from such limitations of your personal beliefs are your TRUST and WILL. Trust that the emptiness or angst experienced by giving up everything you use to define yourself and others will be met by your authentic nature, delivered by grace, not by effort. Use will and determination to keep showing up for your self, practicing radical self-acceptance, and staying your course toward thriving.
Find out more by viewing my ePublications: available in Books/Resources.
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All 5 A's Discovering Life Before Death Discovering Wholenesss Identity Mission Statement Radical Acceptance Practice Redefine Life Expectancy Self Image Suffering Happens Thoughts-feelings Transcending-suffering