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Δευτέρα, 19 Νοεμβρίου 2012

Know ThySelf

Socrates said the most important thing in life is to know your self. What was he talking about? Knowledge of Self is the starting point of personal and spiritual growth. We take it for granted, by the time we reach adulthood, that we know who we are and what we want, but something happens to us, usually in our 30s or 40s, that leads us to question our earlier assumptions. Or it's our mid-life crisis. This can happen at any age, or not at all, and may be tied to karma. Those who could just kick themselves after they make their transition for not waking up during their lifetime, may decide in their next incarnation to wake up sooner, so we often find young people today, only in their teens, questioning what they've been taught to believe.
We go through a period of existential angst where we start to question everything we believed to be true. If it was precipitated by a crisis in our life, which it often is, it keeps us in a state of anxiety that can affect us physically and emotionally, to the extent we have panic attacks and become paralyzed by unknown fears. It is also a signal that kundalini energy has been activated and is running amuck. The beehive of activity that we are reflects the chaos inside us, but we stay in denial until something happens to snap us out of it. It could be an accident, an illness, a financial/job loss, the breakup of a relationship, the death of someone close. It shatters our world.
After a period of grief and introspection, a healthy response is to start reading new kinds of books, taking some self-help classes and personality tests, or seeing a counselor to sort things out and find out about yourself. Another good tool is astrology, it helps to see yourself in an unbiased way. Most astrological profiles I've seen are extremely accurate. Those who shake their heads and insist that's not me while everyone around them says it nailed you, are in denial. Maybe you've overcome some negative behaviors or enhanced some weakness through your life experiences. The way to look at it is to accept that it may be you in some way, in certain situations, but it's not who you are. This makes you aware and when it comes up, you'll realize, oh, yeah, I do do that. That's when you can start to take responsibility and make some changes. If you stay in denial, nothing will change. A good definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior while expecting different results.
We have a tendency to say so-and-so made me feel such-and-so, but the truth is no one makes us feel anything. We chose to feel one way or another. If you have a negative reaction to something someone does, it's a signal that this is something you need to recognize in yourself. The things we don't like about other people are things we need to accept as part of ourselves. The stronger the reaction, the more likely we are seeing ourselves but don't realize it. We all have a wonderful opportunity to learn something about our self every time we interact with another human being. Each person reflects a part of our self, either a positive or negative quality, characteristic or behavior, of which we may or may not be aware. Everyone is a mirror for everyone else.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
--Carl Jung
When you notice something about someone else that evokes a negative emotion in your field of conscious awareness to some degree, they are reflecting something in you that is similar, these are your shadow beliefs about yourself. Often, it's enough to acknowledge that characteristic and accept that it's part of us, but it is not who we are. But the first thing that usually pops up is the Ego with a case of denial. No, I don't talk that loudly... wear that much make-up... am not that rude... would never treat a friend like that ... am much more considerate... don't ever make mistakes like that... never behave that way in public. It's the I'm OK, you're not OK defense. Instead, we could accelerate our personal growth by exploring those parts of our selves that we notice in others and making conscious choices about whether we want to keep our behavior or change it. This is how we develop our strengths.
If we decide to keep it, we then have to learn to let go of our need to keep it or it can work against us. If you notice another person who always has to be right or have the last word, and you find it annoying, begin to observe your self in different situations to become aware of when you are like that. Think about how it serves you. If you're a trial lawyer that might be a good characteristic and you might decide to keep it, but if you're a tennis player, it might be to your disadvantage not to change. When you become aware that you do the thing or are like that sometimes, to some degree, you can determine whether it's appropriate or not appropriate by the reactions you evoke in others. Then you can accept that it is part of you, but it is not all that you are. Something that's part of you is always part of you, but you have the ability to intensify it or extinguish it. You can still want to express your opinion, but let go of your need to be right. You can still demand to be heard, but if you continue to expect others to believe you or do what you say, then you haven't let go of your attachment to being in control, having it your way.
The mirroring technique is a method to increase self-awareness which involves paying attention of your physical and emotional reactions during encounters with others. If you feel comfortable with someone, you are mirroring positive parts of your self (e.g. good conversationalist, pleasant smile, confidence). If you feel anger or don't like the person right away or get a bad feeling about the person, they are reflecting something in you that you feel uncomfortable about— but would probably deny if confronted with that information. You may choose to put up a wall to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror. The stronger your denial, however, the more likely it is true about you. When you know everything about your self, good and bad, and can still accept your self, you'll find yourself becoming more accepting of other people's eccentricities and less annoyed with the world, in general.
The following exercise will help you learn to use mirroring to learn about your self. It is suggested you pay attention first to negative feelings because we learn the most about ourselves from these. They are our greatest teachers. When you become good at processing this information, don't beat yourself up too badly, you can use the same technique to look at the positive things about yourself to reconstruct your self-image.
    1. Next time you interact with someone, notice how you are feeling physically (e.g. knot in your stomach, muscle tension, rigid posture, aggressive stance, inner shaking) and emotionally (e.g. anxious, upset, irritated, annoyed, jealous, impatient).
    2. Determine to find out what you can learn from this person by asking yourself— What is he or she doing that upsets me?
    3. Turn the question around to— What is he or she doing that I am upsetting myself about?
    4. Apply that to yourself, ask— How am I similar to that? Observe yourself in different situations or ask someone you trust if you don't readily see it.
    5. Admit that if it bothers you that this person is doing it, it may be something that you need to change about your self.
    6. Acceptance and disidentification (this is part of me, but it is not all that I am).
    7. Practice with awareness.
    8. Transformation
For example, Mary doesn't like the way her friend Peggy always interrupts her when she is talking. Mary might be telling her about an incident she had with a sales clerk and Peggy might suddenly ask, "Are you and Harry going to the PTA meeting Friday night?"
    1. Mary notices that every time Peggy interrupts, she grinds her teeth and her stomach muscles tense up. Each time Peggy interrupts, Mary feels angrier. When they have lunch together, Mary always ends ups with a stomach ache and a headache.
    2. Mary determines to see what she can learn about her self from her teacher, Peggy. What upsets her is that Peggy's interruptions are always about a different subject than Mary is talking about. Mary feels discounted because Peggy doesn't seem to be listening to what she's saying.
    3. Mary turns the question around and says— I'm upsetting my self because Peggy doesn't listen well.
    4. Then applies it to her self— that's like me when I ask my children when they're going to clean their room instead of listening to some story they're telling me about what happened at school.
    5. Since it upsets me so much when Peggy does it to me, imagine how my children must feel when I do it to them. With this new self-awareness, Mary chooses to change her own negative behavior.
    6. She starts by accepting that this is part of her, then lets go of her attachment to others listening to her, according to her expectations, and begins to train herself to be a better listener with her family.
    7. The next time Peggy interrupted her, she stopped and paid attention to Peggy's new subject. When she doesn't immediately continue her story after responding to Peggy's question like she use to do but instead waited for Peggy to continue hers, Peggy says, "I didn't want to forget to ask you. Go ahead with what you were saying about the sales clerk." It seems Peggy was listening to Mary, only not as intently as Mary expected her to. Mary now recognized that the problem was not Peggy, but her own expectations of how other people should behave. When she let go of her expectation that Peggy hang on her every word, she found herself enjoying her visits with Peggy much more.
    8. In addition, her relationships with her children and other people in her life improved as she became a better listener, and she prevented an ulcer and extensive dental work, which would have been the consequence in a few years of her chronic anger.
As your own negative habits begin to fall away, your good points will become more prominent. Begin to look at the people you admire the most or enjoy being with. What is it about them that attracts you? Are they kind, thoughtful, considerate, good listeners? Do they have a good sense of humor? Are they confident, well-dressed, congenial, of good character? Do they always have something nice to say about others? Do you feel like you can be your self around them? Whatever it is you like about them, it is because you have those same qualities, perhaps well-hidden, in you. All you have to do is choose to bring them out. Now that you've let go of a lot of the negativity you've been carrying around, it is easier to let the light shine through.
So the next time you want to punch somebody in the nose, remember that person is your teacher and you created this situation so you could learn something important about your self and, rather than misdirect your anger, use it as an opportunity to grow.
© Diane Goble 2000
 http://www.beyondtheveil.net/knowthyself.html

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