20 February 2013

There's Something Wrong with Me!

So you've tried a few self-help books, trying to work your way through some of the problems that are in your life, and you've been astonished and dismayed to find out that most of them somehow make you feel worse!  Here's some woman or some man on a tape or in a book, giving you all sorts of wonderful advice on how to improve your life and make things better, and those upbeat and inspiring words are bringing you down.  It just doesn't make any sense at all--or does it?

I know from experience that trying to improve our lives by learning how to deal with life's curveballs and obstacles can be a rough road to follow.  Personally, I've had very positive programs that made a lot of sense to me act as a catalyst for depression, and I've spent many an awful day as a result of trying to learn more about what truly will make me happy.  As time has gone on and I've learned more, I've started to realize one of the main reasons for which this dynamic occurs, and here it is:

First of all, as soon as we start listening to a program that will help us to "improve" our lives, there's an obvious implication that we aren't doing something right, that there's something wrong with us.  After all, if there weren't anything wrong with us, why would we be listening to a self-improvement program?  While most of us are willing to admit that we aren't perfect and that we make mistakes, there's another aspect of who we are that doesn't want us to admit such a thing.  Many people refer to this part of our selves as our "false self," the part of us that's influenced by outside forces and that wants to please those forces.  

Once this false self gets the idea that we think there's something wrong with us, it goes into a defensive mode, trying to defend itself, for self-improvement is, in most ways, an attempt to dethrone this false self and to allow our true selves to live the lives they were meant to live.  And what's the most effective way to defend itself?  By drawing on those very feelings that make us feel that we need to improve our lives, by making us feel miserable and then blaming that misery on the very program we're listening to.

And how does it do this?  Through the negative self-talk that it's used so well for so long.  "What does she know about my life?"  "How can she tell me what to do to be happy--she doesn't even know me?"  "I'd like to think his advice is good, but he's so judgmental!"  "That may work for some people, but it wouldn't work for someone like me!"  "That's interesting, but it's so strange.  I've never heard anything like that before."  "Why is this guy telling me to change?  What's wrong with the way I am?"

You see, this false self doesn't want to change--it likes where it is, right there in charge of your life.  It can bring you down when it needs to by making you focus on petty, negative garbage, and it can keep you wondering why things never get better.  It can use feelings of self-righteousness, superiority, arrogance, selfishness -- all feelings that we intellectually despise -- to keep us down where it wants us.  It's afraid of change, for change means its end.

It's taken me years to figure out what's going on and how to work with it, and I'm definitely not completely there yet.  My personal false self is still quite strong, and it often keeps me feeling pretty low when there's no real reason for that.  But I am learning to recognize its voice, to take it for what it is, and to do my best to reject it as soon as I recognize it.  And it feels very good when I do so -- instinctively, I feel that I'm doing something right and advancing in my development as a person.

Deciding to improve oneself isn't a question of getting on a well paved highway and stepping on the gas and progressing at 150 miles and hour.  Not at all.  It's more like spying a beautiful clearing with a nice waterfall and gorgeous flowers and singing birds several miles away, and then seeing that between you and that clearing lie dark forests, fields of thorn bushes, people who want to stop you from reaching the clearing, wild beasts that are very hungry, and many more obstacles -- most created by the false self, who knows that it can't get to the clearing with you.  But the clearing is there, and it's waiting for you, and everyone can reach it if they just trust in their true selves and learn to recognize all that comes from their false selves.


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