Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
In order to change unhealthy behaviour, we have to first acknowledge to ourselves that the behaviour is unhealthy.
We have to say to ourselves, “What I have been doing all along is hurting me, or those around me.” This can be frightening, because to acknowledge that we have been wrong is to see the past as a wasteland of unfulfilled dreams.
Consider Santosh, who has been irritable and impatient all his life. He has alienated many people; his employees, his wife and children live in fear of him. Occasionally, when he pauses long enough to see the fear and discomfort in his family’s eyes, this awareness becomes overwhelming.
If Santosh’s sub-conscious could speak, it would say, “If the past is bad, and I cannot change, then the future will be bad as well. Therefore, if I see my behaviour as bad, then my past and my future will seem like a waste. That is too scary a realisation, and so the only thing I can do is to conclude that my behaviour is not harmful.”
Without knowing it, the frightening awareness of his dysfunctional behaviour was quickly buried under the many layers of his mind.
It may seem like there is no solution to this, but there is a way to cut through this vicious cycle and break through the paralysis of fear: by accepting. Acceptance means that we do not judge ourselves — we stop assigning values of “right” or “wrong” to ourselves, instead we examine our behaviour objectively by remembering, “It is my behaviour that is wrong, not who I am.”
When we see through the clear eyes of acceptance, we can embrace every aspect of our personality and then, without judgement, fear or self-criticism, we can let go of behaviour that is not serving our purpose
Note: As always, cases are composites (using facts from multiple cases, with all names and identifiers changed)
(From my column in Outlook Business)