Getting stuck in our attempts at personal change is a common experience - and we get stuck for at least 4 reasons:
(1) Misguided beliefs and the BIG lie
The "self-help industry" generates $billons per year, and many of us buy books and attend courses on how to "improve" ourselves.
Yet most of the time we don’t change.
We can’t change.
We have unconscious - and thus hidden - resistance. And yet we believe that if we keep on trying we can somehow gain control of our lives.
Then we deal with our resistance and still life is hard and things don’t always improve – or move in the directions we think that we want.
We are told by the "experts" that if we take "massive action", practise "positive thinking", or learn this or that skill we can somehow create or "co-create" the future we desire.
There is a prevalent belief circulating the western world in general and the US in particular that our thoughts create our total experience and that ultimately we are responsible for everything that happens to us.
This belief postulates that at some deeper level - or maybe in a previous existence or pre-existent state - we have chosen these things that happen to us.
There are the "science of the mind" teachings, positive thinking teachings, and more recently the "law of attraction" teachings.
All of my lived and observed life experience has shown me that:
I say this with conviction because the evidence does not support the "I can create any future I want" belief.
Life is infinitely more complex than we can comprehend, and it also inter-connected and inter-dependent in ways that we do not conventionally fully appreciate.
Our lives are woven together in ways and for reasons that we often cannot comprehend – and yet – each of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry.
There are many people who have been inordinately commercially successful and/or personally successful in their relationships and family life – or who have enjoyed remarkably good health - and there is nothing to suggest that their success is attributable to how they think.
There are many people who think good positive uplifting and empowering thoughts and they are not successful or blessed in these areas.
I headed this section "the big lie" because in my experience the lie is in the overstatement of a partial truth and in the misdirection that anything can be resolved anywhere "if I put my mind to it".
This is a gross deception and it leads so many people to keep on striving to find "it" – "the missing piece of the jigsaw" and thus to stay in a perpetual state of seeking and aspiration and desire for something "out there" in the future that will "make me feel happy, fulfilled and complete".
Yes how we think matters – but far less than we think it does.
It matters to the extent that we are as well equipped as possible to cope with what is happening to us NOW – what is often imposed upon us. But it does not create very much of what happens to us.
(2) Most of what we think is outside of our conscious awareness
Jung said something along the lines of that until we make that which is unconscious conscious, it will control us and we will call it fate.
And a lot of that thinking that is going on outside of our conscious awareness is deeply resistant to our conscious efforts to change.
So even though how we think matters far less than we think it does, and even though how we think has far less effect on the circumstances of our live than we are often taught, even our feeble attempts to change our attitudes and behaviours towards what we experience are largely blocked by hidden unconscious resistance to personal change.
(3) We can’t let go and TRUST
And as if all that isn’t bad enough – even when we are able accept the limitations of the power of our thoughts and even when we are able to identify and deal with our inner resistance to personal change we run into another big problem…
We eventually come to the realisation that we just can’t sort it out ourselves – it is beyond our capacity to deal with – we reach the limits of our thinking minds.
We reach the point where we have to let go and trust…. something that is beyond us – and it this realisation that is very, very threatening and scary because it means relinquishing control – letting go of the notion that I AM IN CONTROL – eventually to the point of letting go of the whole notion of who “I” is.
And underlying this problem is an even bigger deception or lie... and that is the lie that "I" am in control of anything...
And yet it is in letting go and trusting… that we find the only path to real and permanent personal change and transformation.
[And just as a footnote: I know we are not getting into religious or philosophical discussion – but this is what lies at the root of the idea of the Christian "way of the cross" and "death to self", the Buddhist "dropping of the self" and "realisation of emptiness" and the Islamic jihad in the sense of a personal and internal "holy war" to achieve submission to "righteous living", and similar expressions in other faith traditions.]
(4) We can’t stop thinking
A big part of letting go – even just for a while – and escaping the tyranny of our thought is to learn the “unthinkable” – how to stop thinking.
I feel that Eckhart Tolle summarises this rather well:
The following articles develop and support the main themes and should be read in conjunction with the main pages under the relevant theme. Please see: