How to Change your Mindset
Most of us have been through our fair share of painful relationships. Like it or not -- relationship is a rich ground for personal growth and insight to emerge. Whether in intimate relationships, friendships or business partnerships we have the opportunity to explore our mindsets and how they are influencing us. When we open to the depth of human connection we often encounter our habitual ways of relating. Some tendencies are helpful; they draw us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. While other tendencies create struggle and conflict -- both internally and externally.
"We become whole through relationships and through letting go of relationships" ~ Sigmund Freud
When we become vulnerable in relationship we often encounter what we have been hiding from. This can be difficult, but it also promises to free us.
Many of our habitual tendencies hold us back from experiencing our full potential.
We develop ways of being in the world based on what has worked for us historically, and based on what we witnessed in early childhood. Most of these behaviors served us at one time in our life and some of them are probably healthy frames of mind that serve us now.
But, many unhealthy ways of relating live under the radar, so to speak, existing a little beyond our day to day awareness. It is possible however to unearth the scripts we play that limit us. When we place attention on these patterns we see that we can release the stuck places within and return to the self that knows we are secure and whole without our identification to the painful stories we have created.
"The medicine can be found within the poison" ~ Tibetan teaching
I have by no means perfected these concepts, but through careful observation of my patterns, working with hundreds of clients and students, and through the guidance of my own teachers and mentors, I have found a few mindsets to be especially important to take note of. The three mindsets below restrict our ability to see the truth of our experience and instead leave us feeling conflicted. All are closely connected to an inability to take responsibility for our true feelings and our contribution to our current state. This in turn limits our experience of ourselves and the possibility for remembrance of our true nature.
"I am a victim"
This thought pattern tells us that on some level the universe is hostile. While there are times we don't have control over what happens to us, we do, after appropriate grieving and processing, have power over how our life's events shape us.
Patterns stay stuck because we don't take full responsibility for our lives. If we use events to justify our belief that we are simply at the mercy of a cruel and unfair universe we lose the opportunity to create meaning from our struggle.
"The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe."
~ Albert Einstein
When adversity strikes we can use it as a catalyst for transformation, understanding, and insight, regardless of the details. This may perhaps be an incredibly difficult step to take but because of this it is often the most rewarding too.
"I am right"
This mindset acts as an aversive tactic which involves elevating ourselves so that we can avoid vulnerability and authenticity. By claiming no "fault" of our own we boost our false sense of self while maintaining distance from the shadow within.
"Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, canceled, made nothing? If not, you will never really change."
~ D.H Lawrence
Initially distancing ourselves may lessen the pain but because it is a facade it creates a split that actually limits us from experiencing the fullness of our being. In order to grow through difficulty we must drop an identification with being right and instead hold the often complex and multifaceted realities of a given situation. This requires a loosening around the stories of what happened or is happening, an allowance of our shame, and a reconnecting with the heart of compassionate understanding.
"I am wrong/bad"
In contrast to feeling righteous, adopting a stance of self denigration also limits our potential. Putting ourselves down in relation to others can be a very deeply engrained and painful way of relating. Again it may provide temporary relief from fully feeling our present state but because of this it limits the full spectrum of who we are.
"There is no weapon for the realization of truth that is more powerful than this: to accept yourself."
~ Swami Prajnanpad
In order to move through difficult circumstance we can instead use the strength of self love and care to comfort ourselves. And by learning to not take the circumstances of our lives so deeply personally we have the opportunity to experience our difficulty as a much larger universal truth about what it means to be human. We all struggle sometimes and nothing ever stays the same. When the truth of that sinks in our pain becomes our greatest ally in understanding and empathizing with others.
The difficulty with acknowledging these mindsets is that it requires us to address the paradox in which we must first fully accept where we are at before being able to change. So in this way, we don't abandon ourselves, or our experience, for some higher ideal prematurely. Instead it is possible to hold our broken and imperfect selves as we drink the medicine of our challenges with grace and an aspiration that it opens our heart and awakens our ability to love ourselves and others more fully.