One key to being more empowered in our life is self-acceptance—truly embracing all of ourselves, both the good and the not-so-good. When we embrace all of who we are, when we’re willing to move into a place of true acceptance, it eliminates a lot of confusion. It limits the other challenges that arise when we’re trying to be something else by adjusting ourselves to the external in an unproductive way. But accepting ourselves, as you likely know, is, is no small feat. It would be great if it were as easy as saying, “I accept myself completely.”
And in a way, there’s an aspect of self-acceptance that is just that simple. We make a choice at some point in time to fully accept who we are. However, the path to that moment can be quite long. On this path, we learn about the many different ways in which we’ve been conditioned to think that we need to act, behave, and feel differently than is really right for us. This kind of conditioning usually starts quite early in our lives. And, depending on what we have experienced, some of us have received excessive doses of it. For example, minority cultures experience this type of conditioning to an extreme.
However, all of us to some extent have received a message that who we are would be better if it were adjusted in some way. We experience this rather than the more supportive experience of being affirmed, and we need to expunge it. We instead need to find ways to appreciate who we are and what it is that we are bringing forward—naturally and intrinsically.
There is a lot to do to learn how to fully accept ourselves. For today, I will offer one simple tool to help you on this path to self-acceptance—look at the other side of the parts of yourself that you are being told should be adjusted. If you have a flaw or something that you think has been problematic for you in your life, examine how it is also a benefit to you. You can see the strength that’s on the other side. All strengths have weaknesses, all weaknesses have strengths. So when you do you take a look at some aspect of yourself that you thought was your biggest problem and you start to see how it actually might serve you in other aspects of your life, you will begin to see that context plays a large role in whether or not this part of you is in fact a challenge or a gift.
If it is challenging to see how it might be of benefit, imagine situations where it might serve you. In other words, employ some creative thinking—explore how and when this aspect of yourself might be a powerful ally. Then you can start to consciously use these aspects more and more productively in different areas of your life.
As you do this, you will find that it is naturally healing. It breaks through the belief that these things about us are wrong and need to be fixed. It shows us that no matter what they are, even our most challenging traits have some productive uses. This helps us accept ourselves in a deeper way. This self-acceptance then helps us grow our sense of empowerment.
For more about trusting yourself and your empowerment take a look at my article >>> “An Unstoppable Source for Your Personal Power.”
Compassion, freedom, love, integrity, vulnerability, and happiness are built on the bedrock of our trust in ourselves. When we can look in the eyes of the person standing in front of the mirror and know that we are showing up to the truth of who we are, we have everything.
Life’s betrayals do not just erode our trust of others, but they also leave us doubting ourselves. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we often blame ourselves for choosing the person who betrayed our trust in the first place. We might wonder what will stop us from making this kind of error again. This lack of trust with ourselves leaves us guarded.
This guarding actually perpetuates a cycle of disconnection; this disconnection opens the door to lower-frequency energies that impair our ability to operate at every level—furthering the challenges we might be having in these areas.
What makes it difficult to trust ourselves is less often about these challenging experiences themselves and more often about how we have been conditioned to relate to ourselves.
I was taught time and time again in the course of my life not to listen to myself. In many ways, I was taught that trusting myself was a form of arrogance—a blindness to seeing things as other people saw them. I was taught to think like other people and to interact on other people’s terms.
These things were taught to me under the guise of “getting along,” “loving others,” or even just passing the test.
The main message, through these experiences, was that my unique way of seeing and being was somehow wrong. I was taught that the clear messages from my soul needed to be adjusted to fit with the outside world rather than being a direct expression of it. I was taught that if I was in a situation where my needs and another person’s needs were at odds, then one of us was right and the other one was not—meaning there was always a high probability that I was in fact the one who was wrong.
Self-doubt then became the way—the backdrop of all of my experiences.
As a result, I was time and time again open to being hurt by others—in the ways that can only happen when we abandon ourselves. Because of this, my lack of trust with myself kept growing and I tried all kinds of ways to remedy this—most of them having to do with bolstering my ego.
I believe this is a common experience.
Since we all experience breaches in trust in our life, we all need to do repair work on our trust. We might first think that we need to figure out how and when to trust others, but we actually gain quite a bit more by learning how to deeply trust ourselves.
This is easier said than done. Quite often, as I just highlighted with my own experience, we have learned how not to trust ourselves both very early and in fundamental ways. Our lack of trust in ourselves is often insidious and difficult for us to see. It might show up as an ongoing feeling of anxiety for no apparent reason. It might leave us unable to see opportunities. Or, we might just be unable to accept the help we need.
We benefit from relearning that the way that we are is, by its design, perfect. This does not mean that we don’t need to grow and change or that we are not aided by questioning our own intentions. However, we are actually better able to do these things as we learn to trust ourselves more deeply, as a deep trust and respect for who we are actually makes it possible to see our limitations and to make changes that help us be better people.
If we can remember that we are made in a way that has its own inherent wisdom, and that this wisdom is very much needed by both ourselves and the greater world, then we can open up to new levels of trusting our self.
While we may at times make mistakes or errors in judgment, we can return to a trust in the fundamental goodness and perfection of our nature. And then, kindly guide ourselves in the direction of making better and better decisions as we move forward through new knowledge, new skills, and improved discernment.
As we come to deeply know our own truth, we can rely on it more fully. This allows us to make choices and put ourselves in situations that are truly right for us. It allows us to navigate the many complex situations that we find ourselves in in the course of our life.
Trusting ourselves is also a skill that we develop. As we work to be more honest, more caring, more respectful, we become a person whom we can truly trust. As we practice these skills, they become stronger and our lives become a reflection of our character. We feel this growth, and as a result, trust ourselves more.
My wish for all of us is that we know the fundamental goodness of who we are. That we realize the perfection of how we are made. And, through this, we develop the foundations for trusting ourselves in ways that restore our health, wholeness, and connection with others.
For more about trusting yourself take a look at my article >>> “An Unstoppable Source for Your Personal Power.”
Often, when we think about trust, we think about whether or not the other person is trustworthy—whether or not they’ve shown themselves to be someone who has a character worthy of our trust. Because of this, we go around evaluating people based on whether they meet our criteria; if they do, we trust them. It is important that we learn to see what is and is not trustworthy behavior; however, this is not the end of the story.
If we have experienced a breach of trust at some point in our lives—and most of us have, some of us to an extreme degree—it disturbs or breaks down our ability to clearly see another person’s behavior.
Because of this, we might be blind to some untrustworthy characteristics or not see them so clearly. And we might actually be skeptical of somebody who is trustworthy. Our ability to gauge whether or not we should trust gets impaired by the filters that we wind up looking though because of our past betrayals. Maybe you’ve had this experience; maybe you trusted somebody who really was not so trustworthy or did not trust someone who turned out to be worthy of your trust.
This is one reason why this defensive analysis of who is and isn’t trustworthy is not totally reliable.
The more that we play by this game, the longer our list of what is untrustworthy gets. Our distrusting story looks like this: “I really can’t trust people because I trusted this person after I ran them through my faulty evaluation system to figure out whether or not they were trustworthy, and they turned out to be another person who betrayed my trust. Therefore, I now know that I cannot trust people even more completely than I did before. I have tried. People, across the board, are untrustworthy.”
So, as our life goes on, we have a smaller and smaller group of people whom we are willing to trust; sometimes, it comes down there being nobody, really, whom we’re willing to trust. We might feel like we trust some people a little bit with certain things, but deep down we don’t really trust that anyone is going to do right by us.
This erosion of trust in our lives creates all sorts of problems. We become cynical and shut down. When we are not trusting, we feel we need to constantly protect ourselves. What other choice do we have if we cannot trust anyone? Consciously or not, we feel unsafe because the people around us are untrustworthy. We lose sight of what it feels like to have a deeper, more trusting connection with others.
It is a problematic situation. So, how do we find our way back to trust if we can’t trust our own judgment? The good news is that there are a number of different ways to do just that.
Trusting Ourselves: More than learning to trust others, we benefit from learning to trust ourselves. This means (in part) acting in ways toward yourself that are supportive, kind, and honest. It means taking responsibility for poor choices, learning from them, and making a commitment to do better. It means acknowledging yourself for all of the good choices that you have made along the way.
Learning the Signs: Chances are we learned some bad cues when we were growing up. We may have put a bad behavior into the category of a loving behavior because of our experience. As adults, it is important to learn what is healthy and what is unhealthy, who is trustworthy and who is untrustworthy, so that we can choose the right people to keep in our lives.
Healing the Past: Part of why we do not trust is because of how we have been hurt in the past. It is only through fully healing our old wounds that we become free to embrace a whole new life. This healing requires us to accept what happened and offer forgiveness where necessary. As we do this, the distortions these old hurts have created in our present life are lifted, and we find ourselves able to make better choices.
Trusting Again: As simple as it may sound, one of the ways that we heal our wounds with trust is to try to trust again. It is through trusting that we have the opportunity to be proven right. One of the most helpful things we can do is to turn our story about trust on its head. We so often focus on the few people or situations that broke our trust; however, they are actually the minority. More frequently, there are many more people in our lives who have done right by us than who have done us wrong. Focusing on what has worked helps to restore trust.
For more about discerning trustworthy people take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
One characteristic of a trustworthy person is authenticity, which means being true to one’s personality, spirit, and character. When a person is authentic, you can feel it. They’re telling you it as straight and directly as they can. This doesn’t mean that their reality is the end-all, be-all reality, or that what is true for them is true for you, or anything like that. But you know that you can trust them to be authentic and honest in accordance with their individual perspective. When you see someone being true to themselves over a period of time, you can trust this person to act authentically when you interact with them.
Another characteristic of a trustworthy person is honesty. While expecting people to be 100 percent honest all the time about all things is a tall order that may not be completely fulfilled, the higher the level of honesty, the more you can rely on the information that they share. These people will do their best to report what they experience or know. They’re not going to give different stories. Even though people change and what they say will be subject to moods and shifts in perspective, they are not going to tell you one thing one day and another thing the next. They are not going to be deceitful. If they make an infrequent mistake and lie out of fear, they will come clean and apologize.
People who are trustworthy respect who you are. When a person respects you, they are kind and considerate. Their respect is a sign that they are willing to do right by you, that they have your well-being front of mind. Signs that someone does not respect you would be if they treat you in a way that is a negating, condescending, or mean. And that lack of respect should be a clue that this person is likely not to do right by you.
Their level of emotional intelligence can indicate how trustworthy a person will be. A person who has a low emotional intelligence is likely to act in ways that are harmful when there are challenging situations in your relationship. If you trust someone who has low emotional intelligence with emotionally sensitive material, you are very likely going to end up feeling let down or betrayed. It may not be that the person is untrustworthy in the greater sense of the word, but more that they are not to be trusted with certain delicate situations.
There is no perfect person out there. Every person, if you know them long enough, will let you down in some way. Sometimes this will happen because they made a wrong choice, sometimes this will happen because they just see things differently. It is not a lack of flaws that makes a person trustworthy—it is their willingness to own them and make things right when they have a negative effect on others. Expecting perfection will leave you trusting no one. Expecting integrity will lead you to the right people, time and time again.
Even more important than learning the cues for whether someone is trustworthy is learning about what it means to really trust ourselves. When we trust ourselves—when we know how to do right by ourselves, when we know how to care for ourselves—we not only make better choices regarding the people in our lives, but we also recover more quickly from the bumps and upsets along the way. Learning to trust ourselves—not just in our judgment of others but also in our willingness to take care of ourselves in the wake of less than ideal choices—is key to becoming stronger, more resilient, and making better choices in the future.
For more about trusting take a look at my article >>> “Trust Yourself!”
While love is a magnificent gift that we can offer those around us, an even more poignant offering is the gift of our trust. Love can flow through us unabashed regardless of our wounding. Trust requires our effort.
Most people have had their trust broken many times by the time that they reach adulthood. It can seem at times as if betrayal is a necessary part of the human growth process. Once broken, trust or lack thereof hides out like a troll under a bridge. The bridge may appear safe, but no one gets across it.
I recognized recently that I had learned to trust based on a list of trustworthy vs. untrustworthy behaviors that I had created starting in childhood. Each person who stood before me would get measured based on these behaviors; those who passed would be considered trustworthy.
In truth, no one passed completely. Some did pass enough for me to say that I trusted them. However, I could feel that regardless of this initial success, I was watching them for when they finally messed up.
Once they demonstrated behavior from my untrustworthy list, I could then feel betrayed and have even more reasons why I should not trust.
What I realized is this: While it is necessary to be able to tell healthy/trustworthy behaviors from unhealthy/untrustworthy behaviors so that we can navigate this sometimes dangerous world, our trust cannot be derived solely from this type of discernment.
Why? Because even trustworthy people will at times make mistakes and choose poorly.
We cannot only trust a person if they are error-free in behavior. There is not a person out there who does not make errors in judgment. All of us will show weakness at one moment or another. All of us will choose the wrong option from the options in front of us from time to time.
We trust a person because we know without a doubt that they will try to do the right thing as much as possible, and when they don’t, they will try to course-correct as quickly as they can; this course correction is in the neighborhood of what we are capable of ourselves.
We trust them because they have learned skills such as self-reflection and making amends for their mistakes. We can trust them because we know that they put effort into personal and moral development. We trust them because their efforts are sincere.
We also should not put our trust in someone because we hope that they will act in a way that is always in alignment with how we see things—what our list of what trustworthiness looks like. We benefit from trusting another person to act in alignment with their own truth and the greater truth they are connected to.
In short, we trust someone’s willingness and capacity to be a good person to us based on how they show up to the task of being trustworthy, and we can trust another person to be true to who they are and their own ethical code of being.
However, in the end, two other types of trust end up being equally, if not more important—our trust in ourselves and our trust in the benevolence of the universe.
For more about trusting others take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
Whether you are the person who has been hurt or you are the person who has broken trust, you very likely will want to do some repair work. Here are fourteen things that you can do to help rebuild trust with another person once it has been broken.
1. Take Responsibility: Regardless of which role you played in the situation, you are responsible for your own contributions to what has occurred. Take some time to be clear about what you did and what you did not do that may have lead to a situation where trust was broken.
2. Show Empathy: When we have hurt someone, it helps for them to see that we understand the pain that they are going through. When we have been hurt, some of us will expect ourselves to get over it quickly and others will tend to hold onto the pain. Either way, empathizing with our own experience is helpful to our process of healing. It is also helpful to show empathy when possible to the person that hurt us. This person usually hurt us because of his or her own pain.
3. Keep Promises and Agreement: If you have betrayed someone’s trust, their whole system is on red alert. More than likely they expect you to continue to hurt them. By only making promises and agreements you can keep – as well as making sure to keep them – you can start to rebuild trust.
4. Be Authentic: People can spot a phony, (and even if they go along, they do not really trust them). So if you have hurt someone, being real is the best way to rebuild trust. If you were the person hurt, being authentic might mean that you are truthful about your emotions and where you are in your healing process.
5. Expect and Support Emotional Reactions: When there has been a breach of trust, everyone wants it to go away. But, expecting it to be cleared with an, “I’m sorry,” is often overly optimistic. Emotions will come and go. The more that you can support the emotional healing of yourself, or the person you hurt, the more likely you are to reestablish trust.
6. Sincerely Apologize: Perhaps, this should be number one. Offering an apology is the first thing that you can do to begin the healing after trust has been broken. Just lip service will not do – you will need to understand how you hurt the other person and truly feel remorse for your actions.
7. Accept and Admit Your Faults: Regardless of which side of the coin you fall on, you have flaws. These flaws, while understandable, likely contributed to the situation at hand. Stating your flaws and saying what you are going to do differently is helpful in regaining trust.
8. Keep Your Head on Your Shoulders: Assess the situation at hand. If you have sincerely shown remorse and the other person is not able to forgive you even after doing your due diligence, (or the person who has hurt you has not altered his or her behavior to be safe), your best choice might be to cut ties. Rebuilding trust is important… but pay attention to when your time is better invested elsewhere.
9. Imagine Different Outcomes: So, you trusted and you got hurt. This does not mean every time that you trust you will get hurt. Learn what you can, and then look to the future. What kind of people do you want to relate to? How would you like them to show up to the relationship?
10. Listen to Your Intuition: Very often when someone betrays us, we had a sense that it was happening or even just a sense that something was not right. The more we hone our intuition the easier it is to make good decisions for ourselves in the future.
11. Forgive Yourself: We all make mistakes. Sometimes, there is a high price tag to pay for the type of mistake that we made – like loss of a relationship, or loss of trust with ourselves. Regardless of what you did or did not do, the best you can do is learn from it and make difference choices in the future.
12. Forgive the Other Person: Building off of forgiving yourself, the person that hurt you also is prone to making mistakes and bad choices. When you are ready, forgiving the person who hurt you can be one of the most liberating actions and can open you up to truly trust again.
13. Try Trusting Again: Seriously, get back on the horse. Perhaps one person broke your trust but how many other people did not? The odds are in your favor. Keep building with the people who have shown themselves to be worthy of your trust.
14. Make Yourself Happy: The happier we are, the healthier we are. The healthier we are the better decisions we make… and the faster we bounce back from our challenges. Taking care of yourself and doing what you love will help you feel courageous enough to trust again.
For more about discerning trustworthy people take a look at my article >>> “Should I Trust You: What Does a Trustworthy Person Look Like?”
Trusting yourself is synonymous with confidence. There is confidence in what we do, for example, a skill that we can apply like cooking or speaking French. And, there is confidence in who we are. The latter relies on a deep knowledge of self that allows us to feel secure.
Trusting yourself is founded on being in integrity. The more we act in ways that feel right to us, the more that we act in accordance with our values, the more that we come to trust ourselves.
Think about it this way. If you were your own friend and you constantly lied to you, acted disrespectful, or were unreliable, would you want to keep you as a friend?
Well, it is pretty similar.
Every time that you act in a way that does not have integrity, you respond to that by checking out just a little bit more –from yourself. Pretty soon, what used to feel so good starts to be something you start to avoid. Instead of being the free-spirited person, who does what he or she thinks is right and is full of energy, you become a low energy person who tries to make others happy or other forms of just getting along.
Being in integrity gives us energy and helps us learn to trust ourselves.
Trusting yourself is cultivated through understanding. It is hard to trust what is totally foreign and unknown. It is just not built into our survival programming. We might be OK with it but we do not have a deep sense of trust in what is unknown.
Similarly, when we don’t know ourselves, we don’t trust ourselves and the more familiar we are the more certain we feel about when and how we can step up and when and how we might need to get a bit of support.
When people start engaging in personal development work they sometimes start to see parts of themselves that they did not see before. This often means that they start to trust themselves a little less for a time. However, as time goes by, this grows into a much deeper sense of trust as more things become understandable and sometimes even predictable.
Trusting yourself is supported by self-assessment and acceptance. How trust-worthy are you as a person. When you make a promise to yourself, do you keep it? Do you tell yourself the truth even when it is hard? You will learn to trust yourself more, even if the answer is no, if you ask the questions and are honest about where you stand.
You can always work to be more reliable and trustworthy person. In order to really be able to make an assessment of yourself, you need to have enough self-acceptance to weather the initial inquiry. That means you are willing to “stay on your own side” regardless of what you see in yourself. Otherwise, you simply will not see what you are not wanting to see.
A candid look at yourself can be the beginning of much deeper trust of oneself.
Trusting yourself is a gift. Just as trusting another person is a gift to them. It means that they are worthy of trust. It means that you are worthy of trust. And, what is better than that.
Once you gain your own trust, difficult circumstances become easier to manage, you feel more confident in your choices in relationship, you feel more confident in your career. You know you always have someone to rely on.
Someone who will not let you down.
The saying, “listen to your gut”, really makes sense. Your gut is basically your digestive system. You know when you feel hungry. Some physical signs can include stomach pains, growling, or even headaches. If you feel tired, your body is usually dragging. It’s incredible but true, your body just knows!
Our body always talks to us but we’ve taken it for granted. In fact, when a psychotherapist wants a client to connect to his/her feelings, she will ask, “Where in your body do you feel_______”.
It is essential to to make the feeling-body connection. Otherwise, one externalizes feelings and situations instead of understanding that it comes from within. The answer is always within.
Do you recall a time when you knew how you felt in your body about something but you didn’t listen? How about when you did listen? Did you listen right away or did it take time? Think about the consequences of listening vs not listening. I am certain that when you listened the outcome was more favorable.
I believe we humans are not as conditioned as we’d like to listen to our bodies. I do believe we have certain feelings, like fear or nervousness, that can be very strong. The fight or flight response comes to mind. But there are the more subtle signs that come from our bodies that we have not yet tuned into.
I know I had a hard time tuning in to my intuition. It definitely took me some time to learn to listen to it, at least in terms of making important life decisions. But why? What got in the way? Why couldn’t I tune in? Well, of course! The dreaded mind! Our mind is often very busy undermining us. It is very good at distracting us from what we already know in our heart, in our soul.
As a business owner there are so many things to think about. But there are as many to feel about! According to Human Design, a subject I learned about at my retreat, our mind (head) is in charge of reason, logic, and execution. But it is not the Authority. Our mind wants to be the authority and make the decisions for us but our Authority lies below the throat center, within. This is a fascinating subject to learn more about and can help you understand more about how you, the unique you, functions.
As children, we are definitely more attuned to our bodies but contamination happens and our bodies get silenced as we get older. Or at least it seems a little harder to hear when we get older, literally for some of us, right?
Where does this contamination come from? Usually from things we are taught as children or grow up believing about ourselves. It could be we learn that we shouldn’t make noise or speak up. It could be that we learn that what we feel is not important. Both of those beliefs can silence us and our bodies.
Trauma is another example of something that silences our bodies. Especially physical or sexual. This subject area is more delicate and needs special intervention but your can begin to understand how different situations in our childhood or throughout our life affect our ability to pay attention and listen to our voice, our truth, our intuition, our bodies.
As adults, how can we decontaminate and practice listening and paying attention to our bodies? By being more aware of our bodies. By knowing that we can trust our voice, our intuition. By realizing we can and should feel connected to our bodies, our hearts, our souls. And by doing physical activity to help us do just that.
The practice of yoga, quieting the mind and connecting to the source, is a good way to help us listen more to our bodies, our soul, our hearts. Dancing is another activity that helps you focus on your body, as long as you can stop thinking about your next step. Letting go of our thoughts can be so very complicated and yet so necessary.
Everyday we have an opportunity to FEEL MORE and THINK LESS. When you woke up this morning, how did you feel? Sleepy? Where in you body did you feel sleepy? Or maybe you felt tired? Where in your body did you feel tired? Did you feel energized or excited? Where in your body did you feel this? When you arrived at work, how did you feel? Where did you feel it?
The above is a good example of how we can practice getting used to making the feeling-body connection. Try it! Maybe it could be a nice practice to help you listen and pay more attention to what your body is telling you. Just remember, think less, feel more!
Contact Guisela at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our True Self is defined by seven intrinsic qualities. I initially identified these qualities during my study of Christian anthropology while in seminary. As I went on to study psychology and religion at Harvard, I found that these qualities are confirmed in the great religions of the world and in the modern scientific study of psychology as defining the unique nature of human being.
Human beings uniquely possess these qualities, and they are given to each of us. The true self is not reserved for those who have devoted their lives to becoming mystics. We are born with these resources which are available to all of us at any time.
These seven gifts guide us from within and define our unique nature. We may nurture these qualities or we may or take them for granted; if we choose the former course, our life will be opened and filled by meaningful opportunities–if we choose the latter, we will remain wanting and helpless, functioning at a level far lower than our potential. Nevertheless, even if we fail to utilize them, these qualities lie dormant, for we never lose them. They exist within us, waiting for us to awaken them:
“Children are born true scientists. They spontaneously experiment and experience and reexperience again. They select, combine, and test, seeking to find order in their experiences–“which is the mostest? Which is the leastest?” They smell, taste, bite, and touch-test for hardness, softness, springiness, roughness, smoothness, coldness, warmness: they heft, shake, punch, squeeze, push, crush, rub, and try to pull things apart.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
Spontaneity is our ability to express our self without hindrance. We preserve and develop spontaneity if we feel safe, cherished, and free from distress. Spontaneity captures the innocence, readiness, and freshness of a child. The spontaneous person embraces joy and affectionate humor just as children, who are less inhibited and socially constrained, naturally express their authentic and visceral feelings. Those who are spontaneous beyond their childhood years retain honest access to the full range of their emotions. People may attribute spontaneity to those with a youthful character; but while spontaneity involves innocence, child-likeness, and having fun, it also entails resilience and the ability and readiness to heal, mature, and develop, to expand our competence. Our spontaneity spurs us to growth because we are destined for expressing our aliveness.Psychologists have identified six universal emotions that we express cross-culturally: happiness, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. While we often associate access to the positive emotions as a sign of maturity, awareness of and access to the full range of one’s feelings more accurately characterizes one who is spontaneous. To assess our spontaneity, we must ask: Do I feel openness and readiness in my activities? Do I possess a freshness and enthusiasm in life? Do I have access to only certain emotions? Do I feel greater restraint or greater ease with these emotions?
“The first reason for man’s inner slavery is his ignorance, and above all, his ignorance of himself. Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave, and the plaything of the forces acting upon him. This is why in all ancient teaching the first demand at the beginning of the way to liberation was: Know Thyself. ” –George Gurdjieff
Reasoning is sound thinking; it accounts for our understanding of life and our progress in it. Through reasoning, we can discover more about the world and about ourselves and participate in life in endless ways. With the potential depth of our ability to understand, we are designed to explore, engage the world, and find solutions to our problems.
“Creativity is…seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God.” – Michelle Shea
Creativity is a unique expression of our ability to make something out of our “originality of thought.” Although we cannot, like God, create ex nihilo(“out of nothing”), we have the power to generate and transform things: to convert our ideas into new forms, to make our dreams realities, to shape our self and our world–to inspire, excite, incite, calm, and originate. When we create in connection with God, we feel inspired and empowered. Through creativity, we can develop skills which we often do not fully understand or engage. By applying our abilities to new possibilities, creativity builds self-awareness and strengthens identity.
When we create, we take risks and embrace new possibilities. The creative process taps the source of both our intrinsic nature and our individuality. This permits us to discover and express more of our other intrinsic gifts and more of our self. It helps us to recognize those qualities and to harness their power.
We generate creativity from within rather than accepting external formulations of it. For this reason, we often feel that what we create is who we are–it is part of ourselves. When our work permits us to create, we often call it art and equate the product with our self-worth. One of the miracles of each of our lives is the possibility of leaving our distinct — creative — mark through the expressions of our creativity. Creativity is a unique expression of our own experience and achievements.
4. Free Will
“The most tremendous thing granted to humanity is choice, freedom.” –Søren Kierkegaard
Free will is our ability to choose. Moreover, it is our ability to think outside ourselves–to gain an observational sense of our situation. Exercising free-will, we recognize that we can draw upon our own voice, rather than echo what we have been told. By examining the choices we have, we can establish our voice in relation to others and feel integrity in our position.
To not make choices is to give up a part of our self. Those who feel as if they have lost their will often feel trapped. If we feel that we have no choice or are locked in, we need to examine what constrains us. By drawing upon our spontaneity, reasoning, and creativity, we can release ourselves from these shackles.
“A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom…Wisdom comes from awe rather than shrewdness. It is evoked not in moments of calculation but in moments of being in rapport with the mystery of reality.” –Abraham Heschel
Spirituality is our response to God’s call–our communication with the spirit of life’s Mystery. Spirituality is a Mystery not only because it involves something beyond our mind and knowledge, but also because it comes from our experiences of God. The power of that relationship to spirit is unique for each of us; we tap the power of spirituality in our encounters with God, which gives us a clear vision and an understanding of life. That is why there are different paths to spirituality. Our ability to grow spiritually is made possible through a recognition of, and commitment to, developing our relationship with God. By penetrating beyond the temporal and engaging the Mystery we can find the guide for our journey of fulfillment. To engage our spirituality we must engage our personal relationship with God and make this relationship central in our lives.
You can experience God, but whether you subscribe to a particular religion, develop a personal understanding of spirit, or deny all divinities and are an atheist, there exists one certainty: things occur in life over which you have no control. You can attribute these things to fate, randomness, nature, physical reality, or God. I personally believe that it is the Spirit that provides the answers for us in all things. We find the Spirit when we discover and actively engage our True Self –connect to our Self, Others, and God and hear the voices of our thoughts (our mind), our feelings (our heart), and our spirit (our soul), we both explain and understand our nature and how these connections bring us fulfillment.
“The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things–the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and counterfeit.” –Samuel Johnson
Discernment, as Johnson notes above, is our ability to distinguish Good from Evil–and to choose the Good. When we choose between Good andEvil, we demonstrate what principles are guiding us. Discernment is thus the ability both to make moral choices and to act accordingly. It is not being judgmental, as in disdainful and imperious moralizing; it is judgment driven by Truth. Discernment emerges from knowing, choosing, and acting on the Good.
The simple ability to distinguish “right” from “wrong” begins at age three according to psychologists who study moral development. Howver, from even our earliest experiences, we begin to grow in discernment by developing virtues. Therefore, the extent to which we develop virtue (such as kindness, justice, caring, truthfulness, courage, and the like) we ignite the quality of our ability to discern. While our individual temperament may be drawn to one virtue over another, refining these proclivities through the discipline of enacting virtue shapes both our character and our ability to discern. Through discernment, we express our connection to the concerns of humanity at large and define our character.
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” –Sophocles
Love is the culminating point–where we put the True Self to its greatest use. Love is a profoundly caring and intensely passionate and personal connection that generates respect, honesty, and reciprocity. Love also involves a physical, emotional, and spiritual attraction to another. We are driven by the powerful urge to love and to be loved, for love is intrinsic to our social nature. By trusting another to know one’s own self through their eyes, we free our self to union–to love and be loved. Loving connections convey the ultimate expression of the authentic self through an active engagement of Self, Others, and God. But while love is frequently identified as life’s most fulfilling experience, it can also be our most difficult pursuit — it often gets confined to only one of these three crucial relationships. Authentic love may begin by engaging only Self, only Others, only God–but if the love is authentic it always leads to the other two.
Loving will be a sacred connection — the highest human function, entrusted to us by God. When that sacred trust is broken, by us or by another, we feel it. When a lover does not act with the kindness and respect that a sacred love naturally includes, we can feel that opening up to that person was a big mistake. Although loving may include sex, a relationship based only on sex is not love. Love is a connection that opens the inner floodgates of one’s being to another. Because of the inherent vulnerability of exposing the self in a relationship, you feel love when you feel safe and are comfortable enough to “let go” of your defenses. In this healthy expression of love, both people are accessing their True Self.
John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of True Coming of Age: A Dynamic Process That Leads to Emotional Stability Spiritual Growth, and Meaningful Relationships. For more information please visit www.drchirban.com.