01.04.2010

Laying the Foundation

Change comes from inner transformation not superficial externalities like a facelift or a makeover.
There's no need for a facelift or a fancy wardrobe. The changes we seek start with feeling the love within us, says counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders

Transformation is about change and altering, hopefully improving but not necessarily. It's more about becoming something else, rather than just another version of the former self.

There are many ways in which a human life can transform in the course of the journey between birth and death.

Death itself is merely a transformation, and while we're still alive, we go through many different stages of growth. Our bodies change constantly, we can literally change our minds in one glorious moment of insight, and we can lift ourselves up, spiritually and psychologically, through processes that are like walking on fire in order to become stronger.

All of life can be about transformation if we choose to live in a spirit of exploration and adventure. We don't need to have physical makeovers, revamp our wardrobe, shed kilos, have facelifts or engage a personal trainer. We only need to be our own best selves, no matter how hard that is sometimes!

Of all the approaches I could take with this topic, I decided to talk about the transformation that comes through counselling seeing as that's my day job. And it honours the brave men and women who take this journey with me and truly and amazingly transform.

This is the process:

Acceptance

This is the start of all self knowledge and self value. As long as there's judgement and self criticism, there can never be any shedding of old skins and wearing of bright new ones. We need to accept all of ourselves, not just the bits we like. Then we have to go beyond, into allowing. It's no use saying, "I accept myself" if we don't allow ourselves to be what we accept. This is a daily decision because as soon as we start prevaricating and disguising, we are already lost. No matter what a client walks in to talk about the first time, I send them home with the same message - accept yourself and where you are right now then we can start the journey of transforming what you would like to change. If we instead focus on the problem/issue itself, we would be off on a wild goose chase, literally not seeing the woods for the trees.

Core Beliefs

These are the deep seated beliefs we absorb in childhood through things that are said, what we see, how we're treated, things left undone - the good, the bad and the ugly. By the time we go to school, we already have thousands of them deep inside us, driving our feelings, actions and behaviours. But because they are unconsciously learnt, they can only be unconsciously unlearnt - aye, there's the rub! Yet we are constantly affected by them.

There is one way you can know what your core beliefs are - by looking at the way your life operates around you. For example, do you have supportive, healthy relationships; do you have a comfortable life, materially; do you do work you love? When you identify the part of your life that doesn't work well, you'll figure out the core belief that's behind it. If you're short of money, ask yourself what attitudes you witnessed in your parents - were they extravagant or overly frugal? This is an exercise worth investing some effort in.

Labels

Our core beliefs are reinforced by our childhood labels. These can be a single word, a phrase, a nickname or even an implied impression. For example, if a child is never touched or hugged, they will adopt the mental label of "unloveable". Some labels are totally explicit such as being called "stupid" or "clumsy". There are two usual things we do with our labels and that's to either live them out or try to outrun them, neither of which is healthy. The first response creates people who constantly fail and lack confidence; the second leads to workaholics and control freaks. Labels affect us whether positive or negative because they are restrictive either way; they limit our experience of life. Why must we always be tidy or polite or shy? For that matter, why must we always be clever, kind and loving?

We are not one dimensional and by labelling ourselves or accepting others' labels for us, we are not exploring our whole selves or living authentic lives.

Polarities

This issue relates directly to the last two. We are, in fact, made up of a mass of opposing traits so when you say you're calm, you're cancelling out your wild side; you are both polite and rude, shy and flamboyant, diligent and lazy, honest and sly, and so on. That's one of the reasons labels are to be shed and rejected. We made choices early in life to take on certain characteristics and thus end up living half-lives, full of compromises and unexplored experiences. It doesn't mean we have to be all sorts of things we can't accept, such as a liar or a thief, but we should free up the idea in our minds at least. Just by doing that, we have already reclaimed your true selves. We all have negative egos, a dark side, and liberating it, accepting it, is very powerful, indeed transforming. I can't emphasise enough the freedom of just being ourselves without fear or pretence.

The other good thing about accepting our polarities is that it stops us being as judgemental of others. When I acknowledge my dark side, I also realise that others have one, too, so their darker behaviours will not offend me as much.

Identity

This is a further dimension to the whole issue of revealing and living one's true self. The identity we live with in our daily lives is essentially data, the physical facts about us, like height, eye colour, race, religion, address, marital status etc. Our true identities are something else altogether, made up of spirit, intuition, lifeforce, inner wisdom and spirituality. There can be no transformation until we develop a relationship with our inner selves. This can be achieved through therapy, meditation, reading/study, yoga, even just silence and time out. We all need to journey within on a regular basis lest we get lost in the daily minutiae of life and forget that we are, first and foremost, spiritual beings.

Vibrations

The "vibes" we give out are based on all of the above - our core beliefs, the invisible but potent labels we wear, connection with our true identity, and acceptance of our polarities. When people respond to us, they are really responding to our vibrations, the hidden signals that speak volumes about what we think of ourselves. Each of us is an energy field which creates an aura around us. We think people relate to our clothes, voice, personality, status and so on but, in fact, they're "feeling" us. We cannot change the external message just by deciding to. Again, it's an internal process. All the physical transforming in the world, all the plastic surgery, expensive makeup, intensive exercise, dieting, power dressing and designer accessories cannot create happiness, and certainly not peace.

Observe the responses and reactions you get from others, friends and strangers alike, as this has a lot of useful information to offer.

Reflections

These are the mirror images that reflect our inner feelings. If we like ourselves, we'll have positive reflections - it's as simple and as complicated as that. Why is it complicated? Because we are. We hear a lot these days about the Law of Attraction, that we only have to ask and believe to get what we need and want. That's essentially true, but the unconscious beliefs we carry can sabotage our efforts.

So we must clear all of these blockages before we can have the life we crave, before we can transform. It may only be a matter of sitting quietly with our inner dialogue, clearing out the emotional clutter, shutting out all noise, real and imagined. We have to sit in love, feel love and choose love. That's the only truth and nothing is more transforming. Don't watch and wait for reflections; it's like watching a kettle boil or grass grow. Just focus on what you're giving out and the reflections will come in their own time. If you get negative ones instead, use that, learn from it and change - transform.

Inner Child

For me personally, reconnecting with our inner child is the best route to transformation, not necessarily the easiest because it can expose old wounds, hurts and unresolved conflicts, but a very thorough cleansing. The short explanation is that sometime in the early development of a child, a small hurt or a large trauma is internalised and existing joy and innocence becomes submerged, trapping the pure essence we're born with. Life goes on, but a lot of beautiful childlike qualities are hereafter repressed, like spontaneity, openness, affection and trust. By making the choice to release the inner child, we can regain these and live a much freer, honest and happier life.

So, how is it done? It's just a matter of sitting quietly and "meeting" the inner child, setting it free, apologising for whatever hurts it's suffered and promising to protect it in future. Now, imagine if you were locked up for 30 or 40 years - would you come out easy and smiling? Unlikely. There might be rage, tears, hysterics, some sort of cathartic release, but once that's cleared, the benefits will far outweigh the initial discomfort.

Life Skills

So far, we have been laying a foundation for transformation. To complete the work, there's a need to study and practise life skills. Here I list the most important ones:

assertivenesshealthy boundariescommunicationpositive thinkingstress management

Keep in mind that these are skills like any others, and need to be practised over time for results. There are many tools that can help, particularly affirmations which are very powerful when used properly.

On the simplest level, transformation comes from a desire to change, a passion for life, having a true relationship with one's inner self, letting go of outdated beliefs and negative ideas, the ability to laugh, to be at ease with one's emotions and most crucially - love, love, love. As the Beatles said, love is all there is. It is a transforming energy matched by no other because when we feel the love within us, the outside world looks brighter and more beautiful, the journey of life transcends the mundane and becomes the daily miracle it is meant to be.

Look out for Charmaine's new monthly relationships column from our May issue.

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