I imagine that at times it has occurred to you how “machine-like” others, and yourself are? However you address and describe such experiences, these undesirable and predictably repetitive reactive patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling (or lack thereof), really your/our reactivity keep popping up, despite best resolve to change them and not to repeat them. It’s seems there is part of you and me that is like a machine with set programs that are not under our control to turn off or to change. I think the central question is what is it that you are really dealing with in yourself when you struggle to change your patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and feelings?
As an adaptive organism that constantly encounters an environment that poses varying challenges and compels you to respond, you have developed patterns of response that seem to resolve threats and issues, at least for the time being. Every success is prized and kept, albeit the bigger implications are often not seen, and and a self-identity becomes very well formed based on those patterns: “This is who I am.” The only trouble is that the “successful” pattern of response in one context and at one point may not, in fact, most likely not, be the optimal one that fits and suits another context at a later point of your encounters with life. All so-called “bad habits” or limiting patterns of response were at one point in the early past successful good ones or at perhaps the least worst option within the existing circumstances, but at a later point you struggles to with becoming and simultaneously avoiding consciousness that will facilitate freeing you from the limiting pattern and adopting a more liberating and generative pattern, really your more authentic, alive, and free self. All this points to moments when you need to intervene in the process of old patterns automatically showing up, thereby limiting other possibilities that can open you to greater freedom and more creative and expansive possibilities.
At this point I will focus on Three Levels of Intervention:
- Identity transformation
- This is the level of change that addresses the structure of an egoic form that represents an early stage of developmental arrest, and that invariably involves an internalized conflict that is now represented by conflicts in both your inner and relational worlds. This level of intervention is an ongoing process and movement towards your most authentic and free self.
- This level could be seen as addressing becoming whole/enlightened. We all have this potential.
- This is the process of ongoing and persistent inner work.
- Intervention at a point in the process of behavioral and feeling manifestation that allows for reactivity to be forestalled. This usually represents in advanced ability with self-awareness and develop skill to intervene in the reactive process.
- For, this self-awareness is central, along with skills at intervening.
- Recovery after a full-blown manifestation of the old habituated egoic structure and behavioural patterns.
- Such recovery can involve reflection to further ‘know’ the process and to learn about it in the service of future possibilities, and can also involve repair work with other(s) who were involved
- Recovery is a significant opportunity for healing and reflection, and for acknowledgement of inner circumstances and ruptures in relationship that may have occurred.
It is important to realize that there is a way of viewing the process of transformation that does not involve failure. If everything goes well, then there is a sense of well-being and flow. If there is a blockage, then it is possible to develop an attitude that this is a learning opportunity. Of course, the process of developing this attitude also has potential to constitute inner work.
I will offer here a small example of the second intervention.
Friend: you always misjudge the intentions of others
Me: I feel a surge of anger. I start to tell my friend that I don’t like her attitude towards me.
I suddenly realize I am actually doing what she says I do.
I stop myself in mid-word and say, “I feel a tremendous surge of energy in my chest, and I realize that even though I was going to object vigorously to what you said, that I was about to do the very thing to which you pointed.
Now I focus on the feeling. I say to my friend: “Please bear with me. I am trying to stay connected to myself. I was about to have an outburst of anger, which I realize is a very long-term pattern for me, and that actually has a great potential to guarantee the very outcome that I would like will not be possible.
I feel the heat in me rising and I welcome it. I realize this is my life energy, and my passion for life and connection. At this point I have regained my consciousness, and hopefully my friend is still available for connection. Of course, this latter is not always the case. This would involve a whole other process and is perhaps material for a future Field Note.
This small process suggests the possibility of taking a conflictual situation as a teacher, as a growth opportunity, and as a relationship builder.
The third level of intervention requires a recovery period and process from the inner and, very often outer, effects of such full blown experiences. A couple of examples are perhaps helpful. You might have made some mistake and followed this up with a very vigorous and thorough bought of self-criticism and/or self-loathing. Another example might be lashing out at your intimate who then proceeds to either lash back, dissolve in tears, or withdraw. Your first task in any such event is to re-awaken your awareness, soothe yourself, eventually to reflect on your whole history of such inner and/or relational experiences. In the case of relational experiences an effort to make amends/apologize with responsibility and awareness is sometimes necessary, and certainly not always easy to perform.
I think that it is helpful to identify what level of intervention is available to you and to work with this in an ongoing way and within the context of whatever has taken place.