Time goes on, and you feel like you have really become better than ever. But how do you know how you are growing as a person? Honestly, can anyone really be objective about themselves? It is because we can only perceive life through our own thoughts and feelings that our perception will always be limited and biased. That is a lesson we all need to know.
Another crucial lesson that has to be addressed is how much our egos are in control over our lives. The ego is what keeps us in the illusion that we are the centre of the universe and everything is really all about us. It is the ego that we must try to overcome (not relinquish) in order for us to grow. This is the centrepiece of most religions and philosophical theologies. It is the ego that creates most of our problems in our world. Recognising how the ego works and then choosing to not be subservient to the absolute control of the ego is what personal growth is all about.
Sometimes we need some help to discover our progress. Life will always step up to the plate and expose us for who and what we really are. It does it in such a way that there is no escape from its unsparing directives. Life has been created in such perfection as there are opposing values to any and everything that is. We will freely find someone who is in direct opposition to anything that we feel strongly about. Here is where our conflicts begin.
Lucy of the comic strip Peanuts once said that she had inner peace, but she also still had outer obnoxiousness. I believe it is the “outer obnoxiousness” that truly defines our levels of personal growth. Our ‘outer obnoxiousness’ will become the stimulus that allows our true levels of ego involvement to be expressed.
It’s easy to be calm and peaceful when there are no conflicts disturbing your life. It’s easy to believe that you are strong and centred when relationships are in harmony. We might slip into a false sense of well-being that can unfortunately be shattered in an instant. One thing I’ve learned is to never get too comfortable with your life situation as things always change and conflicts will come knocking on your door.
It is through our conflicts that our personal growth will be graded. Conflicts are the perfect environment for our egos to rear its ugly head. As long as the ego is still in charge, our response to our conflicts will remain the same and our results will be the same. Our actions will continue to be sourced by our egos.The feelings we experience in conflict, ranging from anger and fear to despair and confusion are usually good indicators of the ego still being in control.
What is the way out of this predicament? Knowledge is power and the more you know the better off you will become. Or at least that’s the idea. Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Reading substantive books on self-help, philosophy, and theology will be a great place to start your personal development. But is information gleaned from reading materials enough to start getting results in your personal transformation?
I believe that there is the emotional component that is so difficult for us to overcome. Experiential learning is mandatory for us to develop our emotional maturity. We have opportunities to learn when our ego gets us into a ‘my way vs your way’ conflict, and then we have to deal with the results we achieve through that process. The ego gets you into conflicts, keeps you there and possibly escalates the situation out of control. Been there, done that!
You can deal with your emotions based on reason when things are calm and collected, but who can control an unreasonable emotion? It is sometimes through the results of being out of control that we learn that the ego is not going to help us in these situations. With intention and wisdom from our experiences we can gain control over our ego’s emotional control.
Once you begin to rise above the ego’s autocratic ways can you start responding to situations with predetermined intentions rather than the ego’s instinctual reactions. These intentions are a major part of our personal growth. Our thoughts plus our emotions are how our reality is created. Gaining access to the proper thoughts and emotions is the key.
Erich Fromm, the author of the classic The Art of Loving gave us his insights on this subject. He said: ‘The faculty to think objectively is reason; the emotional attitude behind reason is that of humility. To be objective, to use one’s reason, is possible only if one has achieved an attitude of humility, if one has emerged from the dreams of omniscience and omnipotence which one has as a child. Love, being dependent on the relative absence of narcissism, requires the development of humility, objectivity, and reason.’
Humility is the polar opposite of what our ego provides us. Learning humility is such a difficult process as it requires an actual shift in which emotions dominate our consciousness. Here, in a nutshell, is the secret to what many are striving for in this world. Hopefully this information will help some to find their way.
Our reasoning capabilities and our emotional attitudes both have to become heightened for successful personal growth. Conflict will surely be there to let us know how we are doing.
Scott Trettenero’s book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves.