Transformational work: a process for greater self-love
My interest and passion sit in transformational work. Many clients struggle with the word transformation. To some, the word implies ‘I’m one thing today and I’ll be something else tomorrow’ which makes them nervous. Others conjure up a long, and painful process like a pilgrimage. The idea fills them with uncertainty, discomfort, and doubts about whether they can make it. Celebrity and Instagram culture do not help. Too often we see people claiming transformational change that in the end proves to be smoke and mirrors.
Transformation is a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and a greater appreciation for what is and what can therefore be. They facilitate greater self-love. Here is one example from a client that beautifully encapsulates what the process is like:
“Honestly, I am still not well. I am too touchy, I cry more than normal. I shout more than needed. At the same time, I am feeling more honest with myself and with others. Believing that this is the right path.”
Learning to accept ourselves means we no longer hide from what our minds may judge as not right. What our inner critic may label as “abnormal”, or view as less attractive, becomes the key element to embrace and work with. In this way, we develop wholeness that underpins all genuine empowerment. Viewed this way, transformational work is a journey towards freedom.
- How do you view yourself at the moment?
- Are you feeling 100% empowered?
How our subconscious helps us integrate
Our subconscious mind keeps track of this journey and all the feelings associated with it. One day I had a dream in which a family member gave me a suitcase to bring home. I was to open it on arrival, except I was very afraid to do so. In this dream, I had a terrible sense that if I did open it, inside it was a yogurt that would spill over everything making a massive “mess”. All I could feel lucidly dreaming was the fear of having to deal with such a mess. My childhood, as many others have pleasant and less pleasant memories – the messy “yogurt” stuff.
Working with dreams, I have come to see how they help us integrate vital information, face fears we can’t name and help bring to our awareness aspects of ourselves that we may be consciously repressing. The mess in my dream is one example.
Back in my dream, however, I ended up opening the suitcase after all. To my surprise, there was no spillage. Instead, I unpacked various keepsakes from my childhood in Poland and adolescence from New York. I could see myself sorting these items deciding to keep some and putting others aside for donation. My mind was integrating memories and updating the meanings of events that were traumatic. As the mess I expected never materialized, my nervous system now had a new, more positive experinece. When I awoke and reflected on this dream I felt more whole.
Our minds are natural healers and aiders
I believe our minds are our natural healers. They store all of our experiences and continuously remake meaning. This requires synthetic thinking: a process I have been exploring in my work a great deal. Unlike analytical thinking which concerns itself with the shortest logical path between thought A and thought B, synthetic thinking runs on less well-honed neuronal pathways. It is slower and often runs below the surface of our awareness. There it compares, references create new associations and evolve meaning with time. When the picture gets clear enough the new reality floats up to the surface as an Aha moment or some invaluable insight or new wisdom. Something new is made from pieces of the old. What it needs is time and a level of diffusely focused attention.
We need time and space for integration
Our minds are continuously being transformed and, in turn, transform us. A new perspective emerges suddenly and what we once saw as true no longer seems so. New possibilities emerge because there is a new reality. Past stumbling blocks dissolve as new awareness permeates our whole being. These changes of course are reflected in new nervous system connections. As cells wire differently, old concepts are interlinked with new ideas and a new whole is required. Our minds are fantastic integrators.
Sadly today’s busy, technologically rich and visually exhausting world, leaves little bandwidth for this process to happen without interruption. In fact, sleep which is when the mind is most actively integrating experience is often cut short. This is why giving yourself time to sleep and dream is an important part of self-care. I have also found that switching off by going away into nature, putting technology on pause for specific parts of the day, and practicing meditation helps our minds a lot.
What we exclude tends to hold us captive
We can also consciously decide to not deal with some things. We may, for example, worry certain feelings or experiences will overwhelm us. A commonplace example of this is conflict. Such unwillingness to face reality, however, tends to halt integration.
Denial, repression, rejection of any aspects of ourselves or reality keep us crippled, in pieces and fundamentally weaker. When we choose to bury our true feelings, ignore internal conflicts between parts of ourselves, or get caught up in disempowering thoughts we stay trapped.
How to get out of your mind and into the integration process
Rather than talk, I often ask clients to create a vision board instead. With it, we tap the hidden layers of the mind and suspend the judging function. Upon completion, clients often feel a sense of release as if a big burden was lifted from their shoulders, their heart feel lighter and they feel more free in body and spirit. Making a vision board this way gets clients directly into the process of integration. Their boards often reveal vital aspects of their past, present, and future selves, the client ends up connecting or reconnecting in a healthier manner with my assistance. Reconciling what was and what is allows the client to heal. The integration achieved in this way affords the client greater clarity and sense of control over their life. And, in the process facilitates greater self-acceptance. What happens next or does not happen becomes linked with awakening to one’s personal responsibility and freedom to choose one action over another. In this manner, life ceases to be a dream. And dreams aid life.
I invite you to open your eyes in a conscious way to your life and your whole self. Welcome yourself in wholeheartedly. Through acceptance and acknowledgment of the many dimensions that make up who you are, you will discover your hidden depths, inner strength and heal.
An earlier version of this blog was published a number of years ago by Psychology Tomorrow Magazine