by Anthony Cavuoti, Marriage and Family Therapist, in Torrance, CA
Self-Examination: The Spirit of Positive Change
There is a spirit of change in the air. It feels like the best I heard about the ‘60s. More and more individuals are losing their fear of things they know they never should have feared in the first place. People are challenging outdated social and cultural assumptions. People are realizing more quickly that if they more fully accept the diversity of others, they’ll more fully accept themselves, finding peace in their individual diversity. People are realizing that peace is similar to happiness, for they both are byproducts of sustained self-examination, effort, daring, compassion, and other important qualities.
We’re seeing a great synergy of culture, psychology, and spirituality, as well as just plain human decency. People are taking less and less anxiety-based pride in being cruel and indifferent to one another and more and more confidence-driven, self-affirming pride in how they are taking small chances at being real, authentic, and more understanding with one another. People are less and less afraid of showing up as they really are in this life. People are more able and motivated to integrate their personality more completely because they are able to accept others and themselves, with all their latent and manifest diversity, more fully and compassionately and with greater respect.
Changing Ideas about Diversity and Vulnerability
People are changing their perceptions of diversity and vulnerability. Increasingly, people are focusing more on what is most important: being vulnerable with the authentic purpose. More people are interpreting vulnerability as a call to explore, as a call to be compassionate and brave, rather than as a signal to lash out, to hide, to attack, to shame, or to judge. More individuals are really discovering the strength to follow through and allow others to be who they are. People of all orientations and races are really understanding more deeply that, by making room in their hearts and minds for others to be themselves, they find more space inside themselves to accept their own diversity. They’re coming to fully know that others’ diversity is not a threat and never has been. Such acceptance provides both the inner and outer space for all parties concerned to more fully give birth to who they were meant to be, along with giving life to a more authentic, integrated, functioning personality that is more motivated and able to live in harmony with others.
Psychotherapists’ Personal Growth Benefits Everyone
As a psychotherapist, I celebrate this in my clients and in my own personal life. It always warms my heart when I see other psychotherapists engaging in real authentic growth, not only intellectually and technically, but also as complete, whole human beings.
I constantly engage in support groups with other psychotherapists, and we mutually support one another to grow more completely as individuals and to move through potential barriers. By growing as individuals, therapists cannot help but convey such acceptance and vitality to our clients. They benefit from our growth in many ways — some ineffable, others more concrete. When we process our lives more fully, when we experience a real emotional encounter with our complete biography, we cannot help but be more of a catalyst of empowerment for our clients, to enable them to face and move through unconscious defenses they picked up from their family of origin and adopt new attitudes and behavior patterns that are more aligned with their organic emerging sense of self. They are taking more and more responsibility for this constantly emerging Self, and are less and less perpetuating the destructive behaviors and attitudes of their pseudo-self to fit into destructive relationships.
The Individual, Society, and the Planet
As human beings, we have long since reached the point where we really must learn to live in harmony with one another. The survival of our Selves individually depends on this. It’s not just about our own perpetuation either: Perhaps, as Jung and Einstein both suspected, most of the life on the planet now depends on us as a species understanding ourselves, especially our propensity for destruction, and counterbalancing our weaknesses with our capacity to show each other love, tolerance, and acceptance. Our ability to harmonize has been outstripped by our technology. As Joseph Campbell once said, we need to humanize the machine.
Personal Growth As the Starting Point of Change
I believe that the evil of our destructiveness could be nipped in the bud by us no longer acting destructively towards each other, especially our children. As individuals, we must understand and no longer perpetuate our propensity to be indifferent towards ourselves, we can no longer go on minimizing, denying, and glorifying the neglects and cruelties that happened to us during our own personal childhood. We cannot go on ignoring this unconscious reservoir of destruction — in doing so, we become unconscious conspirators, perpetuating the neglect and abuse that was inflicted upon us in the name of upbringing and of discipline.
The Interconnectedness of Personal Growth
This unconscious, societal, cultural emotional blind spot can no longer go on existing in the daylight shadow of our denial. We cannot afford to minimize its deleterious effect upon our emotional states as adults. The harsh, indifferent, and cruel attitudes people had towards us as children are reflected in our neural development, in our imprinting, in the attitudes we have now, as adults, toward ourselves and others. We can no longer go on (unconsciously) perpetuating such invisible destructive forces upon the children of our generation and the next generation. That is why, for us therapists, an examined life is essential; we must know our truth, lest we perpetuate our own unconscious defenses upon our clients. Only with our own healthy emotional independence can we assist our clients in achieving theirs. This empowers them to put down the crutches of bigotry, sexism, racism, drugs, or cruelty to others. Such healthy emotional independence allows us as people to more fully be and reveal ourselves to others, and it frees us from being held captive by a nervous system that developed in a dysfunctional environment, where unconditional kindness, generosity, and tolerance were an exception rather than the norm.
Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. New World Library.
Chardin, P. T. de. (2008). The phenomenon of man. Harper Perennial Modern Thought. Einstein, A. (1949). The world as I see it. (A. Harris, Trans.). Philosophical Library. Jung, C. G. (2006). The undiscovered self. (H. R. F. Carrington, Trans.). Signet Book.
Miller, A. (1997). The drama of the gifted child: The search for the true self, revised edition. Basic Books.
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