The Self-Reflective Life — Self Reflection

  1. The Bliss of Discomfort
  2. Sensuality, Sexuality, Spirituality in Practice
  3. Finding Meaning in Relating
  4. The Power of Vocation
  5. The Self-Reflective Life — Self Reflection

Self Reflection — There’s no magic, no rescue, no endless, chargy bliss. There are moments of all of it, but the hard truth is that there is nothing easy about life.

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Recently, I started a series of articles. I suggested that four areas (sexuality (1), (2), relationships, (1), (2) vocation, and self-responsibility) could be looked at for guidance on how our lives are progressing, and that the four needed to be no less than neutral in “feel,” and to be in balance.


Today’s article is the last in this series. We’ve been looking at using aspects of our lives as keys, or indicators, for how our self-development is going. I’ve been suggesting that we should not settle for anything less than neutral in the “felt sense” of our sexual selves, our relationships, and our vocations.

What, then, is self-development, or self-knowing, or self-reflection?

Notice I did not say “self-improvement.” Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make (a great way to waste your life) is to think you need improvement – to be fixed. We are not broken. We have, within us, all we will ever need to lead deep, meaningful and fulfilling lives. The problem with the “self-improvement” movement is that it is based upon the notion of the limited vale of being fully human—thus, everything is in deep need of repair. We beg to differ.

We tend to believe that people do the best they can with their present resources and understandings. If they honestly believe that others are out to get them, or “make them” feel feelings, then that is the system out of which they operate. Their thoughts and decisions are congruent with this belief. Things begin to shift as the belief shifts, coupled with behaviours that lean in the direction you wish to go.

Fantasy is not Real

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There’s no magic, no rescue, no endless, chargy bliss. There are moments of all of it, but the hard truth is that there is nothing easy about life. Life, in the form of reality, happens to all of us. The curriculum of life has as it’s graduation ceremony the death of each of us. This is either scary, or empowering.

I suggest it is the latter, because once we “get” that we do not have forever (perhaps today is our last day…) then two things happen.

1) I begin to see that how things are right now is how things are, right now, and

2) I find myself drawn to shift my behaviour and perspective, to start living the things I have formerly thought I’d get around to some day, and I find myself finally engaged with here and now reality.

This is why I started writing this series of articles. I noticed that clients (and myself, occasionally) are so focused on the ‘unfairness’ of the way “life” is treating them that they are perpetually caught in the mud. Relationships come and go,
drama is deep and scary,
and nothing ever seems to get better. If this is your focus, of course nothing changes. All that’s happening is you’re mentally reviewing how hard-done-by you are.

I’d like to suggest the opposite – that the key to a successful life is to be able to take a firm step back from the drama, and to then to do more of what is working and stop doing what is not.

During the run-up to finding our present lodging, Dar and I seemed to be playing tag team to a weird game of “we’re about to be homeless and living under a bridge…” It would tend to happen to one or the other of us, around 3 am (the ‘witching hour’ when the darkness is about to yield to light, and necessary dream and ‘other’ material breaks through. Odd how often this is 3 am…)

Now, the important piece is that neither of us take our dramas seriously. This is not to say we do not scare ourselves, or make ourselves sad. It’s that, as we are lying there in the midst of this self-generated pain, we also know that it is an illusion.

The illusion part is what I choose to do in my head has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of the situation I confront.

The way out of this drama-making is simple. When Darbella is at it, I just encourage her to breathe and notice that, in this moment, there is indeed a roof over our heads. When I am at it, Dar does some Bodywork on my chest, and I get the feelings out. Invariably, we roll over and go back to sleep. This process went on pretty regularly for six weeks.

And then, right on time, we found a place to live.

This is the joke. Unless we are dead, life goes on.

Tests, obstacles, things we get our shorts in a knot about, are all meant to get us to notice that “This too shall pass.” The goal of self-development, it seems to me, is acceptance of the reality of the present moment, coupled with the willingness to stay present and also make choices that will minimize the pain and allow us to move on.

Many people enter therapy with the idea that a few sessions will be all that it takes to get past being in pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Excellent therapy gives us tools for dealing with the pain that is inevitable in life.

Others walk a spiritual path, and think that being ‘holy’ means that ‘god’ will keep one safe. This is the Santa Claus version of god – if I’m a good boy, god will watch out for me and give me all of the goodies I ask for.

At The Phoenix Centre, we teach presence and consistency. We are not trying to make people pain free – this is not possible. We are not trying to make perfect people living perfect lives. Again, not possible. We are crafting the ways and means of helping people to be responsible for themselves.

I suppose the thing that is most important is consistency. I can’t get over how many people e‑mail me to tell me how ‘some day’ they are coming for a session. But first, there’s this excuse and that situation to deal with. And all I notice is that they are settling for staying stuck right in the middle of their messes.

Self-responsibility requires that I actively engage in self-exploration, without excuses and without drama.

It’s about committing to regular work, booking time for yourself, and making it happen. This work needs to move from an occasional ad-on to the central activity of your life.

Settling for pain, misery, illness, sickness, crappy relationships, meaningless occupations – all of this is optional, and a waste of a life. Finding one’s centre in the midst of the drama, letting go of the clinging, is a discipline any of us can master.

In coming issues, we’ll discuss how.


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So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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