In what I come across on- and offline, there’s often a lack of distinction between personal development and spiritual awareness. While I sort some of my thoughts about this subject, I might as well scribble about out loud…
This will be an article in three parts. I will discuss the interdependent relation between personality (character) and spiritual connection.
- Part 1 handles the necessity of developing personal strength for grounding our spiritual ‘knowing’. The subject of ‘containment’ and learning to endure the often incomprehensible and chaotic reality is key to a more harmonious way of living and relating to our ever expanding world.
- Part 2 will discuss the energetic structure of emotions and how it relates to spiritual inspiration and guidance from your totality.
- Part 3 concludes with a comparison between the inner world and the manifestations that reflect your inner growth.
All people are sensitive to the energy radiation of others. Some become conscious and eloquent about it… that is a skill not a gift.
We react to energy radiation and experience it in our bodies as love, relaxation, cordiality, connection, back-up but also as withdrawal, rejection, confusion, harshness, denial, ignoring, blaming, manipulation etc. Mental energy comes in as inspiration, insight, humor or as information overload. Spiritual energy can be experienced as an exchange with a so-called overarching order, a moving and living system, with its own principles and possibilities. You can feel connected to this living system in ‘spirit’, even without your daily circumstances proving its existence.
In this context, personal development is the so-called individuation process. The process that Carl Jung described as the maturation of the personality. By retrieving personal and collective denied parts, we become more equipped to handle reality as it is. Free from illusion or false safety nets. The mythologist Joseph Campbell describes this process, categorizing different phases, in The Hero’s Journey.
This individuation process ultimately leads to a stable, mature and independent ‘hero’ who is able to endure physical and psychic hardship. Who makes choices according to their highest truth, despite ‘cultural codes’ of their family, tribe or peer group. Such a person feels a inner wholeness and prefers creating over adjusting. Such a person doesn’t allow appreciation by others to become more important than appreciation for themselves and would consistently maintain integrity towards the Self.
Only through self-esteem, self-reliance, self-determination and appreciation of our worth can we make choices that invite our highest potential into our real, daily lives. Which is usually not the same as becoming the next Beyoncé or Nobel prize winner. Our highest potential is that unique part of us that benefits the whole, seen or unseen!
The individuation process is about freeing yourself from unconscious manipulation, neediness, power struggles and not trying to mask or compensate these parts.
And this is the part where people get confused between the personal and the spiritual. They might want to run into ‘spiritual’ fantasy land when strengthen their personality and facing powerabuse, victimhood, control and temptation becomes difficult. In our society, there is ALWAYS an escape to not face these parts of ourselves. There is always an addiction, another person to blame, a social event, a deadline or a responsibility that is willing to distract you from feeling the tension within.
However, life’s intelligence is capable of serving you perfect experiences that force you to refine your personality, over and over again. Not easy nor superficial but precisely right for you to become more aware of both your capabilities and your weaknesses. Inviting you to re-live and re-live all your pitfalls that help you deal with insecurities, unfulfilled needs, lack of self worth etc. And only through this process of strengthening, can you become robust enough to carry the responsibility of your so called ‘purpose in life’.
In body-focused therapy, reference is made to the word containment. Maturing, or growing into more wholeness, means that you are more and more able to experience opposing feelings without wanting to escape them. Both in your body (the sensations of confusing feelings) and in your thinking (opposing opinions and perspectives).
By consciously allowing paradoxes, conflicting interests, ridiculous wishes, painful situations within your awareness at the same time, you allow the tension that they create within yourself instead of projecting them outwards. This capability, and only this, opens up the inner space for your soul to manifest its full potential.
Alchemists call this staying in the fire as long as needed for tension to dissolve and new answers can arise.
This human skill of bearing the heat, enduring opposing sensations, helps you to slow down and move yourself through shame, fear and pain. Everyone needs to cultivate this skill because eventually happiness doesn’t come from living a comfortable life and it doesn’t originate in avoidance or protection. Happiness arises out of the victory of tolerating, surviving and even appreciating difficulty.
Not only will you become a more authentic, truthful and trustworthy person, you then also contribute to dissolving collective illusions, feelings of powerlessness, projections and self-sabotage.
Ancient traditions know that the more you endure, the greater risks you dare to take and the more likely you succeed in creating beneficial change for the well being of others. In traditional cultures, this suffering is mimicked or even imposed through initiations. These cultures simulate the variety of pain that life inevitably brings, to make the youngsters feel how much pain, fear, humiliation and suffering they are able to withstand. So they won’t need to avoid these parts of reality out of inexperience.
As a human, you simply don’t fully appreciate your capabilities, until you are forced to use them. Usually, by confronting your suffering, you boost your self-confidence tremendously. After surviving suffering and from then on, you know how much physical, emotional and mental power you have stored within. This will reduce your need for comfort, reassurance and security. This sets you free from accommodating to the expectations of others and instead, create from your highest wisdom and according to your own standards. Determined.
With a strong personality, you can stand behind yourself, even when life challenges you to act against better judgement. In the Western world, we call this growth ‘development of consciousness’. Becoming conscious through physical, emotional and mental experiences; not outside the body as a concept but in reality, your life. You need to personally integrate polarities by appreciating both perspectives within yourself for what they add to your overall perspective.
This process of individuation takes place in every human being, spiritually or not. No one on this journey follows the same path. No one develops the same qualities. No one progresses with the same quickness. It is a very individual and intimate process. Often lonely, sometimes deeply moving, usually confronting and never smooth. Only through experiencing both sides, you’ll learn that manipulating and letting yourself be manipulated, are both within you. It is never either or. Misleading and being misled are sides of the same coin. By exploring your inner world you will meet your opportunism and seduction skills. You will understand how your closed heart will instantly enforce others to do the same.
The questionable reward is that you gain clarity over life, becoming more and more able to see through illusions.
Although the ‘process of becoming’ is traditionally a mystical process, in principle it does not have to be woolly, spiritual or secretive at all. In theory… because at times it is a difficult, seemingly dead-end road and the only reward that seems attractive is a deepening of your sense of connection with yourself and with life. The feeling, or inner knowing, that your dedication, your loneliness, your inner chaos and your sacrifice of the familiar, leads to something worthwhile, is essential to persist.
More and more people are now trying to go down this path in opposite direction; first they fix their connection with the greatness of existence and then they figure out how to bring these insights and inspiration into their daily lives.
One big disadvantage of this reversed order is that you can start to ‘float’, become wobbly or are tempted to act as a show-off with your new ‘wisdom’. Your personality still misses the capacity, the ‘containment’, to weave those contradictions within you, into a more complex harmony. This leads to a new set of challenges:
- Being unable to live up to your inner knowing can make you depressed; you have experienced greatness, but you do not recognize its existence in your life nor the world around you.
- It can make you euphoric and give you the impression that you have more access to overarching truth and dimensions of existence. This often happened within rigid structures like religions: “we have access to the one and only truth”.
- And of course, such revelations can also give you delusions and maniacal thoughts about who you really are: “I’ve been told that I am the chosen one”. Well, that might be true, but not more or less than any other brave soul here on earth…
It takes time to recognize and acknowledge the depth of your development and parts of you that are maturing. My great wish is that together we reinstall the language in which we can verbalize these multidimensional aspects of our being and to retrieve our voices to express our refined relation to the whole of life.
Without words, we cannot express ourselves in nuances nor guide our consciousness. Without language we cannot see the totality of others. These qualities of ourselves would disappear more and more into the subconscious. Excluded from life. Language is the necessary bridge between one-dimensional and multidimensional living. Without a rich vocabulary, the inner experience is crushed and loses its right to exist in our collective thinking.
It takes time to find the right words (and the courage), but the bonus is a deep and reliable relationship with yourself. Learning to perceive and translate energy helps you to put all this richness into words and to determine and name your position on your ‘personal journey’. I call this learning to understand your ‘energetic anatomy’ (based on a.o. the books of Caroline Myss). This knowledge is never meant to gain more control over others. It is meant to help you and others to recognize this process of growing up, waking up and becoming stronger and stronger. In order to soften your resistance to the emotions it evokes.
Recognizing your feelings makes them ‘true’; justifiable and understandable. The energetic dimension contains all the information about yourself and others. Learning to perceive your energetic anatomy with your inner eye and sensitivity, is a way to honor this inner, invisible side of your reality.
Quite literally, the more languages you speak, the more manifestations of life you can experience. This is no different for energy language!
A new group of Energetic Perception will start in September.
More information on this course.