“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl R. Rogers
The riddle that Carl Rogers gives us is an important nugget of psychological wisdom. It’s the key to change. It helps us understand why we fail to make positive changes. The reason? We fail to accept and understand our current state. Once we can do this, then growth and change are much easier.
Imagine trying to find your way to a destination when you don’t know where you are now. That is the crux of the curious paradox of change. Even if you have a map, you can’t get there. You must know where you are now to get to where you want to go. It’s perfectly okay to start with goals and plans in mind, but you must also accept your current situation.
Change is Easy When I Accept Myself
Self-acceptance is not the same as ego-edification. Ego-edification is when you are under the control of your Ego. When the Ego is in control, you think and behave in ways with automatic programmed reactions. When you accept yourself as you are, you see this programming, and so you can change it.
“Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy.” — Kurt Cobain
To do this, we must observe ourselves without judgment because the act of judging is like putting on blinders. Everyone can do this. To take off the blinders requires forgiveness and courage. (1) The process of self-appraisal is made more difficult by the constant programming of the cultural narrative.
Most people are not aware of the programming of their Ego by the culture. They are firmly integrated into the narrative, and they immerse themselves in this programming every day. How about you? Do you see it?
This programming comes through all media types and is promoted heavily by many trusted institutions. We’ll talk about how to see and correct this programming in a moment.
Embracing yourself just as you are is the key. It is the starting place on the map of change. So, it’s a paradoxical situation of viewing yourself but doing it without prejudice and bias. How is this possible?
The Curious Paradox Of Change
The environment and our bodies change every day. Yet, we don’t notice the small incremental changes that occur. We think things remain the same because it makes perception easier. We like the easy button.
Our Ego perpetuates the illusion that we cannot and should not change. That way, the Ego remains in control and our awareness is constrained by the needs of the Ego. But change is easy when we learn how to take back control of awareness and observe what’s going on. Want to learn how to enhance your self-awareness? Are you ready for a change?
Self-observation is a skill set that we can learn, and it begins by observing our thoughts without judgment. To do this, we must first distinguish between our thoughts and silence. We only reach stillness when we can cease our internal chatter. We do this through proper meditation. Then, we can observe the Ego. When we disengage the Ego, the real you can show up. When the real you is present, change is easy.
If you can learn to observe your thoughts, then you have the opportunity to replace the harmful thought scripts with positive ones. It isn’t as easy as it should be because the cultural narrative disguises its programming. It is hard to distinguish the positive from the negative. Our cultural folklore gives positive values to some things and negative values to others.
Organized religion is the primary sources of the harmful programming of our world. When you accept their belief system, you also accept its biases, prejudices, and fears, here are some examples of these scripts:
- My religion makes me superior to everyone who doesn’t ascribe to it. Therefore, everyone else is my enemy. I can use force to protect the boundaries of my beliefs.
- My religion tells me my gender is superior, which allows me to treat others as property. It gives me the right to tell them what to do, and it gives me the right to determine what they do with their bodies.
The goal is to see your behavior, decisions, personality, and instincts without making value judgments. It doesn’t mean you want to keep them. It means you simply observe them and how they trigger your emotions. That’s why it can be challenging. Once you can see the programming, you can see how it triggers our instincts.
You may not want to change the programming because it has become familiar. This conflict can cause what psychology refers to as cognitive dissonance. Don’t give up. Learn to accept new facts and be a freethinker. You can do it!
As you begin to observe your thoughts, you’ll find many of the harmful programming scripts will trigger the fight, flight, or freeze mechanism of the Ego. It’s the default settings of Ego which cause you to act out. When this happens, you know you are on the right track, you just need to stay the course and reject the negative scripts. What are the signs of harmful thought scripts? Harmful scripts contain bias and prejudice of any kind.
Seeing and so understanding how your thoughts trigger these mechanisms allows us to observe and choose rather than act out of emotion. From this vantage point of reference, it is possible to change thinking and behavior. Change is easy when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. It is the secret formula to move from Ego-edification to Ego-identification.
Ego-Edification Vs. Ego-Identification
Edification means to improve either intellectually or morally. Identification is the attachment to a someone or something. When you identify with Ego, you do things you regret, you say, I wish I hadn’t done that. Perhaps you overreact to situations. It feels like you aren’t in control, and that is the truth. Many people who live in this state say things like, that’s just me. That’s what Ego I can’t change who I am. And, to some extent, this is true. They think they are their Ego because they have never learned to see it as a tool of consciousness; they allow Ego to control their lives. Don’t let this be you.
You keep your default settings of personality and instinct for life. However, you don’t need to be controlled by them, you can go beyond these settings, we can change the bandwidth of our awareness. It takes inner work to accept who we are. You can move beyond the curious paradox of ego-identification.
So, identifying how your Ego is in control is the first step. It’s the first step of serious inner work that will unmask personality and instinct. Observing the thoughts and feels of your Ego.
The intellect is a powerful tool. If we use it to observe our thoughts and feelings, we can move from reacting to choosing our actions. We can then decide to direct thoughts and feelings. We can choose positive over negative. When we understand, we can choose; it gives us a whole new perspective on everything we observe. When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. The next step is now that I get who I am, I am now ready to change.
The Enneagram Personality Profile
The Enneagram is one of the primary tools we use in our blended learning process. We use it so that participants can begin to understand the difference between Ego and Observer. You aren’t your Ego. It’s just a necessary default tool that connects our body to consciousness. So, you don’t get rid of your Ego. Rather, you learn to move from the place of fixation to observation. When I accept myself as the Observer instead of allowing my Ego to control, I have the freedom to change. Change is easy when we muster the courage to move beyond Ego.
Identifying the critical components of personality and instincts is key to understanding Ego. The Enneagram is the tool that gives us a map of the psyche. It uses questionnaires to plot the default settings of our Ego. It is verifiable, and many healthcare professionals use it with clients.
It’s a scientifically structured approach to comparative religious study. It uses six steps of the scientific method to guide our research, which provides consistent and accurate results. Science is powerful.
It helps us stay on track and minimize our bias by understanding our assumptions. So, this process helps us make an honest appraisal of our worldview.
These are the ancient tools anyone can use for exploration and self-development. We divide these tools into four major categories:
It’s all about processes, like a recipe for baking a cake. If you follow the recipe and combine the ingredients in the right way, you get something delicious. That’s what positive change is all about.
When I accept myself Just as I am, then I can change.
For a person with a healthy mindset, the desire to grow is natural. We know that the way to make positive change is to take a look at our thought life without making judgements, just observe and see the content and quality of our thoughts. We identify how these thought scripts are linked to our emotions. The key to the change process is making an honest assessment of where you are now. Once you accept your current position, you can see the next steps you need to take to make the changes you want.
Learning about yourself means understanding your fears. It starts with facing our basic existential fear of death. Facing it is much better than using the counterfeit of the afterlife as an antidote. Instead of covering up our fear of death with mythology, we must ask ourselves questions about the meaning of our life and legacy.
You probably have other fears depending on your life situation and personality. The only way we can make any lasting change is to face and conquer them. It takes courage and persistence. Are you ready to make some changes?
Remember this vital formula. When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
(1) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a Unified Model of Behavior Change: https://www.apa.org/education-career/ce/1360330