Back in the days when Freudian lying-on-the-couch therapy was all there was, insight into one’s problem was considered enough to provide a cure. However, insight-as-cure didn’t turn out to be the case – we’ve all heard about Woody Allen in treatment for decades, his neurosis only growing. Many people walk around with great insight into why they do what they do, baffled as to how to use the information to change their lives.
Caitlin understands there’s a correlation between her father’s abusiveness and her attraction to unkind men, but still she continues to date them. Josh knows the reason he drinks too much is because he’s shy and lonely, but that doesn’t help him cut down or stop. Both Caitlin and Josh berate themselves constantly as “stupid” because they know they’re smart and have good insight, but neither knows what to do about it.
Do you remember Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle? -- that amazing discovery last century that states that just to observe something changes it. To those seeking personal growth, this means that merely the act of observing ourselves will bring about change. However, most of us need to learn to observe ourselves in an entirely different way than we are accustomed: without judgment, not berating ourselves as “stupid,” but instead, with awareness and compassion. We develop compassion for ourselves when we accept that we, like everyone else, are caught in not-useful patterns. We can practice calmly observing the impulse to act in ways we don’t desire, trapped in patterns we have discovered through our insight.
As we observe and become aware, the next step is to gradually make a series of different decisions. One by one, step by step, different decisions will be made and behavior will change. After observing her patterns, Caitlin met a man she was really hot for, but after seeing him treat a food server rudely, decided to say “no” to further dates. Josh still has the desire to drink, but one day at a time, he doesn’t pick up the glass. Each of these meticulously changed actions is a victory in itself. Slowly but surely, as you too observe yourself with compassion and follow up with different decisions, you will gradually become a new person, more in alignment with your true self.
© 2011 Catherine Auman
Catherine Auman, MFT is a spiritual psychotherapist and the Director of The Transpersonal Counseling Center in Los Angeles, California. She has advanced training in both traditional psychology as well as the wisdom traditions. Please visit her online at http://www.catherineauman.com