My own journey (part 3) – changing beliefs and inner transformation

In my previous post, I wrote about some external transformation. Here I want to shed light onto the underlying dynamics for changing one’s beliefs, based on my own experience.

My childhood beliefs … needed to be changed

In the past I had been strongly influenced by some christian beliefs, literally accepting – without questioning – what people around told me. That god existed and Jesus as his son, had died for our sins. He had come as a savior and through him we could come to the father. As most of the adults were christian and the fact that my father was pastor, created a sense of familiarity and I felt at home in familiar language and ideas. These were very different from many of the other kids in school. In the former context I was highly aware of what others would find intellectually and emotionally agreeable, orientating myself by emotional agreeableness, rather than relying on my own experience and judgment, as these were not yet well enough developed. This let me to a somewhat optimistic and hopeful perspective, since I could pray to god, and there was someone taking care, but this way of thinking was often unrelated to existential action and incurred passive and wishful thinking. It was meaningful as a shared belief among people of the same faith, inspiring a collective identity, but had little effect outside of this sphere.

It is greatly uncomfortable to let go of familiar beliefs (nowadays people call it at a physiological level “dopamine detox”). Especially when they are everything one has known. But when repeated failure and frustration in existential action leads to ever deeper examination of the underlying beliefs, and these turn out to be insufficient, because they don’t do what they are supposed to do, then this is where change is due. The amount of pain to examine and if necessary correct ones basic beliefs and perspectives is an act of consciousness, not easily performed, because it feels like questioning ones identity. Something, most people unconsciously accept and act out, with widely differing degrees of health and integrity. If there are untended issues, they can often still pull forward, while they are young, like a strong engine, driven towards external promises as motivation. In such cases, painful awakening comes much later, usually as a midlife crisis.

For me the pain and insufficiency was simply too great and caused a major depression during my later teenage years. At this point I had tried a lot externally, but had not yet found a new foundation inside. I simply couldn’t go on smoothly sailing. Such a state forces one to stop and reconsider. It is the result of accumulation, of minor signals ignored. Maybe the underlying structure just hadn’t allowed for continuous minor adaptations. The process of adaptation was stifled and hence caused an ever widening gap.

Willingness to face pain, being open to experience

The acceptance for such pain is very limited in most individuals. Most people want to come back to a state of business-as-usual as soon as possible. But that wasn’t possible, I had lost a basic sense of confidence in living that most people take for granted. It unconsciously drives them and inspires certainty in (little examined) underlying belief maps. Belief in that life would work out as expected and relative credulous to what people told them. I just had been raised in a way that didn’t allow me proper conscious functioning.

There were a few people willing to listen. In many cases, personal suffering had  granted them an openness towards pain. Such listening and being present to another persons experience, especially to what wasn’t working, without trying to interfere and impose ones perspective, is something I highly value, especially during such times, because it leads to authentic expression of the individuals true feelings, values, understanding and perspective. This is of enormous value in understanding one’s inner map.

Understanding how one really feels and thinks is laying the necessary ground for the work that is to follow. Feeling understood can cause a great sense of resonance and even feel like a temporary relief. Confession in Catholicism makes use of this and one might even feel a sense of temporary catharsis. Bringing such contents into consciousness by itself can already be helpful in creating awareness and is an important ingredient in many meditation traditions.

If one stops at this point, leaving the rest again to unconscious means, the person may or may not be able to revise his beliefs and values appropriately. Leaving such a process to unconscious means might have been what created the dissonance in the first place. 

I even experienced Christians and others who were willing to listen, but then tried to interpret it into a framework for understanding, such as a religious belief or psychoanalytical theory. Those tend to limit the outcome of such a transformation, for instance, the belief that life is suffering, might absolve the patient of a sense of guilt or shame and hence feel accepted, without necessarily showing a way to improved behavior or thoughts. This would be a question of a persons psychological and philosophical outlook on life and poses a completely new area of conscious choice. Another position worth mentioning in this context is one of unconditional acceptance, an idea the psychologist Carl Rogers describes in his book “on becoming a person”, with an underlying belief in the individual to find his own way, as a natural expression of the life within.

Achieving a conscious understanding of ones inner perspective on life, enabled to make conscious choices about personal values and actions, while learning to trust the guidance of one’s own nature. I belief this to be one of the greatest truths of psychology and means in psychotherapy towards the integration of the human psyche. To the degree that a person is able to become conscious of these, he/she can transform his/her life.

Finding my own perspective

My life had been challenging, especially during the first 20 years I often felt lost, found little resonance and spend much time alone, even though there have been some companions with varying degree of mutual understanding. After all, I am astonished how naturally my intuition let me to this insight. Maybe this is something you can learn from me 🙂 Now back to my own results .

Especially becoming aware of painful consequences, accepting them and being present, would have a sobering effect and next time I was in a similar situation, I would more easily remember which road not to take. Another technique I sometimes used is conscious complaining, if the other person was willing to let me vent my anger and frustration, without trying to superimpose their own view or values, I could usually figure out – during the same conversation – how I was causing or at least contributing and how I could think or act to achieve an outcome I wanted or could live with.

The more I understood and gained insight into the consequences of actions, attitudes and behaviors the less I needed to revert to wishful thinking or a religious explanation of events. In hindsight, it was difficult for me to find even a single belief where I didn’t feel the person was evading the responsibility of finding his/her own answer, and for most of these I could find answers within my own nature, having greatly benefited from the philosophers or sages I learned from.* (see disclaimer at the end)

All this led me to gradually develop and affirm my own perspective and become more self-reliant. I had learned to see things more critical and from multiple perspectives, and had become a little less gullible. The awareness of consequences taught me to take more responsibility. This gave me for the first time in my life a sense of efficacy, a sense of personal control. Trusting my internal processes and gradually building confidence in my own abilities, setting the stage for my latter undertakings.


In this blog I talk about my own way. Describing how I managed to find what I needed to start developing myself in a more suitable direction. I am neither claiming universality, because I haven’t yet placed this writing in the context of psychological type, which would allow to see how my psychological proclivity and perspective inspired many of my insights, nor am I asking everybody to go into deep contemplation and inner work to figure out their individual philosophy. After all, a successful life consists of many aspects and at best integrating those into a coherent whole. There are many individuals who manage to live a good life within a certain religion and can find what they need therein. A person that has enough conscious resources for his particular situation to work out, is by many standards a successful person.

That exactly was what I didn’t have. I didn’t find what I needed in my environment, family and school, which isn’t saying there was nothing to learn from. The things and ideas I consider most essential and helpful, I found in reading, contemplation, pain and courage, observation and encounters with a few people. What I did though, was taking time, turning inwards, giving myself space and actively seeking to understand. The way I was able to create psychological structure inside myself, to find a sense of integrity and inner joy, from where there had been despair, confusion and pain. The ability, after years of meandering, to become aware of my inner life and to evolve towards expression of my basic nature, all these are highly relevant, especially for people who have been in a similar situation and need to find their own way.

Besides the biographical aspect, there is also the question of personal character and temperament that has a deciding influence. This will become much clearer, once I have talked a bit more about the theory of psychological type. For instance, the initial emphasis on agreeableness, feeling orientation towards others (Fe), with a much slower process of internal thinking (Ti), to find the truth, and the concomitant need to articulate my ideas to better understand (Fe-Ti). The general tendency to consider things abstractly and with increased awareness of my internal processes of consciousness, generally the introverted approach to perception, seeking my own perspective (Ni), a deep profound psychological understanding and patterns, rather than relying on common sense and tradition (hence, low Si), which had made it so hard for my parents to teach me. In many of my personal and other peoples examples, I can easily see, how type plays an important role with regards to perception and evaluation. (I am really looking forward, to talk more about this topic in general).

At the end of this post, I would like to recommend a book “The Six pillars of self esteem” by Nathanial Brandon. Even though I only read it much later, it offers a systematic approach with extremely useful exercises for working on ones self esteem which he describes as the ability to trust ones inner processes. At a later stage I plan to write a book review.



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