3 Points of Focus for Personal Transformation
As you proceed on your path of emotional awareness and personal growth it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and training available to you. There are so many systems, skill sets, books, and trainers / teachers; each with a unique and helpful perspective and way into transformation. You may struggle to know where to begin.
Keeping three points of focus in mind can greatly support you in discernment. In the complicated and rich milieu of all the healing and personal work you do, you can pull out these three core emotional foundations:
1) Safety: an ability to experience safety when you are safe and to identify danger when it is present
2) Worth: a grounded connection to your own inviolable and innate goodness
3) Presence: an ability to compassionately observe with curiosity any experience you have
The ability to notice safety and correctly identify danger, may seem a bit basic. Unfortunately though, if you have any history of trauma this basic ability may not be present to one degree or another.
When this emotional foundation is in place, you are able to be present for more subtle aspects of experience and access joy, learning, and intimacy with life. When this emotional foundation is not in place, your attention is used for vigilance. Vigilance hijacks your attention to scan for threat. This deprives you of access to certain experiences. Fortunately healing work with trauma has come a long way in the last few decades and there is effective help for relaxing vigilance and integrating a felt sense of safety.*
The basic confidence that you are worthy, that your goodness is not something that comes and goes, sets you up for a sense of emotional security in relationship to your own experience and with others. This is something much more core than self confidence.
In the ideal world, a baby downloads this basic sense of "I am good," "I am worthy of love," through kind eye gazing, responsive and gentle care for their basic needs, and emotional responsiveness. This mainly occurs through the human attachment system. Thus a secure and responsive emotional bond is a key to this basic sense of worth and innate goodness.
As an adult, engaging in consistently caring long-term relationships helps with healing . Attachment therapy is also key here. Lastly, with consistent concentration and insight practices in meditation, the heartbodymind can become still and clear enough to recognize what the invioable truth of your own goodness. For most, it is a combination of these three that anchors a sense of innate goodness.
It's very difficult to engage transformation work when you don't trust that you can be compassionately present for your own experience. Much of individual therapy is primarily helping with this piece. The therapist is providing enough compassionate support for you to risk turning toward your experience. Mistrust of an ability to be with any particular experience is well founded. It's all too likely that you grew with caregivers who were struggling with life and didn't have the resources or ability to model and teach emotional regulation and a compassionate relationship to experience.
Learning to be present for your own experience with compassion arises from the first two core emotional foundations along with:
The presence of others (therapists, teachers, friends, family) who meet your experience with compassion and equanimity and model the same
Your own practice of taking the larger perspective of how we all struggle and have difficult experiences - shared humanity
Cultivating a stable mind through meditation practice
The good news is that all of these foundations can be cultivated and stabilized. While echos of reactivity may go on indefinitely, you can stabilize in these three foundations and find ever new layers of joy and fulfillment in life.
Take a moment to reflect on these three core emotional foundations in your own life. In which do you have a sense of stability? Are there situations in which you lose access to one of these? If so, what would support look like for those situations?
*Here are some resources for trauma work: