The Paradoxical Nature of Self-Growth

Jun 11, 2022Therapy0 comments


Many of us have approached therapy, and approach ourselves for that matter, from a standpoint of: I have these qualities and these behaviors, this emotional and mental distress that I need to get rid of, which it’s understandable because mental and emotional distress (depression, anxiety, PTSD, trauma, etc.) causes suffering and it’s really uncomfortable and the behaviors connected to these issues can lead to self-sabotage, and can end up causing more harm to ourselves and often harm the people around us. So, that impulse to want to try to rid ourselves of these patterns really makes a lot of sense, and we’re drawn to therapy and we’re drawn to self-help and growth in order shift these patterns.

Where this gets tricky is that actual healing within the therapeutic context and personal healing happens to be very paradoxical, it’s paradoxical because we actually have to accept where we are and accept our behaviors and our mental and emotional distress before we can move towards having these patterns shift.

And why this is so important is that when you think about when we are saying no to our mental and emotional distress (saying not to our anxiety or depression) or when we are saying no to certain aspects of ourselves like: no, I don’t want this right. It’s like slamming on the brakes: no, I don’t want it, and has a very stuck feeling and from that stuck feeling it’s narrow and it is not open enough for actual change.

When we are in a place of acceptance like: yes, I have this behavior that is causing myself and potentially others harm. And we’re accepting that that’s actually what’s going on right now in our lives, and accepting the anxiety and depression that we have (and I don’t mean to minimize how hard that can be to accept that maybe we’re having debilitating anxiety, for example, that’s impacting our ability to function professionally and personally). It’s through that acceptance that there’s an opening because yes is open, so there’s an opening, we accept where we are now and that creates space for things to change.

So, that’s where the paradox is we get very rigid around not wanting to accept our current circumstances, including our current behaviors and mental and emotional distress. Because we feel that if we accept it, then we’re saying yes to it and it’s going to stay forever, then that’s how we’re going to be forever.

I’ve spent a lot of my life studying Buddhist philosophy, and one of the things that I really do truly believe is that things are constantly in flux, this notion of impermanence, and it’s actually been scientifically proven that things are constantly in flux. When you break things down to the subatomic level, things are constantly shifting. All we need to really do is look out the window and we see that things are always changing. We just observe our lives, or sometimes it’s easier to observe the lives of others, and we see that things are constantly changing.

This fear that we have, if we say yes to what’s happening right now and accept what’s happening right now, that we are going to be committing to experiencing that
forever, this is a fear that has distortion to it. It’s not really accurate because it’s really through the saying yes and accepting what’s happening, because it’s actually already happening,
that we’re giving the space for things to shift. So, that that’s a little bit about the paradox of self-growth and the and the paradoxical nature of true healing and therapy.

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