Personal development

I’ve been wondering why the story I quoted in my previous post about inner and outer predators had so much resonance for me.

For me it’s about some damaging principles that are often misleadingly promoted as “personal development”. Like the idea that complete self-sufficiency is desirable. That being upset means you’re giving in to your fears. That painful emotions are to be avoided.

Of course dependence, fear and painful emotions are good to avoid when you can. But some forms of personal development just have the effect of making you feel worse when they turn up! It is dangerous to be told that it is possible to get through life without pain if you follow the simple principles of the religion/program. Dangerous, because then when life does throw a painful situation at you, the pain is made worse by the fact that you judge yourself for not living up to these “principles”. And it’s even worse when someone else tries to apply these principles to you and rejects you for failing to live up to these ideals.

For my version of this story is also about two very different men who pushed me to apply those principles to myself to a negative extreme. With good intentions, but nevertheless harmful effects. But it’s also about the part of me that willingly took on board those principles and scoured my soul with them.

I’ve tried several different sorts of personal development so far, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way to develop sustainably and authentically is just through living life!

Religions and personal development courses offer “short-cuts”, through prayer, meditation or various new-age attunements and so on. And for someone who’s impatient with their own imperfections, it’s so tempting! But my experience now seems to confirm what my instincts have been trying to tell me all along – short cuts just end up messing you up faster. You end up trying to integrate the perceptions of others into your world view, and they may be the wisest words ever, but they can’t be a substitute for developing your own wisdom.

Sitting on your own doing exercises or meditations on your “issues” around intimacy, needs, giving or fears may help in one way or another. But it seems simpler and better just to engage, openly and honestly, with whatever issues the people and events in your life are bringing you right now.

The “personal development” I’ve been through just seems to have cluttered up my mind with other people’s thoughts, which often turn into judgements. The learning that helps me seems to have come almost entirely from just getting on with living my life.

Maybe not all personal development is like that… but there’s enough bad stuff out there that I have resolved to be very, very careful when deciding what I allow into my mind in future.


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