Raising something to awareness was the sine qua non of human-growth work as I knew it some years ago. And I’d like to see it return.
Allow me please to look at a second strategy that was also key. That strategy is trying something on and testing it out.
It’s possible that I might raise a hidden pattern of mine to awareness. But just as regularly, in some cases even more so, another person in a growth workshop might raise something I’m doing to my awareness for me, so to speak. I might be “called” on a behavior pattern, especially if I was “running it” on others.
Usually, when someone calls someone else on a behavior pattern, we get defensive. We excuse, deny, or justify ourselves. We “push back,” etc.
Although we’d have never said what I’m about to say back then, it’s true nonetheless: Getting defensive is a facet of dualism, of an “us against them” attitude. We didn’t factor in dualism in those days.
Nonetheless, what workshop leaders recommended turned things into an “us and them” world anyways. They recommended that we try on the pattern that we were called on, test it out, see if it fits. If it fits, the truth will set us free from the pattern. Not right away perhaps, but over time.
Trying something on rather than fighting back is counterintuitive. It feels like shooting yourself in the foot. I’m not going to admit to being a jerk. Not me. We’re conditioned to defend ourselves against “attack.”
What happens after we try on the behavior?
Well, if what the other person said was true and the behavior pattern fits, the condition should lift. The truth has set us free. It’ll come back, perhaps, but, still, release from any behavior pattern is the growth movement’s test for the truth. No release, keep working.
If it fits, we should be able to feel the appropriate feelings, think the appropriate thoughts. And when we find we do, the pattern is now up to awareness. We’ve released it once.
The first time we try something on, we may groan and not do it completely or very well. But the minute we see that the other person was right and that seeing the pattern releases us from it, the lightbulb goes on and our attitude changes.
We see that we can use other people’s feedback to bring a problematic behavior pattern we have into awareness and be rid of it. Suddenly our eyes sparkle at the prospect of being lighter, happier, more fulfilled as a result of being free of a pattern.
From that moment on, we stop seeing other people as the enemy for having called us and we begin to play the growth game wholeheartedly.
Growth work now becomes collaborative and cooperative. (1) We “arrive” in the group and find that being called on our shadow side is what we’ve been fearing all this time. And there was nothing to fear, if we didn’t resist the process.
It got easier to be honest about oneself when we began to raise our own patterns to awareness. Things get easier still when we see that we can try on what other people tell us about our patterns. It gets easier and easier to be honest about oneself as one travels further along the awareness path.
This commitment to awareness over unawareness, and compassionate feedback over criticism allows for people to be together, work together, and yet grow.
Never mind the stultifying relationships where we shut down, shut down, shut down with each new upset. If we allow for the other’s feedback and are willing to try it on instead of resorting to fighting, there’s a chance the relationship can stay alive. Not simply together but alive.
We’re now hooked. We’re interested. We want to see just how aware we can become. Life becomes a game that’s appealing, interesting, engaging.
Finding ourselves at choicepoints, we can decide not to go down that road again. As long as the pattern goes on below awareness, it’s generally automatically acted out. Aware, we have choice again.
If we track it over time, and regard it neutrally with dissolutive awareness, the behavior pattern we’ve just become aware of will gradually disappear.
So this is a second important tool on the awareness path, the growth movement, the human-potential movement – call it what you wish.
If somebody is courageous and caring enough to call you on something, don’t get defensive. Try it on. See if it fits.
(1) You can always spot a person who’s been through the growth movement by this single trait. When something about themselves is pointed out, they try it on.