Most people feel “broken” and this is an explanation of what’s wrong and how to fix it.
You might not believe it, but you are an amazing person and you can have an amazing life. And it’s not that hard. Really.
You need the Right Tools for the Job.
Understanding when and how to use the tools you have available is important and it’s easy to misunderstand which tool is best for which job.
For example, everyday mindfulness Meditation, for example, is a poor way of Initiating meaningful Personality Change. Other tools are simply better for this job. But for Preparing the mind for and Integrating Personality Change (so that it lasts), Meditation is the best tool for the job, hands down.
For creating lasting fundamental change in your life, Willpower on its own is a terrible tool (it only works for a few weeks). But for starting new habits and grinding it out during temporary rough patches? Willpower is where it’s at.
To know when and how to use the right tools, you have to know why certain tools work better than others and in what situations they work best.
Depression, most Anxieties, and quite a few other “neuroses” and “disorders” as well as self-esteem issues, confidence issues, lack of motivation, procrastination, disconnectedness, exaggerated materialism, and a feeling of life being meaninglessness (etc.) stem from malfunctioning Personality Programs.
In childhood, in order to cope with the stresses and dangers of being a child, our brains subconsciously create a Personality as an automatic way of successfully navigating pain, disappointment, etc. Punishment, fear, and emotionally intense conflict provide shape to our subconscious life strategies. Significant traumas and life events can also have some impact.
The Personality presents us with our style and options for dealing with danger and stress.
For example, if you were punished for being loud, you’ll see issues surrounding boisterous behavior as a grownup (either anxiety and aversion, or, if you “rebelled”, aggressive bluster). If you were bullied for being too wacky, you’ll likely have an aversion to loose, fun behavior and wacky people will make you feel anxious, or, if you rebelled, you might be aggressively and rudely eccentric, using weirdness as a weapon to define yourself “against the sheep”). There are many more examples, but this paragraph is already too long for a blog post.
The Personality is also informed and built around how subconscious needs are fulfilled. When we are rewarded for certain behaviors that fulfill these needs, this style of need fulfillment becomes part of who we are.
Typical subconscious needs that children have include but are in no way limited to: love, attention, affection, praise, social status and belonging, security, achievement, fun, etc. Actual physical needs and desires are also part of the picture, but less so: food, drink, shelter, a cozy bed, clothes, etc.
For example, children praised for being “smart” try to show off their brains, or, if they rebel, sometimes pretend to be stupid. Children praised for accomplishment, push hard to achieve, or, if they rebel, might refuse to work. Children praised for athletic pursuits usually push their bodies hard and compete hard with others, or, if they rebel, they might refuse to compete at anything.
As grownups, the “smart kid” tends to become a sanctimonious know-it-all. The non-achiever becomes the “lovable loser” (maybe not so lovable). The competitive kid either becomes the “athlete”, the person who pines for the “glory days” of high school or college athletics (after it becomes obvious that they don’t have the genes to make it as a pro athlete), or the “fitness nut”. Etc.
As children, our personality programs crystallize and it’s an entirely subconscious process. For all of us, some of these programs “work” and some (usually most) of these programs don’t work as grownups. The malfunctioning personality gradually causes bigger problems as life doesn’t go the way we want or expect it to. What worked for a little kid rarely works as an adult (and when it works, it doesn’t work well).
We take for granted that our Personalities are “who we are” because we aren’t conscious of them or how they work. Neuroses, disorders, and esteem/confidence issues (etc.) develop as signals toward personality programs that aren’t working (be grateful for them). When we try to get things done and face anxiety, procrastination, lack of willpower, and self- sabotage; it is because our goals are running counter to our “true nature”, which is still hiding in our subconscious, unclaimed, un-examined, and un-integrated.
I’ll say it again: Our childhood subconscious personality programs don’t work for grownups.
Your Personality Can Be Changed and Developed
There is a process that works. It will require some agency and some consistent effort, but it isn’t hard when you use the right tools in the right order.
Here are the steps:
- Initiate Personality Change
- Personality Development via Daily Practice
- Repeat Step 1 if Necessary
In each step, it is vital that you use the best tools you have available that you can handle (or to acquire them). And if you need help, seek it out.
Initiating Personality Change
The process of Personality change begins with an Initiation Event. In tribal cultures, this was commonly referred to as the “vision quest” or “coming of age ritual”.
It begins with one ceremony or retreat and, if you are a fully-formed adult, might require several follow-up sessions as the subconscious personality has had a lot of time to calcify and deeply root itself.
The first step is about consciously working with your subconscious in order to bring your inner child (true self) out of hiding in order to make it feel safe and loved.
Next, you have to approach your subconscious personality programs directly, examine them, forgive them (you did the best you could, after all), dissect them and let them go, and re-program them. You might need multiple sessions to accomplish this.
The process is asking your subconscious why you are the way you are and going over oodles of childhood memories (and some dramatic/traumatic adult experiences as well) and examining how they contributed to your personality.
This is challenging and can be a bit painful, but every “malfunctioning” program you uncover, forgive, and release will make you feel lighter and “pure”.
You also have to consider the personality programs (traits, characteristics, and style) that match your true self better.
You have to make sure you don’t make any of these decisions with the goal of serving or pleasing anyone but yourself (part of this process is removing external validation, i.e. seeking approval or permission from others, from the picture and learning to validate yourself).
You also don’t have to get it “exactly right” on the first try. You can apply more accurate personality programs in follow-up sessions and while developing your habits and beliefs as part of your Daily Practice.
Near the end of your Initiation, and during every follow-up, you will also have to consider what your life’s mission or purpose is. What does your true self want to do with your life? Why?
For more than 90% of people, the Right Tool for the Job of Initiating Personality Change is the same as it is/was for the Vision Quest: Psychedelics.
Aside from potential legality issues in working with the sacred medicine, Psychedelics have to be handled responsibly, with a well-planned “trip” that takes preparation, mindset, setting, and integration into account. There is far too much to say about having a nourishing psychedelic experience for this already long post, but we’ll cover it in-depth in the future.
If you or someone in your family suffers with schizophrenia, severe delusions, or some sort of dissociative disorder, psychedelics are probably a no-no. There are other tools available that can serve as a substitute. For example, going on a Vipassana meditation retreat (with at least ten days of silence) should accomplish the same thing, though you will, no doubt, require more follow-up sessions and have a more difficult time Initiating the Personality Change you need.
For the 90+%, psychedelics such as LSD, magic mushrooms, and DMT have been proven to be safer than coffee, psychologically healthy when taken responsibly (the opposite of alcohol), and, even in controlled laboratory settings, have been shown to treat/cure Depression, PTSD, and end of life anxiety.
Don’t believe the anti-factual hysteria and taboo surrounding psychedelic medicine. It’s been around for thousands of years. If you still have fear, however, you can book people to guide your experience and even ceremony circles you can join. As always, be safe and research everything that makes you uncomfortable.
And don’t let the stigma stop you. Why force yourself to be unhappy and unfulfilled just so you can avoid a stupid taboo?
Personality Development via Daily Practice
Next, you’ll have to incorporate a daily (and weekly, etc.) practice of using your new personality traits to serve you in nourishing ways.
The Foundation of a Good Daily Practice:
- At least 20 minutes of meditation every day (a simple mindfulness meditation — where you sit or lie down comfortably, relax your body, breathe deeply, pay attention to your breath, and let your mind wander — is adequate and works well)
- At least 10 minutes of exercise every day (with rigorous workouts at least 2 days per week sprinkled in)
- Daily brainstorming in your notebook about your ideas, your personality, your dreams, your lifestyle, things you aren’t sure about, etc.
You’ll also want to change your diet so that it is completely nourishing (cut out junk food, etc.), change how you entertain yourself (“is it fun and nourishing or does it reinforce my old personality problems or waste my life?”), change your social groups (“are these people around because they love me or because my old personality problems made it easier for them to rationalize or justify their own unaddressed problems or vice versa?”), etc.
Hot Tip: Don’t try to change everything at once, unless you really can can handle it. People try to use Willpower to “push through” these kinds of challenges, but willpower only works for starting new things and getting you through temporary difficulty — not for long-term fundamental life change. Gradual, incremental change is ideal for most people; though a big shake-up every now and again can be healthy, too.
The Daily Practice works best when you seek to replace self-defeating or self-limiting beliefs with beliefs that empower you and both broaden and deepen your connection with others. Relaxing judgment, reminding yourself that you might not know everything and that what you know now could be completely incorrect, and allowing yourself to play and explore are vital parts of Belief Change. Stomping out worthless beliefs is the topic of a HUGE post, so forgive me for hand-waving it here.
Quick summary: When you start believing something new that is more open, kind, and forgiving; Willpower is the tool to use for the next few weeks to make it “stick” — if you are replacing a belief that serves the same purpose.
Habits (and addictions, by extension, though I’ll just say “habits” for both from here on) work on the same principle as beliefs, but there are deeper subconscious “hooks” for habits and addictions. All habits are ways for you to consciously satisfy a subconscious need (love, acceptance, approval, meaning, etc.), usually with something quick and easy. It’s an “autopilot” way of meeting subconscious needs.
Your Daily Practice is all about taking conscious control of your subconscious programming and taking command of your habits is a vital part of the process. Every “bad” habit has a subconscious root (usually multiple subconscious roots). As with Beliefs, you can’t just “power” your way to new habits by forcing yourself. You will fail. Some fail quickly; others need years of suffering before they relent. All who try to rely on Willpower alone fail in the end (or get extremely lucky and flawlessly replace bad habits with good ones, meeting all subconscious needs by trial-and-success).
For a “good” habit to replace a “bad” one, you have to consider all of the needs that are being fulfilled by the habit. Good habits have to be carefully planned so that they fulfill all of those needs. Then, for about 3 weeks, you have to use Willpower to stop the bad habits and engage in the good habits. And you have to be on top of it every day, no matter what.
If, at the end of 3 weeks, the “bad” habit remains and the “good” habit doesn’t stick, there are many reasons this could happen:
- Foremost: Did you uncover all of the root needs being fulfilled? If not, you may need to get help with this (a therapist or a life coach, perhaps). Asking yourself on a follow-up psychedelic session (or other Initiation tools you’ve used) might work. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help. A lot of people see life as something they have to fight through on their own. False. Every great hero has allies along the way. And so will you, if you seek them out and ask.
- Secondly: Do the “good habits” please your true self? Are they enjoyable? Do they jell with your mission/purpose? A lot of people engaging in “self-help” or “personal development” believe that life change is supposed to be a bitter ordeal that they have to grit their teeth and stoically grind through. It isn’t. Your habits should bring you pleasure. Fulfillment isn’t just about being “full”. It’s about getting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and then finding a new adventure. If a habit isn’t fun or rewarding, pick something else! I enjoy combat sports and my wife enjoys running. I box and she runs. If we tried to switch, we’d both be miserable and quit.
- Thirdly: Are you attempting to use a “Goal” as a “Purpose”? Many people (especially a lot of unhappy, disillusioned “successful” people) mistake their goals for their mission. Goals are like things you buy. A mission is the reason you shop where you do and buy what you buy. Life should be filled with goals (and they should be flexible and adaptable), but your goals should serve your mission. Never the other way around.
The topic of Habits is ENORMOUS and there is no way I could possibly be comprehensive on this topic in a blog post (or even a book, if we’re being honest).
Of course there are many other reasons you could get sidetracked and derailed. The most common, of course, is using Willpower all by itself, without considering why the habits exist in the first place. Start with “why” and you’ll be able to change your habits and beliefs to whatever makes you happiest in the long-term.
Hot tip: Understand that you can’t be happy all the time. Nobody is. Happiness as a lifestyle goal or, worse, a “mission” is doomed to a nasty sort of failure. Ups and downs are a normal part of life.
Stoicism, for example, is a wonderful tool for dealing with life’s inevitable valleys. I keep a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations next to my bed, just for this purpose. Accept that you’ll have days that are challenging and weeks that you might have to slog through. That’s part of life. But even during the darkest days, the sun still rises and fun is there, waiting to be had — if you’re willing to play.
Repeat if Necessary
Most likely, if you are reading this, you are an adult. Like almost everyone, you are probably unhappy, anxious, unfulfilled, cynical, “stuck”, disillusioned, and/or unstable. Life is a flaming wreck and you’re desperate to find some relief or repair.
If you had undergone this process in the old “Vision Quest” way, I wouldn’t have had to write this and you wouldn’t be here looking for it.
But you’ve had years to live a life you don’t want with results you don’t want, believing in things that don’t make sense, chained to habits that make you doubt, fear, and/or hate yourself and/or others.
I was a complete mess when I started. My family and friends who have undergone this process were also a mess when they started.
Because we get such a late start, we might need follow-up sessions and years of tinkering with who we are, what we’re doing, and why. Repeat psychedelic sessions. Coaching. Growing. Evolving. Changing our minds. Expanding our toolbox. Shifting gears. Making mistakes.
Play is the “secret sauce” of true spirituality, creative inspiration, and connected community. It’s the one tool you can always use, anywhere, any time you find yourself being too rigid, too constrained, or too repressed. Let go of the ugly nonsense and play.
I “cured” myself of almost every problem in the book (chronic depression, a host of anxieties, low self-confidence, broken self-esteem, laziness, procrastination, lack of inspiration, etc.) using this method.
Many of the people close to me are doing the same for themselves. Watching them blossom as human beings with successful businesses, organizations, artistic enterprises, and more; I can safely say it works for them.
If you’re patient, willing, and responsible; this method will work for you, too.
And you’ll see improvement RIGHT AWAY.
P.S. – This is going to be a book. I’m working on it.