How to Evolve with Acceptance, Love, Peace of Mind, and Empowerment
By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD
Really? Sounded like false advertising to me. I was certain that this weekend “personal growth” workshop would be a waste of time. I’d been a practicing therapist for over 20 years, and I had many years of my own personal therapy. There were no more skeletons in my closet, and I’d already healed my childhood wounds.
I moved to Florida 18 years ago and needed to build a new practice. I met a woman at a networking meeting, and she told me that I would get referrals if I attended her personal growth workshop. I would have to be a student first, then I could be a therapist in the room. I told her I didn’t need any more personal growth, and she said I just might get something out of it anyway.
So, I went – with a lot of doubt and cynicism. I already knew everything they were teaching. Then by the second day I saw my childhood, my marriage, and my personal story in a whole new light. I was surprised at my powerful emotional reactions. And I learned a new language and a refreshing new approach to the personal angst that I had been denying. I made new decisions, and I felt empowered to create a new, hopeful, loving, and successful path, both personally and professionally. In short, this workshop changed my life.
Now I’m happy to say that I’m a consultant and instructor for Evolve, a weekend personal growth and development workshop in Delray Beach, Florida. I’ve been teaching this type of course for over 10 years, and I continue to learn and grow through this process.
Five Steps to Personal Transformation
I’ve found that there are five fundamental steps for achieving person growth and transformation:
- Conquer Self-Limiting Beliefs – At the Evolve
workshopwe uncover the true meaning of the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result). Our lives and choices are limited only because we operate on unconscious beliefs learned during childhood. For example, almost everyone experiences some type of emotional pain, loss, neglect, abandonment or abuse growing up. The child learns counter-productive survival strategies to cope with these experiences. Negative belief systems develop as a result of those events and our own attempts to deal with them. Our self-limiting beliefs result in a victim mentality, a tendency to blame others, and other rigid, self-sabotaging opinions, assumptions, and expectations. At Evolve we become aware of these often-hidden belief systems, and workshop exercises provide us with tools to conquer these beliefs.
- Master Emotional Agility – One of the most fundamental steps for personal growth is to learn the language and function of feelings. We talk about five primary feelings: mad, sad, glad, ashamed, and afraid. We connect the feelings we experience today with the same feelings we had growing up. Our emotional reactions – especially fear, anger, and shame – are road signs to our limiting beliefs, and to childhood wounds calling out to be healed. When our feelings are excessive, we may be regressing to an early childhood stage, and we may create drama. When we cannot manage our feelings effectively, we may feel overwhelmed and create chaos. When we can’t feel things at all, or we inhibit our emotional response, we may be protecting ourselves with emotional rigidity and “character armor.” When we experience our feelings with a new set of beliefs, we begin to learn how to respond – instead of reacting.
- Develop a Full Capacity to Love and Be Loved – As we begin to evolve, we develop empathy, compassion, and the ability to be vulnerable in relationships. We let go of the protections we learned growing up and develop trust in ourselves and others. We learn to love
unconditionally,and to accept love from others without reservation. Through this processI learned the true meaning of love, connection, and partnership with others. I know I still have much more to learn – and that’s good news!
- Embrace Responsibility and Become Empowered – Experiential exercises help us to let go of the victim mentality, to let go of blame and revenge, and to see ourselves and others accurately, without judgment. We let go of the need to do superiority (grandiosity) or the need to make ourselves small (inferiority). We accept personal responsibility for our feelings, beliefs, decisions, and behavior. And we are then free to empower ourselves to choose a successful path at home, at work, and in all our relationships. We learn how to use boundaries, assertiveness, forgiveness, and gratitude as tools to create a life of authenticity and effectiveness.
- Practice Self-Acceptance and Self-Love – Years ago I thought the idea of “self-love” was a narcissistic, contrived, “new-age” fantasy. I was wrong (more accurately, I was influenced by negativity, judgments, and depression when I was a child). For many of us, self-love doesn’t come naturally. The good news is that anyone can learn a healthy, balanced version of self-acceptance and self-love. We use mindfulness practices to monitor and delete the negative self-talk. We learn to identify and let go of the shame we inherited growing up. We replace shame (also known as self-contempt) with self-love when we love the child within us.