Where Does Change Begin?
Learning To Love Your Fellow Man
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
Our perceptions of the world are formed at a very young age. Research shows that a child between the age of zero and four years is literally absorbing everything that happens around them. They are learning how the world works and what to expect in a variety of situations. If the early experiences are painful, hurtful or fearful this is how that child will view similar experiences throughout his or her life. If the child experiences love, support and encouragement, this would be the lens or framework through which all other experiences are viewed by this child.
Imagine a child that gets a new bicycle. If the mother and father run along beside the bike helping to balance, motivate and encourage the child, riding a bike will be seen as a pleasurable and safe event. Another child that rides a bike without assistance and has an accident is likely to see riding a bike as a threatening and dangerous activity. It is the same event, just with very different perspectives. If these events repeat themselves in different ways, patterns will begin to emerge as a protective measure in order that the child can feel physically and emotionally safe.
In addition to developing perceptions of our external view of the world, our unconscious mind will purposefully seek out what we know. If we take the example above, the first child will expect life to be full of supportive and positive, loving people, because this is his/her experience. On the other hand the second child associates new experiences with pain and will avoid these types of events, opportunities and activities. Emotional perceptions are developed in the same way. Adults that were surrounded by angry people as children seek out angry people as partners and friends. Unless they are able to recognize the anger and work to change their unconscious belief systems about anger being “normal”, then they will continue to attract angry people into their lives. By learning a different way to interpret what is going on around you, and by working through your perceptions of what is “normal”, you can become someone who attracts happy positive people into your life, instead of what you know today, which may be angry, unreasonable people.
Not all accidents and negative experiences create fear, anxiety and anger as a reaction to the event. In situations where a child does experience a negative event, if the parent or caregiver can help the child by validating the feelings the child experiences and explaining that everything is alright, by teaching the child how not to hurt themselves again, the adult is getting rid of the fear. Teaching the child how to ride the bike safely and telling the child that everyone falls off now and again will create a positive learning experience out of a negative event. When the child does experience a failure or a challenge as they grow they can draw from this teaching, and keep their belief system positive rather than immediately assuming that the worst has happened.
Getting a good understanding of why we have the reactions we have to specific events in our life is a crucial part of the growth process. In cases of drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, anger, fear, distrust or grief, learning to see the truth of the situation is an essential part of understanding how to change. It is only through understanding why the thought or behaviour is there in the first place that we can plan a successful path to making healthy changes in our thoughts and beliefs.
Spiritual growth starts with getting in touch with why you believe what you believe. Is it because of a pattern of behaviour, something you were brought up with, or is it a genuine truth? Is the belief you hold positive and empowering or is it negative and limiting? Where specifically did that belief spring from and how is it shaping how you see the events that unfold in your world today? Letting go of these beliefs is sometimes very challenging and even threatening for some, but it is important to let go in order to grow and accept an alternative, healthier perception.
Generally beginning by looking at your parents is a good way to see if the beliefs you have are really your own. Most of the things we believe come to us from other people. Our parents are very influential, but so are teachers, friends, religious leaders, mentors or people in authority in our lives. Are the beliefs you have similar to theirs, and what is the basis of those beliefs?
These questions are difficult and challenging on many levels. However, by asking yourself these questions you will begin to uncover the things that you believe. Your values are the tenets by which you live your life, your passions are what make your heart sing. We all have individual values, passions and truths, but there are commonalities in all people. You can use your talents and gifts to express your values and passions, which also allows you the opportunity to recognize the passions and values of others. This can all be done as you strive to find your own authenticity, and as you grow in confidence, it reduces your need for external approval.
Spiritual growth is not something that happens over night. It takes time and dedication and a willingness to look deep inside ourselves. As we learn to accept ourselves we also learn to accept and respect others. Our interactions with others will become more positive as we seek and find people in our world that have the same desire to grow spiritually. At the same time, we learn that acting in a kind way means that others can show kindness to us. The journey for each person is different and there is no timeline or set number of steps to achieving spiritual growth. There is also no end to it, that is, it is an ongoing process of improvement and self-understanding. As we learn to appreciate ourselves and accept every last bit of us, we are then able to accept every last bit of our neighbours and friends, and ultimately, humanity as a whole.
Becoming friends with ourselves is a lifelong commitment. You will learn to love your body and mind with all its good bits and not so good bits, and to find joy, peace and harmony in the world around you. This journey starts with understanding the need for growth and change, and is one of the most positive pathways we can ever hope to take. Leaving behind judgement, and criticism, blame and hatred, and finding self-reflection and self-acceptance, love and peace, is a gift we give to ourselves but ultimately, affects all those around us.
Written by Caroline Nettle.
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