In psychology, personal development can be thought of as a comprehensive exploration using a number of methods, approaches, and theories. It explores the issues surrounding our childhood development and examines personal power and identity. This psychological viewpoint would involve the development of what we call the ego. When we are developing this personal dimension of our being, it could be said that we are refining our egos.
Many of us are drawn to personal development because of some sort of suffering. Experiences like anxiety, depression, grief, divorce, difficult relationships, parenting conflicts, career challenges, health problems and other common human struggles help us decide to pursue a resolution. Exploring these struggles often involves getting to better know our internal thoughts and feelings. As we work with the difficult issues that arise we can work towards integrating and transforming these difficulties into pathways of healing. We can even start to see these problems as our teachers or as opportunities. Instead of avoiding our difficult issues, we can use them as guides to our wholeness and happiness. This empowers and helps bring us to our deepest potential. Learning from the journey and integrating these difficult parts takes us closer to living our lives to the fullest, therefore connecting us to our true selves. We are able to then live a more balanced and harmonious life.
Personal growth and development take work and concentration and yet it is worth every bit of effort. Some ways to help in our journey of personal development are psychotherapy, life coaching, self-help books, group therapy, 12 step programs, meditation, and journaling, along with self-improvement workshops and seminars. Psychotherapy is a great personal development tool. It is one of the fastest, most direct ways of working on personal issues and the ego.
The difficult parts of our personality and the wounded aspects of our ego cause us to be preoccupied with nonproductive sabotaging thoughts and feelings that don’t allow us to relax. Ego could be defined as our conscious mind or our conscious experience of our own identity. When we’ve integrated these painful parts of ourselves or painful parts of our ego enough, we are able to relax, sink down and live from more of our greatness. Sinking down into our greatness allows us to go beyond the ego into a larger context that contains all aspects of who we are, including our ego, body and our spirit. The more refined, healed and integrated we become, the easier it is to find and stabilize that deeper, higher, larger connection. One could call this larger connection a spiritual connection with God, Wholeness, Ultimate Reality, Christ Consciousness, All That Is or the ultimate Truth from your spiritual tradition. It is these uncomfortable personal issues that keep us blocked from opening to the grace and wholeness that is always available to us.
In spiritual circles, we often hear that the goal is to “get rid of the ego.” In my experience, that usually doesn’t work well as a goal. To have the fullness of what is possible we don’t want to bypass or get rid of the ego. People usually find that the unhealed ego just runs the show behind the scenes. A wounded, tense ego is always worried and trying to position itself to be better than everyone else. We believe we have to be better to survive. The wounded ego is also continuously fearful and works to protect the self from the outside world. Conversely, a healthy ego is what keeps us grounded in the world and allows us to be able to function well every day and build a richer life.
When we have a more healed ego, life feels easier and we don’t experience extreme ups and downs. This allows us to grow into who we came to be. This encourages the unveiling of our deeper wisdom, inner mystic and inner guidance. We feel more in harmony with all of life. A relaxed ego can be flexible and is not preoccupied with itself. Therefore, we can be self reflexive rather than self conscious and always concerned with how we are doing. A relaxed or healed ego can move well through life. The person with a relaxed ego is able to find his or her place in the world. From this more healed state and in our own unique way, we can take appropriate actions to help ourselves, others and the planet. Isn’t that worth taking the pathway to healing?
Jennifer Howard, Ph.D. is an internationally known licensed psychotherapist, Integrated Kabbalistic Healer®, Integrated Energy Healer, life coach, author and professional speaker. She is a co-founder of the Healing Path Center and maintains a private practice with offices in New York City and Huntington, L.I., New York, as well as an extensive phone practice. As a psychotherapist, Dr. Howard brings together her more than 20 years of experience, extensive training and expertise in mind-body psychology, meditation, and a variety of the healing arts. She has been a faculty member of the graduate studies program of A Society of Souls and is currently a supervisor.