Thursday, 18 April 2013

What did William Wallace say???

by James Kyle

“If you can’t you must” is a renowned statement made by Anthony Robbins. As per this previous post he is certainly someone who can provide key insights. In my own case, these five words alone have had a profound effect on my life. My upbringing and conditioning combined with life-long chronic illness had resulted in an approach to life that was about surviving and getting by, with an introverted personality and an extreme lack of self confidence. I was existing not living. And there you have the before picture.

The changes I my life started when I attended a personal development seminar in London called Insight. And as I sat considering how to structure this article I realised that I really need to tell you about my experiences on that seminar and ones that followed. I subsequently recalled that many years ago I wrote a magazine piece that summarised exactly that. So, thanks to the modern technological miracle of OCR,  this single article suddenly transmuted into a series of articles where I will first be sharing extracts from that magazine piece and subsequently be returning to the “If you can’t you must” theme at a later point. 

And so, this first Insight seminar in London led to me attending several more and eventually, over 15 years ago now, I found myself in a seminar room in Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles …

"What did William Wallace say?" "Sorry?" I replied. I was asked once more by the American facilitator "What did William Wallace say?" I hadn't expected that when I flew over to California for this particular seminar I was going to be quizzed on Scottish history. I looked confused - maybe he would put it down to my jet-lag. A battle-cry of "Freedom!!!" came back as the answer. At least it was the answer as documented by 'Braveheart'. We were sitting in a seminar room just a short drive from Hollywood after all. 'Freedom' - an appropriate goal for a country and, of course, for an individual. The lesson was to develop over the rest of this seminar and to be embodied in the phrase "The truth shall set you free." 

It's a phrase that has become increasingly important to me, as I developed more and more awareness of myself over the past three years, participating on personal development seminars in this country and abroad. What I have realised is how often I moulded my behaviour to be acceptable to other people, rather than risk acting on what was true for me; how often I used to look back on an interaction with someone else and realise that I had just not been honest, and not stood up for my inner truth. On some occasions my fear of rejection meant I would let someone else's ego override my own boundaries. On other occasions I held back my love and caring, letting people walk out of my life because I felt inadequate inside. The transformation in my life began when I finally summoned the courage to open up to others and let them really see me - as I am. It seems such a simple thing, yet although it is indeed simple, it certainly hasn't been easy, and what has helped me immeasurably on my journey is the courses and seminars I have taken part in. 

After years of reading self-help books, I found that there was something about a seminar no book could ever give me - other people! Other people with whom I could practice what I was learning, take risks, experiment - rather than just page after page of dry theory. I have also found in my co-participants the greatest support, encouragement and friendship I could have wished for - providing a safe and nourishing environment in which I could grow and learn about the real me. And, if I want to be true to myself, then this does imply that I need to find out exactly who is the real me. 

There are the famous lines quoted by Nelson Mandela, "We ask ourselves - 'Who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be?'" One of the advantages in working in groups is that as other people open up I see that I am not alone in having periods of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. I also have the opportunity to see many of these people rising above these limiting beliefs and presenting themselves to the world as powerful human beings who still strive to live life to the full. There have been two big lessons for me here. The first is the need for me to make allowances for the human condition. It is too easy to judge others, and ourselves, harshly. There is a saying along the lines of "Please go easy on me, God hasn't finished with me yet!" And whether or not you believe in a God perhaps you can empathise with the spirit of this statement. We are all "works in progress", and judgement can only serve to separate and put us out of alignment with ourselves and other people. The other lesson is a result of really coming to know and appreciate my fellow participants - I see how amazing they are, and how capable they are of rising above these self proclaimed inner doubts - providing me with wonderful role models! A person can have periods of self-doubt and still be socially confident and outgoing. And if they can do it - so can I. 

Another valuable concept I have come to embrace is that of others being a mirror of myself. There have been many times in a seminar room, and in life in general, when I have had a strong emotional reaction to someone else. Before doing this kind of work if I had an encounter where someone had 'upset me', I would have put it down to them being an objectionable person, and made it my policy to avoid them as much as possible. However by repeatedly doing this, I now realise that I am only weakening myself and restricting my life's choices. But, most important of all, I realised that as long as I gave the power over my emotions to another person - i.e. they did it to me, I was giving away my power to be master of my own life. 

I learned in these seminars that there is an alternative, that there is another, more effective way of responding to people who I find provocative - that is to see them as mirrors reflecting my issues back to me. It can be challenging at times! And often I find myself thinking, "Oh, no, not HIM! I'm nothing like him. I am sure the concept doesn't apply this time!" But if I persist, I can usually find the place where the other person is beautifully demonstrating just what I do in a different situation, or perhaps what they are doing externally .is what I do silently inside, or maybe what they're doing is holding back their gifts in the same way I hold mine back. If I really look, there is usually something. 

For example, there have been occasions where I have perceived someone as being very stubborn, and I have found myself getting angry at them. However remembering to pause for a moment to consider what is happening inside me, I look and realise that I am the one who is being really stubborn - but, of course, I really want to project the entire blame for the escalating disagreement on the other person. On such occasions, when I do remember to look inside, and realise that, yes, once more I can see this is the result of something inside me, I embrace this. I embrace this because what it means is that NOBODY is responsible for how I feel except me. And if this is originating from inside me I can change this! To really claim back responsibility for our emotional reactions is very powerful and liberating. It certainly beats feeling like one of life's victims! 

I now realise that I can look at these types of interaction as an opportunity to learn and grow, and redefine such situations to work for me rather than against me. I can choose to see my own emotional reactions as 'warning lights' that I need to do some reworking of my attitudes and responses when faced with that particular type of situation. And I can choose to do this without judging myself for being inadequate when faced with such challenges, but with respect for myself for owning MY issues, being wise enough to seize upon the opportunity for self growth, and for maximising life's opportunities by being open to all that life presents. There is something to be said for the maxim 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. So I choose to learn and grow from this type of experience by accepting responsibility and focusing on what I can change - my attitude; rather than what I can't - other people's behaviour. That one lesson alone has been a worthwhile return for the investment of my time in the seminars I have attended over the years. 


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