Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Reinvent Oneself

A few years ago I participated in a year-long personal development program called the Landmark Forum ( There are three basic stages in the Forum’s curriculum, each consisting of three full weekends of what is called transformative learning. I often think of it as an exercise in deprogramming. Concepts of who we are and who we are not have become very popular throughout the world, making books like Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth international best sellers. Like most new age concepts Landmark is based on ancient wisdom: the key to life is to understand oneself.

Forum exercises allow individuals to experience what’s called a breakthrough: that moment in time when you realize you can create new possibilities in your life. From a very early age we’re programmed to think of ourselves and others a certain way. Some of the programming we’re aware of - most of it we’re not. Much of it started at birth and continued until about six years old. A great deal of our current emotional stress is due to past programming. Something happens - and then the story of what happened is played over and over in our head. The emotions connected to our interpretation of that story affects our whole lives.

Limitations which develop due to this programming can affect relationships, careers, and happiness. One of the most meaningful lessons I learned during my Landmark Forum experience is that we all have the ability to reinvent ourselves. Any time we choose. Have you ever wondered why situations that create negative emotions in you such as anger, fear or sadness, may not have the same affect on another person? In most cases it’s not the situation, but the story that plays in your head relating to the situation that’s activating your negative emotional response.

We’re programmed to carry emotional stories in our heads most of our lives. An inferiority complex, hatred of someone or something, fear of someone or something are, in most cases, due to past programming. Programming learned at an early age due to race, religion, social environment, geographical location and individual experiences. People don’t make you mad - you make yourself mad. If you’re unhappy it’s because you allow yourself to be. Many believe that programmed unhappiness is addictive. Tolle calls it “the pain-body addiction to unhappiness”: something within us that feeds on emotional negativity, and seeks unhappiness like an addiction. According to Tolle, this energy form has a dormant and active stage when triggered by something somebody says or does. Anger and unhappiness not only overtakes you - but you try to make everyone around you miserable to satisfy your pain body addiction.

It’s all emotional programming. And the first step in the deprogramming process is to become aware that it’s all in your head. The next time you become extremely upset over something, consider the possibility of reinventing yourself. You can create the possibility of happiness and peace of mind if you learn to move your Self out of the way.

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