In the title of that original 1950’s song, ‘You’ve Got Personality’, lies a basic but often unnoticed truth i.e. you’ve GOT personality! In other words your personality is not you. It’s not what you are, it’s what you’ve ‘got’. More accurately it’s what you have created.
This is good news because many of us learn to believe we are stuck with our personality and that it can’t be changed. On the contrary, it can. Is there something within your personality that you don’t particularly like? Something that seems to surface in your behavior, without your permission! Do you find some people occasionally let you know there is an aspect of your personality that doesn’t quite, well, suit you? Like any old suit, it can be …reconditioned!
Nature or Nurture?
Those who say personality cannot be changed will either argue for this ‘learned belief’ or they’ll use it to avoid the work of changing something within their own personal ‘portfolio of habits’. Yet it seems to be an easy belief system to refute. Take a moment and look back on your own life and see what has changed within your personality. Perhaps you used to be carefree and never worried, but now you do. Perhaps you never used to react angrily to certain people or events, but now you do, and have done for some time. Perhaps you were seldom sad but now it’s as if you can summon the clouds of darkness in a second. Perhaps you used to have an easy acceptance of almost everyone but now you are frequently critical and judgmental.
Have you ever noticed a change within the personality of another? Sometimes nothing is more startling than watching changes within most teenagers’ personalities. It usually happens when they realize they no longer have to follow orders from those commanders and controllers whom they encountered for years every morning around the kitchen table! Otherwise known as parents. That, and the arrival of a new batch of hormones, can often ensure that it seems like a different person has suddenly surfaced!
When it comes to making changes to your personality anything is possible. Why? Because your personality is simply a tapestry of memorized traits, tendencies and habits that you have created by putting your thoughts into action repeatedly in the past. Many traits are copied from parents or childhood heroes. Other habits are forged under the influence of peer groups at school. Many tendencies are shaped by the media dominated environment, in which we all now live.
Once created, these traits, tendencies and habits become ‘living recordings’ within our consciousness that are then triggered into life by some external ‘trigger event/relationship’. All together they are like an ‘internal matrix’ within our consciousness which essentially rules our life choices, life direction and life relationships. But it is a mistake to think that any particular trait, or cluster of tendencies, is actually you. The creator is not the creation. YOU are not your personality.
The Origin of Persona
The origins of each strand in the invisible fabric of your personality tend to lie beyond and prior to your thoughts and feelings, in the territory of your attachments and beliefs. Any effective method of meditation or contemplation, when practiced regularly, will allow you to see the true origin or ‘true cause’ of any habit/trait. But how do you change what may seem like the habit of a lifetime? How do you create and weave a new strand into the matrix of your own unique personality? Here’s how.
Select a habit/tendency/trait you would like to be free of. For example, do you ever find yourself reactively judging and condemning others? It’s a common habit today as we are intensively exposed to the media’s interpretations and judgments of others. It’s easy to allow this habit to grow and not notice that whenever you judge and condemn another you lose your peace and only create suffering for yourself in the process.
But it’s not quite enough to know which habit/tendency you would like to atrophy. What would be a new trait worth replacing the old habit with? What would be a more accurate response to the same situations, people and events, which would not generate any stress and discomfort for your self, look like? Compassion is perhaps the more appropriate, definitely kinder, not to mention stress free, response to people and events in the world around you.
From Condemnation to Compassion
So let’s say you have decided you would like to be free of the particular trait of judgment/condemnation and you would prefer to respond with greater compassion. The creation of anything at any level requires energy. If we wanted to put more light into a room more electricity would be required to pass into the light bulb, or more light bulbs. Either way more energy is necessary. To create compassion as a strand in your personal cloak of many colours i.e. your personality, also requires an input of energy. Unfortunately it’s not the kind of energy you will find in the electrical socket or on the beach in Spain!
First, we need to create the blueprint of compassion as an idea. Where? On the screen of our mind. The mind is the arena creation. The mind is the canvas upon which you will create your life. What are the essential ‘component parts’ of compassion? Empathy, understanding, acceptance and respect would be a good framework upon which to ‘grow’ our new compassionate tendency.
On their own, these ‘ingredients’ of compassion have no real power in our life to affect any change to the old and well-established reactionary habit of condemnation. Why? Because they are just singular ideas in the mind. We will need to create AND empower them, then weave them together in a sustainable way, until they mold together within our consciousness and take birth through our perceptions, words and actions.
So where will we find that power (focused energy) to make these ‘components of compassion’ come to life within our consciousness, and then in our behaviour? The primary source of real, creative, transformative power, in all our lives, is our own heart. Not your physical heart, but the heart of ‘the self’, the heart of your consciousness. Which is ‘the self’. That’s another bit ‘they’ don’t teach us in school. They couldn’t and they can’t, generally speaking. No one taught ‘them’.
Distracted by the world, we lose our awareness that we are already and always in permanent residence in our heart. That means you can have instant access to its power whenever you need it. You only need to shift your attention and awareness away from your distractions and let it rest within.
That’s why it is necessary to take some ‘time out’ to practice ‘being in’. Being present. Practice restores your awareness and your connection to your inner power. Otherwise we tend not to live ‘from’ the heart, which means the power of your heart is not as available to you as often as it could be. We tend to live ‘in’ our minds and lose our self ‘in’ what’s ‘on’ our mind. This is one reason we have been watching the rise and rise of the practice of mindfulness during the last ten years. More and more people are recognizing that when you live ‘in’ your mind you think too much and then allow your self to be tossed around by your own thoughts. It’s not only stressful, it’s draining and disempowering. You lose concentration and it kills your creativity. It dulls your ability to discern and create the most appropriate responses to others.
But more significantly, all this ‘thinking’ disconnects you from your heart.
The Creative Process
It is only from the heart (of our being) that we can access the natural wisdom and insightfulness to create the compassionate response by empowering and ‘enlivening’ the framework of compassion as follows.
Can you RESPECT unconditionally?
The core component of compassion is unconditional respect for the other. Regardless of their deeds past or present. Not easy in a world that often seems bereft of mutual respect. It is made easier if we can align with those who call us to remember that in our heart of hearts there is a core truth that we tend to forget. And that’s the idea that every human being is innately good and worthy. They only forget and lose awareness of their goodness, as perhaps we do too, sometimes!
Reconnecting with the power of this truth restores the ability to see past the weaknesses and mistakes of others and into their heart where their goodness, their worth, always resides, regardless of their history. Just as does our own, regardless of our history! To do this it’s necessary to challenge such ‘habitual beliefs’ as “They have to earn my respect”, or “They have just lost my respect”. Try respecting another unconditionally and notice the moment you feel the urge to withdraw your respect it is always because they didn’t do ‘what YOU wanted’. Being upset with another when not getting what ‘I want’ is commonly known as selfishness. Being upset with someone because they are not conforming to societies laws or social standards is the same as ‘they are not doing what I WANT’!
Experiment with replacing the emotional disturbance that you create within your self when people don’t do what you want or should (same as want) with the giving of respect. In the moment you extend respect for another you are that respect. When you ‘are respect’ and give respect to another you free your self from the slavery of judgment and condemnation. You liberate your self from your self-created suffering that has become just another habit.
Can you ACCEPT others as they are?
Then comes acceptance, which is your wisdom saying, “I may not agree with them, and I may not condone what they have done, but I accept them as they are, I accept what is done is done, now, how can we go forward together, as one, not separately as the judge and the judged”? Acceptance frees you from creating resistance which always carries one of two emotions, either fear or anger, often both. This is why many will spend their entire life living from fear or anger, which is just self-created ‘suffering’, and not realize they do so. Not realizing they are in an almost permanent state of resistance as they trap themselves in a habit of unhappiness entirely of their own making.
Can you UNDERSTAND why others are asleep?
Then comes understanding which is your wisdom acknowledging the fact that everyone makes mistakes and mistakes can be corrected. At a deeper level most of us are acting according to our conditioning and some people’s conditioning is more accurately aligned to their heart than others. Most people’s conditioning is just a set of inherited beliefs, which lead them to ‘unknowingly’ make mistakes. Any form of unhappiness is a sign that ‘I am making a mistake’. For many, mistakes just become habits but they don’t realize they can change their habits and correct their recurring mistakefulness!
Judgment and condemnation of others are also just mistakes! Why? Because you are sabotaging your self. How do you know? You are making your self upset and unhappy!
Can you EMPATHISE with the suffering of others?
And finally empathy is the capacity to be sensitive to the others emotional state without being swamped by or recreating the others emotions within your consciousness. Not easy in a world where we tend to learn that it’s only when you share another’s pain i.e. recreate their emotional suffering within your self, that you are able to empathize with them and therefore help them. But that’s not empathy, it’s sympathy. It’s feeling sorry for the other and that doesn’t help them or you. But it easily becomes another debilitating habit. The entertainment and news industries are adept at helping us create this habit and then cleverly exploiting it for the rest of our life.
Each of the four components of compassion requires attention and actualization, first intellectually (in theory) and then mentally (the beginning of practice) on the screen of your mind as we visualize our self bringing each component to life in our relationship with others.
But it has to come from the heart, as they say!
Meanwhile, the old habit of judgment/condemnation will be kicking and screaming at the door, wondering why you have tried to shut it out. It’s in those moments that the art of ignoring the old habit requires another energy along side the wisdom of your heart i.e. the power of determination, some perseverance and of course your old friend patience.
So there you have it – how to change an old, deep seated and unhappy habit within the fabric of your personality in six simple steps. Easy really! If only!
It’s not about faking it on a superficial level. It’s not about perfecting it like your golf swing. It’s more about awakening a deeper awareness, accessing a deeper wisdom, and bringing that wisdom from inside out as you create a new way of seeing, understanding and responding to people and events around you!
If that all sounds a bit mechanical, a bit rational, a bit ‘long-winded’, a bit too much like hard work; if you are having thoughts like, “But how on earth can you have compassion for people who kill or abuse other people?” …there is another way. It’s the way of the mystic. We are all potential mystics.
The mystic has realized three basic truths:
1 All conflict, suffering and violence have one root cause which is a false sense of “who I am”. Otherwise known as the ego! But this is not so easy to ‘see’ as we have all been brilliantly taught to build and maintain a personal identity out of what we are not! And at this time in our conflicted world the ego is celebrated.
2 The mystic has realized that ‘in reality’ they are simply the energy of consciousness itself. What some call spiritual energy, others call it the soul, while a few call it ‘no one’! Any sense of identity based on anything in the world is therefore not ‘real’. But this then becomes the root of all emotional suffering which is then ‘projected’ on to others in many ways including ‘condemnation’.
3 When such realizations occur and there are moments of ‘true self awareness’ that’s when your true, underlying, but now suppressed nature starts to emerge from inside out. It is a nature that is peaceful, loving and benevolent.
From that underlying nature there arises a natural compassion towards all others, regardless of who they think they are or their personal history. Any old habits of judgment, criticism and condemnation simply dissolve like salt in water. Your understanding, respect and acceptance flow naturally, effortlessly, without a second thought, like rivers flowing from the mountain to the sea. Whomever is touched by the rivers of your compassion is then nourished by the goodness of your true nature.
It may even serve to re-awaken theirs.
But if it doesn’t, it’s OK.
Question: What is a trait or tendency within your personality that you would like to ‘atrophy’ and what new trait would like to replace it with?
Reflection: Take a moment to explore why you think that old trait comes to life so often. Can you see a cause, an origin, contributing factors? These might include the examples of parental behaviour, or beliefs about how the world works, or just too many movies with characters who display the same trait as a form of entertainment.
Action: Create a framework of the components/aspects of the new trait and then meditate/contemplate upon each one allowing them to come to life within your consciousness as they are nourished by the power of your heart. For example what are the ingredients of ‘patience’?
Source Credits: BK Mike George in Inner Beauty Consultant. Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org.