The examined self – from butterfly to caterpillar

Why are people so loathe to examine their own behaviour?

Surely this should be something welcomed as a possibility for improvement. Instead a person will go to great lengths to avoid any self-analysis including avoiding people, situations, shifting blame acting out, denial.

I am guilty of such behaviours. I can feel myself drawing away from people and situations that cause me to have to grow. I have to push myself into it. Sometimes, my gut is screaming “move away from this” but I have this sneaking suspicion that is my innate avoidance of personal growth.

The thing I am pondering is why? Why is it so hard to grow/change? Why is there such a barrier to it?

The admission: “this is my own fault isn’t it…?”  is a rare personal insight. And yet it is much quicker and more fulfilling once you can realise that. It beggars belief that someone would try to blame someone else and think that is the quicker way to get the issue sorted. Trying to get someone else to change instead of you is such a slow, frustrating and laborious process.

And yet we are such skilled manipulators. We have all kinds of conscious and subconscious mechanisms for avoiding personal growth.

Perhaps it comes from our time as kids when we have to rely on others and we don’t have such a strong sense of reliance on self. We do what we are told, accept what we are warned and follow the leader. If we don’t chances are we get eaten by a tiger. The ones that didnt think this way DID get eaten by tigers – hence their genes are gone from the pool. This “follow the pack” we do blithely in order to improve survival chances. At some point, this survival behaviour of lack of inward thinking that might serve us when young, flips on itself and can cause emotional issues when we are grown.

The reason the “survival” answer to avoidance of personal growth resonates with me is because I notice a correlation between people that are prepared to be self-critical and people that do not necessarily follow societal “rules”. Conversely, I notice that those that are not self-critical tend to feel obliged to follow rules (any rules). Those rule followers seem to get quite mad if rules are broken.

I am not sure which comes first, the chicken or the egg. In other words, can you become self-critical if you start breaking rules? This is a very interesting thing for me to think about because I have encouraged my kids to break (stupid) rules, possibly on the assumption that this behaviour leads to self liberation. In fact, it may simply be the case that you have to first become self-critical and the strict adherence to dogma tends to drop away. In which case, my emphasis is in the wrong place.

Eckhart calls the avoidance of personal growth the flailing death throes of the ego. He says the ego doesn’t want to die and this is the source of resistance. He describes that people that are not ready to see the light will go to great lengths to avoid it. I’m not sure I agree. I don’t think it is death of the ego, and instead it is his metamorphosis from one form to another. A form in which the ego is used to keep us alive (the butterfly which flies around and can avoid danger) to the form in which the ego is used to enjoy living (the very hungry caterpillar which luxuriously stuffs itself all day).



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