Depending where you are in the world the seasons are changing.
Here in South Africa new shoots and buds are bursting forth. In “The Land of Psyche” there are also seasons. They too seem to be cyclical – discarding old habits and the need to adopt new behaviours challenge us constantly.
Nevertheless, before we can change anything we need to know which “trees” were pruned in Winter so that they can blossom forth in Spring to become the new “fruits” for Summer.
What we have to take stock of in our psyche is not always pleasant. So what is it that gets us to sort out our cupboards and give the contents to charity, wash down the floors, repaint the walls, put up new curtains but not Spring clean our psyche? Why does our energy fail us at this point? Is it our lack of energy we should be addressing, or is it something else?
Erich Fromm, the late social psychoanalyst and humanistic philosopher, once wrote in his book Man for Himself that “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve and from which he cannot escape.” Karen Horney, another eminent psychoanalyst, with whom Fromm had a relationship, believed that self-actualisation could only be achieved if one had an accurate conception of oneself. It was only then that one was free to realise one’s potential and achieve one’s wishes. In other words – we are the problem; we have to resolve ourselves in order to be free, there is no escape from spring-cleaning the psyche, if we wish to become self-actualised and this involves a process of enquiry so that we can see ourselves clearly and without any misconceptions.
At Change Matters we encourage you to Spring clean, prune and stock take. We do this by offering the Quiz section on our website and One Day Workshops as part of our services. Both of these offer tools of examination, and a process of enquiry that can assist you with your seasonal needs.
Let’s say you have done the quizzes. You have found out what needs to be weeded out or pruned, in other words where the core nature of your problem lies. What then? Here the concept of enquiry needs to be translated into action. We have to cut out these old habits during “the Winter of our discontent” (apologies to Shakespeare) so that when Spring arrives we are ready to turn over the “psyche-earth” and plant the seeds of new behaviours.
Now here comes the challenge. What if the seeds don’t take hold and bear fruit? What are the conditions that would arrest or block this process? Again Fromm provides an answer to this question. He points out that our biggest stumbling block is that when we do something, we want to be secure in the knowledge that whatever we attempt will give a specific desired outcome. In other words, the bed of sweet peas we decide to plant must bear a glorious crop, all the plants must be healthy, and none must be stunted in any way. The desire for the perfect outcome is sometimes the block that stops us planting anything in the first place.
There is another adage that says “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. In the context of discarding old habits and adopting new behaviours it is this adage that stops us before we start. Again Fromm answers this fear of change by saying: “The quest for certainty blocks the search…Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” He goes on to say that “The psychic task which a person can and must set for himself, is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”
Fromm saw fear of change as a fear of freedom. For him freedom is defined as the ability to be autonomous, to be able to make choices, to be responsible for their outcomes and, should the outcomes fail, then to be able to reassess and make new choices. He said, “There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.”
In our world today, the thought that what we set out to achieve might fail is almost incomprehensible. Why would one start something if there was the possibility that it would fail? Yet, when we examine this further we find that most things we decide to do start from the premise that we don’t know what the outcome will be exactly. We have a plan, but who knows what can happen? So everything we do actually is an unknown quantity in terms of the outcome. We can approximate a result but we can never be sure of the exact outcome.
This knowledge can actually be quite freeing. It makes room for a number of new concepts that we can draw on. Concepts like – every new action requires a “leap of faith” and that “courage is not the absence of fear; it is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”
We at Change Matters would like you to go for it – discard your old habits and adopt new behaviours. Yes, take that “leap of faith”, take courage and be patient and tolerant when the uncertainties of your desired outcomes present themselves. Remember, part of the journey is to embrace new unknowns. May the power of new beginnings, that Springtime represents, be with you.