As we approach the time for making New Year’s resolutions, here’s an awkward question: are you exploring or avoiding the inner world of your psychology and sexuality? We’ve all heard the statistics on how many New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by the end of January—all those great intentions to lose weight, to go vegan, to exercise regularly; to stop smoking, drinking, or viewing porn.
The reason these resolutions fail is always the same: we haven’t resolved the underlying psychological (or psychosexual) issue that gave rise to the damaging behaviour in the first place. We’re trying to apply a Band-aid solution; slapping it on so hard it shocks us into long-term change. Most of the time, it doesn’t. It just adds layers of shame, failure and guilt.
To deal with these disempowering feelings as they accumulate through our lives, we turn to avoidance—more alcohol, more eating, more Netflix bingeing, more porn. We become workaholics or exhaust ourselves over charitable causes—anything but face our demons.
Then New Year’s Eve rolls around again and we’re back to that nagging sense we should be doing something to clean up our lives. So this year, instead of trying to change the superficial behaviour, how about resolving to dig down and get to the root of the problem?
The root of our problems always lies in our inner world—our unconscious. The very idea of an ‘inner world’ is something our society is pretty cagey about. We may admit to its existence, yet we refuse the call-to-action implicit in this admission.
“We are socially conditioned to regard total immersion in outer space and time as normal and healthy. It makes far more sense to… explore the inner space and time of consciousness.”
— R.D. Laing
Here are 5 ways to explore your inner world:
1. Make time for stillness and silence
We live in a world of almost constant movement and noise. With mobiles and headphones we can disappear into our own cacophony any time we like. Do you consciously make time to slow down, create silence, and see what comes up?
2. Make time for mindfulness or meditation
This is a more structured version of the previous question. Specific mindfulness techniques or structured meditation, e.g. for a specific time and/or with backing music, opens the door to information otherwise locked in our unconscious.
3. Adopt a regular spiritual practice
It could be doing a set of Tai Chi exercises on the back lawn, a guided meditation, or reading a few pages of the Bible every day so you finish it in a year. What you do is less important than the commitment to doing it regularly. Regular spiritual practice trains your unconscious to know it has a means of communicating with your conscious mind.
4. View material that challenges your worldview
Thanks to self-supporting social media algorithms we tend to get bombarded with suggestions for things that we ‘like’. If we have self-defeating behaviour that needs changing, we must consciously seek information that challenges our safe, comfortable view of ourselves and shocks us with a wake-up call.
5. Attend personal development seminars or workshops
These run the gamut from business-oriented seminars where you soak up mental content to hands-on (or other, generally private body parts-on) fully participatory events such as Tantric massage workshops. Fully immersive workshops in particular offer the best opportunity for major psychological and psychosexual breakthroughs.
The purpose of all this inner exploration is to develop the observer self, the part of us that watches with detachment as we act in unconsciously disempowered ways and says, “hmm, that’s really not very good—I need to clean it up.”
The causes of all our addictions, disempowered behaviours and emotional pains lie in our unconscious. As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
The causes of all our addictions, disempowered behaviours and emotional pains lie in our unconscious. Carl Jung recognised this nearly a century ago. “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
This New Year, are you willing to challenge fate? The question is how hard are you willing to push? How much risk are you willing to take? What worn-out old story about yourself are you willing to realise and release? It’s a messy, painful business—but the rewards are great. Next New Year, you’ll have one less bit of emotional housekeeping to think about.