20 years ago I had the chance to visit a seminar for personality development. Insiders called it the ‚divorcement seminar‘ since a significant number of participants got divorced some time after having participated in the seminar. I am not really sure, if the seminar should be blamed for this effect, however the seminar was really an eye opener for me with regard to the benefits and mechanics of personality development. With hindsight I can even say, that it was one of the most important and enlightening experiences in my whole life.

Here are the highlights I learned in course of the seminar:

  1. Body, spirit (head) and soul (emotions) have an impact on our subjective well-being and we should take care of all the three elements and try to bring them into a balance (‚find your inner center‘).
  2. Acting, sensing and thinking are equivalent areas of life, you cannot control everything solely with your head (cognitive, i.e. based on insight). The best decisions are those which are in line with body, spirit and soul.
  3. Personality is the repertoire of possible behaviors of a human being. A limited (‚cemented‘) personality is lacking choices of various options how to behave. A human being with a limited personality can only act or behave in one certain (‚knee-jerk‘) way.
  4. ‚Introjects‘ are determined behaviors, which a human being consciously or unconsciously follows – quasi automatically (‚little personal bondages‘) like a robot. Example: ‚Dancing, anything else than dancing, I am not the type for dancing‘. Many of these introjects result from imprintings in our childhood.
  5. Ultimate goal of personality development is, to break up (unnecessary) rigid introjects and their inherent automatic behavior and develop instead the ability to consciously choose (particularly in critical situations) between various options how to behave (instead of showing a knee-jerk reaction).
  6. If a human being wants to develop/obtain this ability he/she needs to understand his/her rigid introjects (which is not easy, since they are sometimes hidden in the subconscious and consequently not always obvious to the affected human being) and the possible alternative behaviors. Some of the rigid introjects might be useful and can or even should be kept.
  7. A developed personality is a personality, which has itself under control and is consciously able to control its behavior, thoughts and emotions. The wider the variety of behavioral choices, the more developed is a human being.
  8. IMPORTANT: A human being can only develop his/her personality, if he/she leaves the trail of his/her familiar behaviors. e.g. by gathering every day at least one new experience.
  9. A lot of human beings are too busy to consciously behave. There are strolling occupational self-therapists out there, who distract themselves from conscious behavior, by scheduling one task after another: ‚action, action, action‘ – even in their spare time.
  10. If you don’t have time for the important things in your life, you do something wrong – e.g. by setting the wrong priorities. You should be the master of your time. If a human being wants to develop his/her personality, he/she needs sufficient time to take care of this purpose.
  11. When was the last time, that you consciously sensed your body, your emotions, or your thoughts? People who meditate look for the experience of consciousness and try to notice what comes out of themselves and accept it – whatever it is.
  12. A human being, which wants to develop his/her personality needs to learn to listen to his/her thoughts and emotions and recognize which inner and outer impulses he/she has. You need to be alert, self-focussed and attentive and you need to learn how to consciously let distracting impulses pass over. By doing so, you begin to recognize the rigid introjects which nap in your subconscious.
  13. IMPORTANT: Change starts with you, forget everything else. You are in the driver seat for your personal development, nobody else. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else should believe in you?
  14. The way to your ‚inner center‘ will only happen through recognizing your respective reality. Don’t regret the past and don’t dream of the future, live in the presence and particularly live for the moment.
  15. Only perform one activity at one point of time. Don’t look TV while eating or don’t look into you Smartphone while talking to your kids or spouse. Consciously focus on your present activity and bundle your power to enjoy it.
  16. When meditating let outer distracting impulses pass over and accept your inner distracting impulses: It is okay, when your are sweating, your leg feels numb or your spine starts hurting. Just focus on yourself and wait what comes out of you.
  17. Your subconscious knows the whole truth and sets the right priorities. There are no coincidences in the messages issued by your subconscious. The subconscious assimilated the truth and wraps it into your dreams at night. That’s the reason, why dreams can be utilized by psychologist for understanding the personality of a human being.
  18. According to Sigmund Freund human beings push painful experiences or emotions into their subconscious. These suppressed experiences/emotions can cause tensions in your body, e.g. dorsal pains. Human beings build these tensions beginning from their childhood to protect themselves against emotional violations. If a human being is able to resolve the tensions in his/her subconscious, he/she gains energy, which he/she can utilize for other purposes.
  19. By making his-/herself aware of painful emotional experiences/emotions from the past, a human being is able to reorganize the whole system of his/her subconscious since everything is linked with each other in this system. There are various levels of tensions (as with an onion) and the ultimate goal is, to resolve them level by level and expand to the core of the subconscious.
  20. There is a direct connection between our breathing and our emotions. Breathing exercises can e.g. be utilized to control emotions and identify/recognize suppressed emotions in our subconscious.
  21. IMPORTANT: The common paradigm of human being usually is: The causality (the root cause) comes from outside, e.g. somebody criticizes me and I am getting annoyed. In fact it is exactly the other way round: An outer impulse only becomes distracting, if we allow it to distract us and allow it to cause a negative emotion inside us. This automatic reaction is often influenced by rigid introjects. Important insight: We ourselves produce our emotions based on inner and outer impulses and we are able to control our reactions.
  22. Based on experiences and education in his/her childhood a human being has rigid introjects in his/her subconscious, which cause automatic reactions or emotions. If we do not recognize these automatisms, we are stuck in our status quo and we don’t have the chance to choose how we want to react or feel.
  23. We should not be the slaves of our inner and outer impulses and our rigid introjects. Instead, we should be able to apply emotions or reactions consciously and adequately to the respective situation. The cognitive reaction must not be disposed, but enhanced by additional options to react or to feel (by the way: Any reaction – even anger – can be positive, if we correctly apply it to the given situation).
  24. Identify your rigid introjects, examine if they are useful or not, let things loose (e.g. bad experiences from the past) and add alternative behaviors, which you can consciously apply. Worries, guilt feeling, anger or fear are usually dispensable emotions.
  25. The ‚principle of having the choice‘: If you are able to choose, you can decide on your own, if you want to get angry or not. If you are not able to choose, your rigid introjects will automatically drive you into getting angry. Sense of Order is usually beneficial, however you don’t need to constantly apply it. Having the choice is particularly useful in conflict situations, if you are able to steer and control your emotions and reactions proactively and consciously.
  26. IMPORTANT: To get rid of rigid introjects it is helpful to occasionally do the opposite of what you usually would do. If you are for example a fanatic sense-of-order person, try out, how it feels if the posters in your apartment are crooked. If you hate cycling, use you bicycle now and then and look, how it feels and what happens with your emotions. You might experience one or the other surprise. Try do gather every day at least one new experience to challenge your rigid introjects and widen your horizon. And give a bad waiter a good tip, particularly if you believe he doesn’t deserve it, since this will help you to develop your personality. 😉
  27. We have been educated to evaluate everything in the world around us: too big, too small, too slim, too fat, too ugly, too pretty. This compulsion is caused by rigid introjects as well and if you are able to get rid of it, you will make you life much easier.
  28. There are mental techniques, how to deactivate or disarm rigid introjects, which should be acquired and applied under instruction of an experienced psychologist.
  29. The ‚principle of personal responsibility‘: You are responsible for yourself – without any constraints. You are even responsible for your emotions. If somebody is yelling at you, it is your choice, if you want to yell back or stay cool. Egoism is good, when it is adequately applied. Who should think of you and do something good for you, if not you?
  30. On the other hand you are not responsible for emotions or thoughts of other people. You only deliver impulses or triggers for them. How other people cope with these impulses or triggers is not your cup of tea and you should not start feeling guilty, if other people show negative reactions or emotions.
  31. You should do things only, because you want them to do and not, because others expect you to do it. Being adult with a developed personality means: Do only (consciously, in own responsibility, and voluntarily), what you want to do and what is good for you.
  32. You have the choice to take your own decisions: Do you want to look at life positively or negatively? Do you want to be in a good mood or in a bad mood? Do you want to be angry or happy? It’s all up to your attitude and the choices, you make.
  33. Sometimes its useful to apply a technique called ‚comparative polarization‘: Is your sense of order more important or your relationship to your kids? Is it more important to finalize another task in the office or keep your promise to take your spouse out for dinner this evening?
  34. Another useful technique for clarification of your thoughts is the positive formulation of negative assumptions or vice versa: How does it feel to hear yourself saying ‚I am a lovable and adorable person‘?
  35. How often do we intensively quarrel with other people or harass our kids or spouse due to small potatoes of no importance? The closer these people are related to us, the more angry we can get (love doesn’t always open the good gates in your life). In the majority of cases it is better to let your energy not be absorbed by little, unimportant disturbance impulses, but look for the intelligent way and use it.
  36. Negative thoughts and emotions have a negative impact on the immune system – this is scientifically proven. Every human being lives in his/her own reality, every human being constructs his/her own world with his/her thoughts based on his/her personal experiences. Your thoughts create and change your world, either in a good or in a bad way – depending on you.
  37. The ‚principle of inner freedom‘: Inner freedom is a certain and special emotion and you will recognize, when it comes over you. In order to find your ‚inner center‘ it’s not sufficient to know, what you don’t want, you should as well be aware, what you want.
  38. ‚The little bookkeeper‘: All human beings have a little bookkeeper in their head, which records all good and bad things, which happen to them, and always tries to settle a balance by giving back bad or good things to the initiator. This little bookkeeper is our ‚ego‘. It is strongly rational, it wants always to measure, count or weigh and tries to take care, that we behave and feel in the way, our rigid introjects determine it.
  39. Instead of following this dirty track it is better to challenge our ego by new experiences, because by gathering new experiences our ego will further develop. This is the only way which results in a development of your personality.
  40. If we are in a situation, where we do not recognize already known structures, patterns or rhythms, the little bookkeeper gets nervous, because he needs to move on unfamiliar ground. These situations usually provide the best chances for the development of our personality.
  41. However, be careful: the little bookkeeper has the ability to grow and develops by and by more subtle impulses to keep us on our dirty trail. You shouldn’t disrespect your little bookkeeper, but treat him with humor instead. The goal is not to suppress your head, but to leverage your gut instinct in parallel.
  42. Useful technique to build up awareness/consciousness for your emotions: Train how to consciously sense, which impulses (emotions or thoughts) arise from the depths of your subconscious and intend something with you, get in touch with these impulses, accept them (’say yes‘) and let them pass over.
  43. Nurture your ’natural childhood-ego‘: Every human being needs filling stations, where he/she can stock up power, energy and positive emotions. Statistics show, that a large number of diseases have psychosomatic reasons, i.e. the are caused by bad emotions (dorsal pain, stomach trouble, …). Therefore it’s important to enrich your daily routine from time to time consciously and proactively with positive elements for you and your environment, e.g. a glass of wine, good music, a massage, a fragrant bath, or having fun with the kids. The ’natural childhood-ego‘ is our energy deliverer (‚allow yourself something good‘). If you want to fill up your energy tanks don’t only follow the performance principle, but as well the pleasure principle.
  44. Don’t take all things in life too serious (particularly the bits and bobs, which are not worth to getting angry if they run into the wrong direction). Try not always to fight, be bullheaded or keep hold of something. If you succeed to relax and let loose, you have made a big step into an easier life.
  45. A couple of questions might be helpful for analyzing your starting position: Do you get the best out of your life? Why do you stand up in the morning? What motivates you? What inspires your or even makes you enthusiastic? Are you able to relax? Really? Are you able to feel good? When was the last moment, when you felt alive? The guiding principle is: Your Life consists of millions of moments. Make sure that you enjoy as many as possible of them, as often and long as possible.
  46. The principle of positive thinking: You can’t change your partner, but you are able to change your attitude. Thoughts are powerful and creative. You are the the thinker, it all starts and ends with you and your attitude. Negative thoughts are very popular and rule the world, however they are not god-given. Recognize and change your rigid introjects and develop your ability to consciously control your thoughts and emotions.
  47. Ask the right questions: Who am I? Is my self-perception in line with the reality? Where do I come from? The social background has large impact on the path of life (at least in Germany and probably as well in many other countries). What do I really want? How do I get there? What do I need to accomplish my targets? Note: Your targets must be in line with you and your moral values. Don’t betray or dupe yourself.
  48. Accept yourself as you are. You are okay! You are a unique solitaire amongst approx. 7.6 billion of people in the world. Focus on you and how you can further develop yourself and your personality. In order to do so, leave your comfort zone! Gather every day at least one new experience – the more unusual, the better for your personality development. And always remember: Life is not worth living because of the moments, when you breathe. Life is worth living because of the moments when it takes your breath away. 😉

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