Have you ever felt trapped in a cycle of self-blame? You look around at your life and feel nothing but judgment for the person you are and the things you’ve done. It’s like a war within yourself.
There’s freedom available from the war within yourself. It starts with compassion and curiosity. You can explore who you are, learn to embrace and honor your current self, and step forward into the life that you want to create.
Stopping the War Within Yourself — Step #1: Victimhood vs Responsibility
The process of stopping the war within yourself begins with an awareness that something you’re doing in your life has you stuck in a particular pattern. To move forward, you’ll first want to take responsibility for that.
That’s the opposite of having a victim mindset. When you’re operating from a victim mindset, you’re in a “life happens to me” mentality. It’s tied to the idea that for your life to change and be okay, circumstances outside of your life need to change. That’s a disempowering state for you to be in.
Running out of reasons and excuses may help you make a shift. After years of pointing to something “out there” as the cause of your problems, you might realize that the common denominator is you.
At that point, you can begin to go on a journey of personal development in which you take responsibility for creating the experience you want to have in the world.
Working with a therapist could help you through this step. Therapy can guide you through unraveling your feelings of victimhood and prepare you to step into greater responsibility for your life.
Stopping the War Within Yourself — Step #2: Judgment vs Curiosity
When you choose to take responsibility for your life, you could go in one of two directions: curiosity or judgment.
If you get stuck in the idea that you’ve been the creator of your own unwanted experiences, you’re going to end up carrying around blame and self-judgment. It’s common for that to happen; in fact, you may have been feeling that way for a long time.
But if you want to make a change, then you won’t want to stay in that place of self-condemnation for long. Instead, you’ll want to transition into curiosity.
That means asking yourself questions about why you’ve done things the way you have. The unwanted, self-sabotaging patterns that you have in your life are there for a reason. Perhaps they were useful for you in a different phase. Maybe you developed them as defense mechanisms.
If you can find out a pattern’s utility, you’re less likely to judge yourself for its existence. You may even discover that, in the beginning, there was a positive intention associated with it. Perhaps it was simply the best you could do at that time.
Such discoveries allow you to see the pattern as an outdated limitation from which you can move on.
That feels so much more freeing than believing that a malicious part of you is holding you back from the life you want to live. It releases you from living at odds with yourself.
Curiosity and Therapy
Depending on your situation, you might benefit from working through these things with a professional. That can be especially beneficial if your beliefs and patterns have their origins in your childhood.
At that time, you didn’t have the same type of resourcefulness to make the decisions that you do as an adult. But just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean you’ve released those patterns.
With a therapist’s help, you may be able to evaluate your childhood experiences and consider how they relate to your current beliefs.
Stopping the War Within Yourself — Step #3: Reframing Your Situation
Imagine for a moment that you’re about to give a presentation. You’re feeling really nervous. Your mind is filled with worries. How are you going to come across to the audience? Will people be judging you? Are they going to spend the whole time making critical comments in their heads?
Instead of dwelling in that place of nerves and worry, you can reframe your experience. Once you identify the assumptions that you’re making about a certain situation, you can then shift your focus and find the freedom to act differently.
So for that presentation, you could shift your focus away from your anxious worrying. Instead, you can invest it in the importance of the message you’re about to give. You can remind yourself that your words are going to contribute something worthwhile to other people’s lives.
Reframing the situation can be a really powerful way to see results in your life.
Stopping the War Within Yourself — Step #4: Logical Levels of Change
Robert Dilts has a model that can be useful when you’re working on stopping the war within. He presents a six-part framework called the Logical Levels of Change. These six levels represent ways that we can organize reality.
In ascending order, the levels are:
- Environment — the three-dimensional world where a circumstance occurs
- Behavior — the habits and practices that a person is doing in that environment
- Capability — the thoughts and strategies that are used to execute the behavior in that environment
- Belief — perceptual filters of how we see reality and what we believe about other people
- Identity — understanding of who I am as an individual who houses these beliefs and strategies and behaviors inside this environment
- Spiritual — the vision or spiritual force that the identity is tapping into
These levels are often arranged in a pyramid formation. Environment is at the bottom and Spiritual sits at the top.
Coaching from the Bottom Up
What sometimes happens in accountability coaching is that the focus is on the Logical Levels closest to the base of the pyramid. The coach and the client work on looking at the person’s environment and brainstorming new behaviors.
Setting up your environment differently and creating some new behaviors can make a difference in your life, yes. If you keep up with it, those changes may eventually trickle all the way to the identity level.
For instance, if you willpower your way through and stick with going to the gym day in and day out, you may eventually adopt the identity that you are an athlete. That’s not a guarantee though.
Objections may end up derailing your determination. Your desire to stay home, for instance, may trump your commitment to the gym. Even though you said you were going to do it, you stop executing that behavior in your environment.
Coaching from the Top Down
One of the fundamental ideas behind the Logical Levels is that the upper levels influence the ones below them. In other words, while changing your behavior isn’t guaranteed to change your identity, shifting your beliefs about identity is sure to show in your behaviors.
When you work with a coach who understands this principle, you’ll bypass the environmental stuff and focus on doing belief and identity work. That might involve questions like:
- Who are you being?
- What are you believing about life?
- What are you believing about yourself?
As you do that, you’ll start to see the effects trickle into all areas of your life, including how you’re showing up and acting and thinking in your current environment.
Stopping the War Within Yourself — Step #5: Vision for Your Life
As you evaluate the beliefs in your life that may be creating limitations or perpetuating unwanted experiences, you’re dealing with the present state. You’re paying attention to what’s happening currently.
That’s a significant component of stopping the war within yourself, but there’s another piece to the puzzle as well.
The work you do — therapy, coaching, unraveling the past, and treating yourself with compassion and curiosity — is all in service of where you want to go.
What do you want? What experiences do you want to have in the world? What would you love to create? And what will having those things in your life do for you?
Let’s take confidence, for example. If you were desiring more confidence, I might ask you, “What would having that confidence do for you?”
You might tell me:
- Inner peace
The answer will be different for everyone. Understanding your why allows you to go deep into understanding your vision for your future.
You can go wide with your vision too. That might involve questions like:
- How will you know when you have confidence?
- In what contexts do you want confidence?
- What will you be saying and doing when you possess confidence?
As you work through questions like these, you can dig into your beliefs and think about the underlying support structure that will give rise to the person that you want to be. Doing so will help you move past the war within yourself and step into the reality that you want to experience.
When you’re experiencing war within yourself, you might feel that you don’t have any agency over what happens in your life. But as you step into the reality of assuming full agency for your life, you can create a path out of the war and into the adventure you want to experience.
Want more on this topic? Check out the conversation between Paige Easter and Clayton Olson in Episode 35 of The Shift to Freedom Podcast.