How can you fix a problem when you won’t look at the problem?
The ability to acknowledge clearly our own areas of improvement is the first step towards change. Accepting that we each have our own issues and being aware of what those issues are is momentous.
This is especially important in relationships. Being able to acknowledge the impact that our less desirable attributes are having on our friends and family is key to being able to find resolution. It is far easier to communicate with someone who is willing to acknowledge how their human flaws could hurt or anger someone, rather then having to face a wall of defense and denial.
Therefore, it is essential to confront ourselves honestly and to examine how our history has impacted us and made us into the people we are today. For example, a person growing up in an environment where the expression of anger was taboo, may find that she has to resort to passive-aggressive means to express her feelings. It may be difficult to face this unattractive quality in oneself, but until awareness comes that this is in fact what is happening, then the behavior will continue.
There are positive and negative qualities in all of us. Although our egos may find it difficult to acknowledge that we are responsible for having hurt or angered someone, or that there is an aspect of our character that is challenging for other people, there are certainly benefits in bringing these aspects out of the shadows. Perhaps most importantly, acknowledging the parts of ourselves that we would prefer did not exist is an opportunity for growth. In addition, our relationships will improve and expand to include greater intimacy and respect. Accepting ourselves warts and all, is a chance for change as well as an act of compassion — both for ourselves and for the people in our lives.
Because working with uncomfortable feelings can be difficult and often easier to avoid thinking about altogether, a non-judgmental attitude is essential. Judging ourselves for having feelings such as anger, shame, fear, or grief only adds another layer of suffering to these feelings. Accepting that these are normal human emotions that we all have to one extent or another may be helpful for giving these feelings context.
It is often helpful to have a safe place to reflect on these areas in ourselves that cause us and others pain. Psychotherapy within the framework of a non-judgmental and trusting relationship can be a powerful place of change. It can often be helpful to have another person witness, facilitate, and help contain our more difficult feelings. Other ways of becoming aware of the areas in ourselves that need healing might be through writing, drawing, art-making, meditation, or other creative processes. What matters most though is to take that first brave step towards self-awareness and integration of all our emotions.