At first glance, the Three Principles, also known as the inside-out understanding, might look like another form of self-help. Actually, they’re the complete opposite.
So many of us who eventually find the Three Principles have been down the self-help road.
Name a self-help strategy and I’ve done it. (Talk therapy, EMDR, EFT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, self-compassion practice, radical acceptance, traditional life coaching…) I think the only thing I didn’t try was NLP. I probably would have got around to it eventually.
When I stumbled across this understanding I noticed right away people were saying it wasn’t self-help, which puzzled me. From the outside it looked a lot like self-help. What was the difference?
It’s all about the foundational beliefs.
In self-help, aka traditional (or old paradigm) psychology, the premise (and innocent misunderstanding) is that adult humans are broken, to one degree or another. We have troubling or traumatic experiences and those experiences damage our psychology, our well-being, our sense of self or self-esteem.
And in order to get back to an unbroken state, or a state as close to unbrokenness as we can get, we need to focus on those traumatic or troubling experiences, pull them into the present day, and apply healing to them, the same way we apply salve or stitches to a flesh wound.
Often the psychological wound may seem healed for a while, but it was my experience that when I used this approach, my wounds would fade into the background for a while, but then always resurface. It didn’t matter how much work I did to heal myself of the pain of those experiences, they could always reappear, like a scar suddenly tearing open again.
So much hard work
Managing all my wounds and past trauma, and fearing they might resurface, was a full-time job. And all that managing actually compounded my problems, like overeating, because I needed to soothe myself from all the managing I was doing.
There’s a different way
In the new paradigm of psychology called the Three Principles, the foundational belief is that we are all, always, whole and healthy. There is never anything broken about any of us.
Our experience of life comes from the inside-out, rising up within us, moment to moment, each thought and feeling followed by another fresh one in the next moment.
We live in the feeling of our thinking, not in the feeling of our experience.
Because fresh thought is always available to us, there’s no need to ‘process’ or hold onto our thoughts about our past trauma. Sure, we may have thoughts about troubling events come up, and that’s okay. We’ll feel sad, scared, lost – all the things humans feel.
The difference is that we can be fully present with those feelings without having to do anything about them. Thoughts rise up. We feel the resultant feelings from those thoughts. And then the next thought rises up.
I love Dr. Amy Johnson’s metaphor in the introduction to Amanda Jones’ book Uncovery, which explains the difference between the approach of these two paradigms so beautifully. She points out that the flow of Thought (the energy of the universe coming to life within us) is like a river running through our lives. At times the river can be muddy, with bits of debris floating in it. And at other times it is clear and clean and fresh. We don’t have control over what the state of the river is at any given moment.
Sticking with this metaphor, in the old paradigm of psychology and self-help we would go to the river with a bucket, scoop out some water and carry that around with us. If the river was churned up that day, we might end of carrying around a bucket of muddy water filled with leaves and sticks and other crap.
Trust the movement of the river
In the new paradigm, we see that we don’t need to do that. The river will keep flowing. We don’t have to grab onto any part of it. Sticks and leaves and other debris (difficult experiences) will still float by but we don’t have to latch onto them. We can notice them, knowing that at some point, coming down the river is fresh water, i.e., fresh thought.
It’s all in the name
The term ‘self-help’ implies that we need help. That was certainly the way I approached my life until I came across this understanding. I believed I had been broken by difficult experiences in my past and that I needed fixing.
Instead, the Three Principles point toward our innate well-being. They are also, as the name states, principles about how humans work. They are universal across all human beings. Therefore, when we focus on these principles, which are constant, instead of focusing on what is temporary (our moods, our thoughts, our past difficulties) we naturally begin to develop an understanding of our innate well-being.
This is not to say we are diminishing or bypassing the challenges that we’ve encountered in the past and will encounter in the future. Life is messy! And it can be really difficult. There’s no getting around that.
But when we experience those difficulties with an understanding of our infinite well-being and the innate resourcefulness and resilience within all of us, life become less about managing our perceived fragility and more about enjoying the beautiful nature of our experience while we’re here.