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Living Well News – Increasing the Chances of Reaching our Unique Human Potential

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What is Human Potential?

“I want to start dating after my bitter divorce. How do I trust people?” – “I need to control my anger. It’s driving people away!” – “I want to finish my degree” – “I want to change careers” – “I want to make new friends” – “I want to lose weight and improve my health” – “I want to be a better man.” These are all statements from real people looking to improve themselves and increase their options – to have a fuller life through increasing their human potential.

Since the beginning of time human beings, in one way or another, have attested to the worth and respect of the human mind. Dating as far back as the ancients, people would stand against the ideas and routines set in place if they thought it seemed illogical or unfair. It appeared to be our nature to, as we say, “push the envelope” or “rebel” – to resist imposed limits and controls.

The study of this type of human behavior became what we now refer to as “Psychology.” As scientists researched and studied what motivated humans to push back in turn led to identifying the human quest for self-actualization – reaching one’s highest potential emphasizing the basic premise that it is possible to tap into your own mind to achieve the results that you desire. Pretty interesting, eh? And, what an opportunity! But, no journey is easy. Obstacles and hurdles will be there to tackle, and without any shortcuts.

What Gets in the Way

Going back to my client – We were discussing a frustrating barrier that kept resurfacing for her and blocking her in moving forward towards more abundance and growing her business. Despite her high intelligence, creativity, and congenial personality and all she had to support her efforts, she kept running up against a block. She noted it feeling big as well as something that has been around for a long time.

As we co-explored the block – noting its heaviness and the resistance that came along with it – she identified what it was. A grudge! A grudge against herself. What we came to understand and expand on was that when our early experiences (with parents / families, schools or communities) do not or are not able to support our growth and effort to become independent, self-reliant persons that we respond to the lack of support with helplessness. In turn, we develop a sense of hopelessness which becomes part of our personalities. These feelings form resistance which is embedded in a deep sense of fear and shame.

Support, nurturance, encouragement, teaching are all forms of validation. When a developing person does not receive needed attention, then this is a form of neglect and is experienced as invalidation – a lack of endorsement or being insignificant. This creates a sense of fear and shame producing a rage which gets internalized towards the self – a form of self-hatred in the face of an environment that the person depends on and cannot leave.

The belief that gets formed is “If my environment cannot support me and respond to my efforts towards growth and becoming my own unique person, then I am unworthy!” That the sense of being unworthy becomes something that gets maintained through self-defeating behaviors, including not trying hard enough or taking risks, procrastinating, or even more severe behaviors like addictions, self-harming / injury or eating disorders. This underlying unconscious belief forms the voice that motivates us – and gets in the way of actualizing our potential.

So, when things like bullying in school, workaholic and over achieving parents, self-absorbed families, latch key upbringings, moving many times – lack of stability, loss, and loneliness are part of the picture, this is a call for reflection. Tangible forms of abuse are not the only harmful factors that can be damaging. In fact, it is the silent subtle forms of neglect that are most difficult to identify.

Behaviors that Move us Towards our Potential

When we talk about change and improving ourselves it is natural to try to figure out the “Whys” as to how we ended up in the place we are, especially when we are suffering. But, we can often forget the importance of “How” to move forward and trusting that we will identify the “Whys” as we implement new behavior and recognize new changes. We can also fill in the gaps and mend the past through taking care of ourselves in the present.

As you move forward it is important to:

  • Maintain the curiosity, attention and wonder of a child. As they say in meditation, have a beginner’s mind – look at the world as though you are seeing things for the very first time.
  • Be open-minded and try new things. Act from who you are in the present and not the past.
  • Be honest and be willing to risk unpopularity if you disagree with others. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?”
  • Use your intelligence and work hard at whatever you do. Remember that everything takes effort and that sometimes you need to work harder and be willing to repeat your efforts over and over again.
  • Find out who you are, what you want and what’s important to you. Know what you value and form your values as opposed to trying to “find yourself.”
  • Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new experiences. Be aware that there are many parts of you waiting to be discovered.
  • Take responsibility for your life and your actions. You have no real control over others, but you do have control over yourself, your behaviors in the moment. This increases your sense of competence.


These actions help us help ourselves and feel worthy of “Our fair share” in life! The right to love, create and make a difference.

About the Author
Paula Tropiano is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Addictions Specialist providing holistic – skills based counseling and therapy to adults in West Chester, PA. (610) 692-4995.