Jill Loree


Developing more self-awareness is the key to spiritual development. And the first thing to become aware of? That the Self is made up of more than a body and a brain. Our whole being, in fact, is actually held by our psyche. So that’s where we must turn our attention.

A simplified look at the layers of the psyche

Awareness of shame

When we become motivated to embark on a spiritual path, what we are often seeking is a better way to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings. When it dawns on us that the exact opposite is true—that self-development involves facing into difficult feelings—it’s tempting to leave such a path. For we’ve fallen for the illusion that we can avoid what we don’t like in ourselves.

It’s important to understand that self-inquiry—which is vital for developing self-awareness—is not the cause of our difficulties. The real cause is our unresolved inner pain that has become buried in our psyche. It is hidden in our areas of inner blindness.

You know, the stuff we’d rather not look at.

So if we want to get to the root of our deepest problems and heal our deepest wounds, we’ll have to go to where we haven’t wanted to look. And the access route is through our shame.

Unwinding shame

Shame is the outer layer of our mask. So when we embark on any path of self-healing, shame is the first thing we bump into. But here’s a bit of good news about shame: Once we work up the courage to reveal ourselves to others in an appropriate way, shame lifts off.

In essence, shame is the word we use to describe the feeling of needing to keep down—or out of our awareness—the blind spots we are afraid to see, or to let others see. It is a trick our ego uses to avoid exposure. And it acts like a tight lid that cautions us to keep looking away.

We can begin to heal when we admit the aspects that cause shame. These include fear of appearing less than others, fear of belittlement, and fear of humiliation. When we take the risk to share these fears with others, we’ll often see we’re not alone. For our fears and faults are basically the same as everyone else’s.

Until that happens, shame will keep us from knowing if we are ever really loved and appreciated. For this little voice in us says, “If they only knew how I really am and what I have done, they would not love me.” Then any affection we receive seems destined for the person we appear to be, not the person we are. So we end up feeling insecure and lonely.

Once we take the first steps to courageously look into our hidden areas—and allow ourselves to feel the vulnerability that comes with that—we will see shame for what it is. It is part of an illusion that keeps us in separation from ourselves, from others and from God.

In the end, the real illusion is that we can avoid whatever exists in us.

Awareness of our defenses

Just below our shame sits our strategies for keeping ourselves safe from pain. The biggest problem with these defensive strategies is that they don’t actually work. In reality, they bring more emotional pain to us.

Human beings, after all, are well designed to respond in the event of an actual threat. Adrenaline kicks in and we have an instinctive reaction that narrows our attention and centers our focus on survival. The problem here is that emotional pain is not a real threat.

Painful feelings will not kill us.

So if the threat of emotional pain is an illusion, the defenses created to fight this threat are equally unreal.

The bottom line is this: When we are defended, we are not in truth. Instead, we are likely to use blame, victimhood and judgment to deflect everything away from ourselves while crying a false pain that says, “Don’t do this to me, life!”

The real pain is our blindness that keeps us alienated from our own center. This is our Higher Self, which is made up of all things that are good and serve connection with the self, others and all that is.

Unwinding perfectionism

Often, we remain unwilling to become vulnerable and self-revealing, opting instead for a mask of perfection. The Pathwork Guide calls this our idealized self-image. The intention here is to supply our missing self-confidence by showing the world an idealized version of ourselves. This, we think, will bring us peace of mind and pleasure supreme.

The problem is, people aren’t perfect.

Being imperfect is a part the human condition. And yet it can be quite humbling to look at parts of ourselves that are less than ideal.

Fortunately, the road to self-respect does not require us to be free of our faults—to be perfect. Self-respect comes by adopting a realistic and constructive attitude toward our imperfections.

This is why the basic requirement to be on this path is to be honest with ourselves, and to not desire to appear better than we are.

Awareness of our negativity

Spiritual laws have been created with God’s grace so that each choice that takes us away from God—by aligning with the negative, rather than the positive—eventually causes pain. Pain then becomes the medicine as well as the roadmap that helps us find our way back home.

All negativity arises from the cross-over of pleasure and pain. This is basically the origin of the Lower Self. For any truth can be distorted. And that’s really what the Lower Self is—a distortion of pleasure into pain.

Since Lower Self contains pleasure, we cannot get rid of it until we find the pleasure in our destructiveness. Then we can reconvert that distorted energy back into its loving, flowing form. To do this, we must also understand and correct the associated wrong thinking.

Awareness of spiritual laws

It is a spiritual law that we can’t cheat life. So if we have spent our lives avoiding the feeling of pain, we are—sooner or later—going to have to face into it. The good news is that the pain we fear feeling is not nearly as bad as our fear of it. In other words, the fear of the pain is infinitely worse than the pain itself.

It is also a spiritual law that we can’t skip steps. This means that there is no spiritual bypass that will allow us to transcend the work of painstakingly discovering what we currently think, feel and believe.

We each have myriad ways that we distract ourselves from knowing and feeling what is really going on inside. We are semi-aware of the belief that the worst in us is who we really are. And we believe we are alone in our misery and pain.

At some point, we must realize it’s time to stop running.

Awareness of our inner connection

It is actually a deeply freeing realization to discover that we are responsible—in some way we may not yet understand—for our pain. Once we take responsibility, that means there is a way out.

It is possible to set ourselves free.

And the part of us leading this effort? Our Higher Self.

Ironically, doing this work of seeing ourselves as we currently are builds self-respect. It also leads to a real tolerance and real acceptance of others. This is not a “mask of tolerance” based on not seeing another. Rather, it comes when we clearly see another’s faults or differences and do not love or respect them any less because of them.

These spiritual teachings from Phoenesse are all leading us to discover this truth of the divine within us. They do this by showing us how to transform the parts still lost in darkness. For only then can we learn to live fully from our inner light.

To accomplish this, we must develop a deeper awareness of who we truly are.

There is nothing we must believe to do this.

–Jill Loree

Adapted from Spilling the Script: A concise guide to self-knowing, Part II: Meeting the selves

Learn more in Bones, Chapter 6: The Origin and Outcome of the Idealized Self-Image

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