What does that well-used term actually mean?
I think it can only mean improving the levels at which we function in the different aspects of our individual life.
These aspects are; the way in which you look after your body; the way in which you process and express emotions; the clarity and relevance of your thoughts and words; your ability to give and receive love; and your openness to higher values and a more spiritually inclined way of life.
Personal development groups have tended to involve an 'expert/guru' and, by inference, less 'developed' or less 'enlightened' members of the audience.
Personal development really only involves becoming aware of what you are actually like, what you'd like to change about yourself, and if it is changeable, learning how to do just that!
Western European society has clearly defined 'levels' of general functioning.
Some people are literally struggling to survive, to fight off infection, and to find shelter food and water. Government agencies, and national charities too, have a stated duty to help people on that base level of existence. We know that this is too often not a priority, and that such help is underfunded and undervalued by those with the power to make such changes to the diminished lives of so many people.
When those basic needs are adequately met, we can then see society functioning on higher levels of needs, beliefs and values. People's interest in, and willingness for, 'growth' and change is determined by their knowledge, insight and even the simple idea that there is a different way of living their life.
We all share the need for sleep, shelter, nourishment and care; beyond that we need money to bring us choices in life and to thereby reduce our stress. How we spend that money and the choices we make depends upon our level of 'personal development'.The level at which you live determines the company you keep, what you read and listen to, and what your hopes and dreams are - whether purely selfish of more selfless.
In brief these can be split into three sections although they are not clearly separated and for some people there is an area of overlap with the next stage - i.e. stage 1 to stage 2; and stage 2 to stage 3.
I have given these stages the titles of Dormant Awareness, Emerging Awareness and Expanding Awareness.
Awareness is limited to the Ego and immediate needs being met. There is a lack of empathy and compassion for others, and a tendency to bigotry, oppression, abuse and violence - even to children and animals. Other people are used, to meet needs for 'security', sex, and comfortable survival. Lack of personal health care. Highly emotional, and mood is altered with substances and risky activities. High levels of fear, guilt, shame, blame and jealousy. Likely to read gossip-based magazines and sensationalistic newspapers, and to watch shame-inducing voyeuristic T.V.'chat-shows', pornography and violent/horror films. Wants instant gratification and can be prone to addictions. Need to belong to a tribe, gang or sports-supporters clan, and to 'wear the colours' to show this allegiance.
Awareness may be increased by traumatic experiences such as childbirth/parenthood, serious illness, victim of a violent assault, grief, ghost-sighting, use of clairvoyants, counselling, or perhaps a chance meeting or film that enables insight into a different level of living and being.
Less focus on own needs being met and becoming aware of the 'bigger picture'. May still be focussed on body 'image,' and having particular clothing to 'belong', or to ease underlying self-doubts. May be materialistic - whether it can be afforded or not. Noticing emotionality and finding ways to understand and regulate it. Becoming aware of broader thinking and reasoning; developing reasoned opinions and clearer calmer expression. Seeking 'meaning' and 'purpose' in life. Greater self-care and attention to diet and health, and resolving addictions. More empathic and considerate of other's needs and perspectives. Learning to become more tolerant and accepting of those at the earlier level of awareness/development. Some capacity for forgiveness. Love is becoming real, and less conditional upon needs being met, and of fears being soothed, by the other.
May read self-help books, and personally relevant articles and stories. Wants magazines and newspapers that stimulate balanced and non-political thinking. Counselling, psychotherapy and Psycho-emotional Education can assist insight and awareness.
Heightened insight compassion and empathy for others, and an understanding of the stages of the 'Soul Journey' we are all undertaking. Seeks like-minded souls who share their higher values. Realises that we all create our own 'reality' and that our thoughts are like tangible matter and attract to us that which we focus upon - having unblocked our own sub-conscious obstacles to this creative process.
Has the ability to see the 'much bigger picture' which includes the Quantum Sciences and the interconnectedness of everything and everyone - on a 'consciousness and sub-atomic particle' level.
Developing views and aims concerning world peace and coherence, and works for the good of others - which further enhances their own self and soul development.
Psycho-emotional Education and Transpersonal Psychotherapy can help to fill in any gaps to personal and spiritual growth.
Different theoretical approaches to counselling and psychotherapy focus on different levels of need for change, They will be focussed on either; the body, the emotions, the cognitive-behavioural, relational interaction, creative arts or transpersonal/spiritual/soul work.
We are all a mixture of all of these aspects and, therefore, need a therapist who has training understanding and experience of all levels of human need - an 'Integrated' approach to helping people unblock the obstacles to a happier and more rewarding life.
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