There are some myths going around in the personal growth and conscious workshop scene. Not just amongst participants, but amongst teachers too. Let me debunk a few.

Note: this is my personal experience. Not double referenced scientific research.

❧ Magic happens outside our comfort zone.

Largely false. Every time I see that picture of a comfort zone and then magic happening far outside it, I want to scream THAT’S NOT TRUE! Because far outside of our comfort zone, is where fear happens. When we stretch ourselves too much, our survival mechanisms kick in. At best, we survive. At worst, we retraumatize ourselves. Magic happens júst outside our comfort zone.

❧ You learn through catharsis, facing pain and fear. “If you think you’re going through hell, keep going”

Partly false. Yes, we can learn through facing pain and reliving it. Through releasing stored fear and emotions. But only when we still feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, we will go into some sort of survival mode and we go too far outside our comfort zones.

We learn through pleasure. This one is so underemphasized. We learn through pleasure just as much as we learn through suffering – maybe even more, as when we are in a pleasurable situation, our nervous system is relaxed. We’re not in survival mode. We can actually rewire our brain, patterns, and lives. I’m noticing that many people don’t trust learning through pleasure and fun. There’s a stigma that pleasure is ‘less deep’ that suffering. I’d like to call BS here.

❧ The more extreme my emotions, the more I release.

Absolutely false. The depth of your experience is * never * measured by the number of decibels you produce. In some workshops, teachers may say so. They may even try to get you into screaming, breakdown, catharsis, crying, etc. But your process right then and there may be a silent one. One, where nobody sees what’s happening. Don’t let anyone tell you how deep your process is.

❧ For a successful growth experience, you have to participate in everything a teacher offers.

Gosh no, utterly false. That would be so ignorant and entitled of a facilitator. I know it happens (a lot) when facilitators will try to convince you to be in another exercise. Interrogate you pretty much on why you are out.

I’ve had people having the deepest experiences in workshops by sitting out the whole evening or even weekend. That was the perfect edge of their comfort zone. This was where learning happened. What if you are the person who has trouble saying no, and the facilitator actually overrides your inner ‘no’, and pushes you back in? Exactly; confirming the pattern that you actually almost broke, possibly creating a retraumatizing experience. As I teacher I may have an idea of what I want to offer my students, but I never know what is in their best interest right then and there. When people are sitting out that may be uncomfortable for me (as teachers we desire everyone to have the best experience, and that may look like everyone participating. But we need to deal with our discomfort of people sitting out ourselves), but I need to drop any thought of knowing what is better for you and let you take an autonomous decision of what action you want to take.

Having said all that: please be mindful of the teachers you choose to learn from. If they are taking away from your trust in yourself, try to modify your choices by overruling your autonomy, push you into excessive emotions – you may want to choose differently. Do note: sometimes teachers don’t want to override your choice, but do want to challenge your patterns, gently provoke you outside your comfort zone, support you to break down walls. But there’s a difference between the two. The latter will still respect you, will not take your choice personally, or manipulate you from a place of their own discomfort. Because they also know that even though they may be right, this may not be the right time for you.

P.s. I rewrote this into a full article for Elephant Journal!