The main issue with self transformation is that we often operate from a conditioned self. This conditioned self is actually a result of years of programming received in school, at church, at home, through the media, even the language we speak. This conditioned self, or ego, is also reinforced through experiences that we acquire while operating from that sense of self.
Often it is this conditioned self that we seek to transform. The entire field of psychology as we know it today revolves around the transformation of this egoic sense of self.
The irony is that anything we add to this conditioned self reinforces the original conditioning which is what we want to transform. Modification is possible, however modification is not transformation.
The conditioned self is vulnerable, easily threatened, quickly provoked. This is the element of our personality that is offended and reacts, becomes angry and maintains resentments, becomes depressed, anxious, fearful.
The conditioned self can be like a little tyrant expecting everything to suit itself, judging all situations according to what it deems desirable or undesirable.
Often this conditioned self is contrary to the nature of our being, the instinctive, essential self that is curious, present minded, full of life and expression, and creatively intelligent. This is the self we were born with. This instinctive, intuitive, holistic self is only able to express itself in the present moment.
This is one way to determine what is "driving our car" the conditioned persona (ego) or the essential nature (essence).
The essence is not amenable to programming. As it is always present oriented learning, knowledge, experience, as well as expectations and motivations are not factors in its expression.
The conditioned self is very important in day to day life, anything technical, our memory and understanding of our world. This conditioned egoic self is crucially important to functioning in day to day social and business interactions.
However, when allowed to run amok and control every aspect of our being, this ego is a bully and presents the being as a vulnerable, defensive, inadequate entity. When allowed to "drive the car" it thrives on the past in resentments and remorse, and on the future in fear and anxiety over "security" and permanence.
When life presents itself as a series of changes, as it does, this ego can become quite offended and, when allowed to be "in charge", causes the being to react and defend itself. It is a program, it is not the being nor the native conditioned awareness. As such it is very vulnerable and fearful, hence easily offended and provoked.
So we end up with what many call a split brain.
Have you ever experienced anger and observed it, wondering "why am I angry?". Have you ever had a desire that you felt you had to suppress as it might get you into trouble? Have you ever done or said something that you later regretted, even if it may have been of little or no consequence? Have you ever done something crazy, then felt guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed later?
This is the split mind at work. Let us call one the ego and one the essence.
In the case of anger, when the ego expresses anger, it may justify it, "I have a right to be angry, what they did..." Or even more pernicious, "If you have ben through what I have ben through..." Or the ego may condemn it, "I should no be angry." Or the ego may identify with it, "I am just an angry person." All of these activities create a space around the anger, insulating the ego from its own understanding.
All of these activities are subtle and clever escapes from the reality, "I am anger, I am expressing the state of consciousness that is anger."
Again, the ego works in this way, the essential nature recognizes the anger, expresses it, then it is over, no resentments, no remorse, no past at all. No vengeance planned,
no projection of the need or desire for justice, no future at all.
The ego is the conditioned entity, the self is the born essential nature.
The essential nature, the self, does not get angry and hold grudges. In fact the self does not exist outside of the present moment, so it is not capable of holding grudges.
The ego is, the programmed ego is trained to live in the future and the past. To the ego even the present is a means to an end.
Observing this split is the key to self transformation.
All the books on all the self help shelves of all the bookstores only serve to re-program the mind, essentially reinforcing the original program. If analyzed, this program is quite pernicious and the basis of all conflict, brutality, and war in the world, as well as crime. This program is also the basis of many psychological issues like depression, anxiety, rage, and obsession.
Self transformation is not change, it is a revolution, and the revolt is against the programmed ego. The element that transforms the self is observation.
When you observe yourself getting angry, try to stop it, you cannot.
However when you observe yourself getting angry, what is the observing entity?
It just may be your true essential nature.