The self to most of us is a deeply mysterious secret; an enigma; a dilemma. It is a secret most of us ignore, often avoid. If we do care to think about this secret it may occur to us that at heart we appear to have two basic views when it comes to self. We have a mundane everyday view where our self is the very obvious representation that we present to the world. This our public self is often seen in terms of what we do for work or the role that we play in society. We are mothers or teachers or carers and so on. This view of our self is determined by how others view us. It is other-determined.
The second way in which we view ourselves is much more personal. It is our private identity. This self is very much self-determined. We are keen to protect this self and are careful not to give out too much information about that private self. That self is deeper, more mystical more spiritual and symbolic. We identify with this exotic self-representation. We are also often somewhat ashamed of this self. Many of us can relate to the shame felt in adolescence when an insensitive sibling has revealed to the rest of the family some inner secret that to us is deeply personal and private. It feels like the ultimate desecration and is rarely forgiven or forgotten. For us this self is special. This self is private. Above all it is ours and ours alone. It contains the truth of what we really think about ourself and our lives. Only very few are allowed into this inner sanctuary of privilege and self-worship. If we do afford others a glimpse we feel vulnerable; we feel naked; we feel exposed. We have shared the power of our inner self with someone other than ourself and who knows how they will use it? This fear forces us to take great pains to share this self with the very few and preferably no-one at all. It is not uncommon to go through an entire life sharing this secret self with no-one but our self. There we are alone with our self for solace. Our relationship with this self makes us feel unique. It gives us a special status in the world. It is the one place where we feel appreciated. We feel safe. We have secret knowledge that others do not and often never will. It is our special power. It is the power of the esoteric. Where increasingly in the world it seems there is little to differentiate us from the rest we know differently. Deep within us we have our self!
Its implication is of course narcissistic with self-love and fantasied exploits and splendours and this explains our other secret, that of shame. We hide our selves within ourselves and believe that no-one will discover us. This explains the mysterious and counter-intuitive reality that many people in time build up the courage to see a psychiatrist but precious few have courage enough to tell them the truth. Even when the ‘whole’ truth of our story is told there is always that little bit left behind- in that safe place within us that we see as home.
'It is a truth that many people see psychiatrists. It is also a truth that very few have the courage to tell it'
True self-identity reflects a sense of “being” in us which emanates from a place deep within us relating to our innermost senses. It has an expansive extravagance that appears to resonate with something much larger than us. It fills us with an inspiring sense of significance, a euphoric sensation that our lives are worthwhile and our existence in some way important. When we encounter this identification we feel something which transcends our everyday existence; we feel a unity and a oneness with our being. We feel whole. We feel at peace and we feel something like a joyous contentment. We feel paradoxically illogically and contradictorily human; we feel a liberated essence of being. We feel like who we really think we should be. The expression of this inner self-identity becomes the expression of the truest meaning of our life. We feel that life suddenly has the meaning we always felt it should have had. If we are lucky we meet friends teachers family members or psychiatrists who often inadvertently help us along this path. Those who help to release our selves from the imprisonment of our minds become our greatest heroes. They live eternally in our hearts in that paradoxical space that exists between human lives and the gods in their heavens quite irrespective of whether we believe in such lofty ideals or not. Our heroes fan our ideals and because we identify with them so strongly we feel compelled to imitate their actions. They become our moral guardians, our saviours.
The self to which we relate and with which we identify becomes the identity that we see as who we most authentically are. This identity is the basis of our psychological stability. This is the base from which we observe the world make judgements and decide what is us and what is not us; the other. In other words we make decisions about what we can call us or ours and what we call our environment, society and the world.