Okay. When we last left off I said I would write something on “ways to reengage and reconnect with your true self.” But before I do this …
One of the challenges we face as we get into our teen years is differentiating ourselves from our parents. It is a necessary and healthy part of our maturation process that torments our parents because all we can scream is, “I don’t know who I am but I am not you!”
You all remember the drill:
If your parents believe in Jesus Christ, then “I am becoming a Buddhist.”
If mom loves Classical Music, “I love Country and Western.”
If dad wants me to get my MBA and go to work for a Fortune 100 Company, “I am not going to college.”
If they think I should feel love toward my siblings, “I hate my brothers and sisters!”
Of course, it is not only a case where I take the opposite stance from my parents: no, that isn’t enough to show people who I “really” am. I also hate Christianity, despise Classical Music, think college is a joke, that sports are nothing more than modern day gladiatorial games…O, and by the way: I was adopted. For adolescents, it is not enough to go my own way: I must destroy your way.
Gradually, we discover that I am not my true self merely because I am not you. Not being somebody still leaves unanswered the question, “Who then am I?”
But what about those people who really never fully get through this process? Well, they become “the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.” Someone else is thinking his thoughts through my brain; others are directing my affections; I am a slave to the wants of others; and I am utterly dissociated from my feelings.
So how does this person become visible to others? She can’t. She can’t because she is not even visible to herself. For example, if I ask her to write down everything she wants in life, after listing around 20 items, she draws a blank. And of those 20 items, she is faintly aware that half of them are actually what she is supposed to want, not what she truly wants.
The quest to discover and develop my true self is a life-long process. Well, it is unless you are comfortable with a severe case of arrested development. It requires times of introspection and reflection, as well as times with trusted friends whose feedback encourages this process. For some people, the process is, over-all, joyful. For others, it is painfully hard work, as it takes a Herculean effort to dig down underneath all the false personas they have taken on over the years.
Writing What You Feel
I think one of the more effective ways to reconnect with our self is by keeping a journal.
What did I observe today and why did it capture my attention?
Why did I say what I did to her when I was thinking the opposite?
What did I enjoy today? If nothing, what could I have enjoyed and why didn’t I?
What am I reading (books, magazines, internet, etc.) or watching (TV, DVD, movie) and what am I finding interesting?
What is going on with my career?
For what and whom am I praying?
How do I feel about all the above? How do I feel about my life: my world, my work, and my relationships? And how do I feel about what I am feeling?
TS Eliot said, “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” Setting aside poetry (sorry TS), I think the discipline of seeking to Name That Feeling, rather than evading it, is critical to reconnecting to our true self.
While writing about what you feel, dig deeper into the source of those feelings and you will discover beliefs, values, fears and wounds that have been stuffed away and covered over for years and years. Dig deeply enough and you get to the life-springs of your identity. “So this is what I actually believe, truly love, genuinely want and honestly feel.” Some of what you discover will be thrilling and some things will be painful, but all of it is useful, because you can’t work on what you don’t own.
Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2012