Who Are You?
Have you ever known an adult who just hasn’t been able to settle down? He moves around, can’t keep a job or sustain a relationship. He is restless and unfocused. This sort of person might even be heard to say something like, “I’m trying to find myself.” It can be tempting to not take such a person seriously, but before we judge him, let’s think about this.
Some people really do struggle with this kind of confusion. They have not arrived at knowing, understanding and accepting themselves. They have trouble making decisions and keeping commitments. This problem is often due to having been neglected or abused, physically, sexually, mentally or emotionally, and, as a result, convinced that they are bad, stupid. or crazy. Thus, their minds develop self-doubt, uncertainty about their judgments and beliefs and inability to deal with difficult situations. Ultimately, they lack the confidence to express themselves and to identify what they want, specifically, and what they really need.
Just think about people who have been neglected or abused. Is it surprising that they have lost trust in their perceptions and judgments? Is it any wonder that they have lost a sense of who they are and what they are capable of? For these people the need to find themselves is genuine; it is not something to be mocked or ridiculed.
If we are compassionate enough to recognize that this is a real problem, it seems natural to ask whether it is possible to find one’s way out of confusion and into self-knowledge. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the answer is yes. Very well. Then, how does the person who has been lost begin learning who he is?
One approach would be to uncover his capabilities, along with his limitations. Formal education, attempts to learn skills such as making a budget, taking a reliable personality / aptitude test, participating in competitive games and sports, artistic pursuits, crafts, gardening, mechanical tasks, etc. will surely help him know something important about himself.
Through these experiences, we learn what we are good at and not good at. We learn what we enjoy doing, and what we do not enjoy. We learn through competition, as well as through cooperation, as we are called upon to deal with failure, as well as success.
Apart from these life experiences, please consider two additional ways we learn about ourselves at a deeper level. That is, in relationship to others; to people, animals and nature. Second, in the experience of silence.
When we notice how we respond to living beings as well as to objects, we learn about ourselves. In relating to people, to nature and to animals, we find out how we connect or do not connect with them. Are we tuned in to them? Can we identify with them and understand them? Are we interested in other people? Or are we more comfortable with plants, animals, or inanimate objects, such as mechanical devices?
Now to the second source of deeper self-knowledge: silence. When the body is still, and we reduce the stimulation of sight, sound, taste, smell and movement, something happens. All we are left with is our breathing, our thoughts and a few subtle sensations. This gives us the opportunity to observe what our minds tend to do when we are not intentionally focused on an activity. That is, what kinds of thoughts the mind generates, the pace of the mind, the tendency to hop from one thought to another, to focus on one thought intently or to go blank. As we pay close attention to what the mind does when nothing is required of it, we can learn a lot about ourselves. In the interest of brevity, we won’t go further into the last topic for now.
While it is not impossible to increase one’s self-knowledge by oneself, it may be more interesting for some people to do so with a sort of ‘study partner’. In fact for some people, having honest feedback during the growth process would be extremely valuable. If that sounds good to you, I am available, and would be honored to be of service. I can be reached by phone at (219) 309-3928.
For more thoughts click The Internal Struggle
Thanks for reading!