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The Real Self - Do You Know You?

Updated on May 13, 2014

A self image is not the same as a photographic image

The writer at fifty-seven
The writer at fifty-seven

Do you know who you really are? The Ego and the Real Self

When we look in a mirror we know that what we are looking at is an image- a self image. But how many of us know that when we’re immersed in thought, we’re immersed in our mental self image? Not many. Most of us believe ourselves to be our thought, and this is a tragic mistake.

Why tragic? Because when we believe we are our thoughts we’re often led by them. And we know that those who follow the dictates of their thoughts, that is, by their mental self-image, can be led into doing things which can cause them and others a great deal of harm.

Now, imagine once again that we’re looking into that mirror and seeing a reflection of our physical selves. If we were to look ourselves directly in the eyes and say, for example, “I’m going to the movies tonight.” And the mirror image instantly responded saying, “No you are not. You’re staying home.” If we saw the facial expression change and the lips move, we’d think we were going insane. Yet how many of us undertake a resolve, only to have it thwarted by the rationalizations of our mental self-image, our ‘minds,’ and take this behavior as normal?

I'm Only Human - Do You Know You ?

Want one thing and find yourself doing another?

Most of us do. We’re led by our conditioning to believe that it is quite normal to ‘give in’ to our self image. “I’m only human,” we say. We, the real we, want to do one thing and find ourselves doing another. We, the real us, want to undertake a project, only to have our efforts torpedoed by our own thinking processes. In other words, in such an instance, the mind – our own mind – is boss! And, oh, what a cruel boss it can be. And yet, it is not the real us . So do you really know who you are? No, because the real us is the Observer of all of this. But with most of us, the Observer is not apparent in our consciousness. No one’s ever told us about the Observer.

What it is that sees this beautiful scene? What are we?

What you really are: Aren't we our mind? Do you know you? Be reasonable - I'm only human

So you might say, “Then what are we?” Aren’t we our mind? To which I answer, “No, we are not.” We are our consciousness . We are that which experiences what is seen on the mirror of the mind. It is our consciousness that experiences at the conscious level. It is our consciousness that enjoys or suffers. It is our conscious that lives and has its being in the world of things. And it is our consciousness that has this thing we call, a will.

Another word for our consciousness? - our soul.

Roberto Assagioli, the famous Italian psychologist, spent a lifetime investigating the minds of men and women. He came to the conclusion, and I’m in agreement with him, that we have a mind, but we are not our mind. It is something which is ours but is not the essential us. If it were, we’d never be able to change our mind, and change it we do, quite often.

The Real Self? We are not our body

Assagioli also stated that we have a body – here he was referring to our physicality – but that we are not our body. Our body belongs to us but it is not us. We have some control over it, but far from full control. If we did have full control, we’d will that we reach our pinnacle of physical and mental ability, combined with excellent health then, probably, elect to stay there forever. That doesn’t happen. So this body we have is impermanent and not subject entirely to our wishes. We have partial control. For example, we can choose to walk across the room; but we can’t stop ourselves aging.

What it is that disturbs the equilibrium of our awareness - and what are we?

I'm only human - Do you know you ?

If we're not our body, what about our emotions?

The same applies to our emotions. We have emotions, but we are not our emotions. They are not the Real Us. Our emotions come and go, often subject to unconscious desires, and certainly in response to conscious wants, likes, dislikes and sundry other reactions on our part.

Putting this all together, one can deduce that our thinking, our emotions, and our bodily reactions to our emotions and reactions, are very much at the whim of something which is not the real us. For if the real us were in charge, we would surely choose for ourselves inner peace, harmony, and contentment, if not happiness. So there is something, some entity that lives within us that has the temerity to defy us. It is, of course, our self-image. It is what we think ourselves to be, rather than what we are. It is what we imagine ourselves to be. I, and many others, call this the ego, or ego-self.

We're not what we imagine ourselves to be

The ego self is, as previously stated, an image. It is what we imagine ourselves to be. And not only consciously imagine ourselves to be but what we imagine ourselves to be at varying layers of unconsciousness. And there are layers within layers within layers. Moreover, whilst we’re in the grip of ego, we can never act ourside the parameters of our thought-made self image.  To go 'outside the square' we must go outside of conditioning!

Like the sea, our restless minds keep hitting upon the same themes, the same subjects

I'm only human - Do you know you ?

Walt Disney could see the funny side of this truth about our Real Self.

I can recall, as a teenager, seeing a Walt Disney cartoon in which one of Walt’s characters, Goofy, is endeavouring to give up smoking. In this cartoon Goofy is having trouble giving up the habit. He has a certain amount of success and as he is standing in the street, high above him on a scaffold, a window cleaner throws away a half-smoked, still alight, cigar. The cigar falls. But in this instance it falls in slow motion. And as it does so we cross to Goofy, who is standing on the footpath below, watching it fall towards him.

Little red devil or angel - who is really boss?

In an instance, a little red devil appears on Goofy’s left shoulder urging him to grab the cigar when it arrives. “One more won’t hurt. Go on – you need it.” A few seconds later a little cherub appears on his right shoulder and the little red devil disappears. “Be strong. You can do this. You’re in charge here.” Then the devil is back and the cherub gone. “Wake up to yourself. Everybody likes a good cigar. Just as puff or two. You’ll be fine.” Then the little angel reappears again, pushing the little imp away. And so it goes on until….in this case, the cherub wins.

A life completed dominated by ego beliefs can be a stormy one.

Do you know you? - What are we tempted by?

What you really are and what you think you are can be very different. " I'm only human, " generally means we don't know much about ourselves.

So what was Walt Disney saying here: We are all tempted. But tempted by what? Tempted by our own conditioning, our own self image. Here, Goofy was trying to give up, abandon, jettison his self image as a smoker. His real self was endeavouring to assert its authority over his long-imagined self as a smoker. And this habitual ‘thinking,’ and ‘imagining’ is what makes up the self image, the ego.

Are you subject to a constant stream of verbal thought?

In most of us this ego is very strong. Generally it is so strong and so persistent that it is ‘in our heads,’ as a constant stream of verbal thought right throughout our waking ours. The chatter rarely ceases. It complains, it judges, it experiences highs and lows, based upon what it perceives to be good or bad, which in turn is based upon its…wait for it - conditioning. Of course, what is good for one ego might be regarded as bad by another. After all, no ego in the entire world has exactly the same conditioning over its lifetime as another. And, of course, these differences make for conflict.

I'm only human - Do you know you ?

What really is an argument?

So what is conflict? What is argument? It is a conglomeration of thought patterns held by one ego, i.e. in the mind-body or one person, which finds disagreement with the thought patterns held in the mind-body of another ego. It is thought, disagreeing with other thought. It might have no basis on which to make its claims, yet it will fight tooth and nail to assert is beliefs. Everything from light bickering to wars between nations can come out of these so-called beliefs, and often do.

The Real Us - Where most of us stand, ego-wise

The big problem is this: Most people are not aware that they are living out their lives dictated by their ego beliefs. Some know in theory that they’re not their self-images. It doesn’t help a great deal though, for such insights occur so infrequently. Most of the time they, too, are coming from ego.

And some people, extremely few, are actually able to live and breath and have their being from their real selves. These last types being people like Buddha, Jesus Christ and sundry other saints and master-teachers who, for millennia, have been trying to set us all straight.

Ever had a near-death experience?

If you’ve ever had a near-death experience or NDE as they’re usually referred to, you’ll probably recall that at that time your verbal thought – the hard core of the ego’s machinery – stopped working! It was shocked into silence. What would have been left is the real you, the Observer, the Witness, the God part of you, if you like. But once the threat of dying was over, the old self-image patterns of the ego quickly reasserted themselves, and you were back once again absorbed in your world of verbal thought. Such is the power of habits that have been with us since infancy.

I'm only human - Do you know you ?

Most of us need to work to overcome our egos

Some people have spontaneous insights or epiphanies, and they are changed forever. They never revert back. Ego is recognized as ego and, in a moment, the self-image is shattered, never to return. The popular author of “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle is one such. But for most of us this doesn’t happen. Most of us need to arduously train our attention, using our real self’s will to overcome the ego-will of our conditioning.

The way we do this is called: meditation. Buddha got there by meditation. I suspect Jesus did, too; probably when he was out fasting for forty days and forty nights. And I’ve read of certain Indian yogi’s who’ve become masters by sustained meditation practices over long periods of time.

Be aware of the moment; see it as it is, not how you would like it to be

In finding out what you really are, theoretical knowledge can motivate, but it won't do the trick. So do you know you yet?

When I said, earlier, that knowing theoretically that we are not our self-image will not change us, I meant that it would not result in our becoming enlightened simply from that knowledge. However, it is said that “ knowledge is power.” The power in this case is that even though we know we’re still largely ego-controlled, we are – at least from time to time – aware of that. Being aware, we can more willingly look towards our own foibles. We can become more open minded, easier going, more tolerant. In a nutshell, we can become more ‘mature’ in the real sense of growing as a person.

See the world as it is, not as you'd like it to be

But this essay has grown long enough. I hope that you, dear reader, get something out of it. In the meantime, take the time to occasionally at least, look out upon the world with a mind that’s still, without the interruption of verbal thought. Do that, and you’ll start seeing our beautiful universe ‘as it is,’ instead of how you ‘think it to be.’

I hope you have gained something from The Real Self - Do you know you ? But whether you have or not, I welcome your comments.



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