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The sense of self

Updated on January 16, 2016


The sense of 'I am', a sense we all have, but do we all see this self the same way? What we are, who we are and who we might be. When speaking about the self, things that come up are often like: I am Felix, I am 26 years old, I am a writer. But is this the true self? If I would take all this away would I still be myself and have the sense that 'I am'? In this article I will take a closer look on this subject and what this strong self-conviction means for the general population.


'I am'

'I am' is probably one of the most used phrases in the world. Everything begins with the sense of I because everything we have an opinion or view on is based on relation to the self. But few of us actually know what the self really is.

When asking the question: 'Who or what are you?'. You will receive answers like: I am this, I am this profession, I am this age, etc. A fierce and highly believed conviction of the self. It is nearly always spoken like that is truely what they are, but what if we strip all this away? What if we strip all the materialistic attachments and emotional convictions made by the brain, from the conviction of self? Does this mean we are no longer who we are? Or is there something that is still what it is, regardless of what the mind and body perceive us to be through convictions of the self?

In this world we have been taught from very early on that we have to be something. From pretty much the point of birth, we have been learnt to conform to our identities and physical environment. Bound by conformity and desire our conviction of self became even stronger over time. For most people it runs so deep that they now have to be something, whether it comes from the mind or from conformity. We all know the question: 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'. It is often said to younger children for the interesting answers, but a question like this has much more weight than one might think.

As soon as you believe that you are something, then you are just that and that will be expected of you by others. This point comes up in many different fields mainly stemming from psychology. You are what you think, we create this world with what we think. So to not be something, you can be everything!

"Automaton Conformity" by Erich Fromm
"Automaton Conformity" by Erich Fromm
The great illusion of the self
The great illusion of the self | Source

So who is I?

It would be foolish to say that our mind and body is not us, for they are very much part of us. But if we strip away everything that the mind and body perceive us to be, there is a third 'entity' or even nothingness that perceives even what the mind and body perceive. Every emotion, every feeling and experience comes and goes, but there is something that is always there and observes these things come and go. Something that is not affected by the mind or body, something that goes on even when the bodily senses have been taken away.

There are many words for it, just to name a few: Nothingness, consciousness, empty space, god, jah, the self, etc. But the self does not care for any of these words, it will be, regardless of what name or word is bound to it. It does not conform to anything, it does not get stuck in emotions or feelings, it is always and shall always be. Yes, just be, nothing else. It is not something else, not something you can go search for, it is you.

You might think: 'So what? What do I care when my brain and body are screaming so much louder than this true self you speak of?'. The answer is more simple than one might think. For this we have to examine the way the brain behaves (will do this in simple terms as this is a whole other subject). The brain is being conditioned every second of the day, by things like: experiences, emotions, attachments, etc. The brain makes loads of connections and imaginations in order to cope or deal with the world in a (to the brain) logical manner. It might be hard to believe but most of our knowledge is based on connections and imagination, formed from experiences and reasoning with these experiences. It is all relative to the perception, thus biased by environment and attachments.

This is such a stressfull and to me horrible way of living. To stick to conformity and desires brings so much more pain and stress than one could imagine. Your brain will create emotions, create connections and even delusions. There is a choice in conforming to what the brain creates. Even some of the deepest emotions come and go, so what is the value to hold on to them? It will only limit you into being free and truely happy.

A message from I to you

Be whatever you feel like! The true self reacts and behaves from spontaneity, use this beautiful concept to approach your life differently. We have been so sucked into conformity and the convictions of how the world and the people in the world perceive us. This is such a limiting factor in many human beings. It creates suffering and doubt, because maybe you can not be what people expect you to be, and people will always expect you to be.

Instead of being controlled by your brain, use your brain as a tool to experience the world as the true self desires. Do not limit yourself, let things flow and stop thinking about your comfort zone. Do not limit yourself to emotions or experiences, they all come and go, but you, your true self will always stay. Observe what you perceive and what comes into the mind, but do not get attached to it or too involved into it, for these things are ever changing and what is right now is what is most important.

When something comes up and you feel that your emotions or convictions are very strong. Take some time to step back, look at what has risen and ask yourself questions like: 'Do I hold value to this', 'Where is this coming from', 'Is there something I might not see that invokes this', 'What could I do to not conform to these temporary emotions'. You will see that often the o so loud conviction of emotion or experience is misplaced and not as deep as you might perceived it to be at first.



It would be possible to go much deeper into this. I could probably write multiple books on this, regardless of how simple it actually is. There are many books already, many lectures and studies one could check out. I will not name any specific ones but information is readily available on the internet.

I think it is important to reflect and to try and see the world outside of the comfort zones we are so comfortable living in. The world is so much more beautiful and interconnected than our brain perceives us to think. There is a great beauty that lies in everyone, whether it may be apparent or not.

I decided to keep it as short as possible and give more of an insight than a large informative piece. However, I am always open to talk about this subject as it interests me a lot. Feel free to contact me by any means if you feel like further discussion or even just sharing a thought!

What techniques do you use for self-enquiry?

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    • profile image

      Felix Thiel 

      2 years ago

      Never ask a child " what kind of profession would you have in the future?" Simply ask, who are you?

      You are doing well ! Good luck for the future !


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