Disadvantage of Identifying with Our Self-Image
A Question with Many False Answers
Who are we?
That's the question still puzzling everyone from an armchair philosopher to a fine scholar, after some millennia of studies that have only succeeded to make the question more tantalizing in an absence a completely satisfying answer.
Now, not that attempts have ever been in a short supply, due to man's intellectual adventurism and its extreme - intellectual arrogance. Namely, every cultural epoch and tradition in history has claimed to have cracked the mystery of the unknown, including the one about our true identity. Let me be forgiven if I am not taking any of them seriously, far from a futile attempt to sell it to you as that "ultimate truth".
A Need for a Self-Image
However, more significant than the philosophical question of our true essence is the one about who we are daily identifying with. That appears to be much less of a mystery, especially since the science of psychology came up with the concept of our social self-image.
We know for sure that our self-image is not that unfathomable consciousness which, after all, only presents a name for something unknown. Just like electricity that we can recognize and use, but have no clue - out of playing smart asses about it - what it actually is. And so it is with consciousness.
No matter where scientists look for it, in our brain or our body, it's nowhere to be found, staying elusive, non-local, and yet so real. As we are about to see, the complexity of our social life simply doesn't allow us to stay at that sense of "I-amness", while making us add a lot of labels after that "I am..." - which then composes our self-image.
Let Us Make Ourselves less Unique and more Common
Those wise sages who succeeded to expand their consciousness through a life-long sinking into the depth of their pristine and divine essence are telling us that at the level of consciousness we are all one.
O.K., that's the very first point where it differs from self-image, which is well taking care of that sense of a sharp separation spelled out as "me-and-not-me". At the level of survival in the herd, it seems important to us to separate our interests from those of the rest of "them", which gave birth to something like ego, and all of its infamous spinoff aspects.
In order to learn skills of survival, and in our case it's also mental survival, we had to imitate others, so that we could a kind of blend into the game being socially played.
Labels, Labels, and more Labels
From strictly the viewpoint of something like consciousness evolution, the extent of that imitating turned out to be a big mistake, while we sacrificed our intuitive creative drive in favor of just following, which created a sort of sheepish global mentality.
Collective consciousness took lead over individual one, and self-image with all of its labels attached became who we are readily identifying with - not only publicly, but also intimately.
The human tragicomedy becomes so obvious when we identify ourselves as democrats, republicans, Christians, Moslems, citizens, whites, blacks, straights, gays, and what not - and we are also taking a huge pride of being ones in that lovely assortment of coconuts.
Hey Dude, Don't Be a Jude
In this process of social modelling that started in our early childhood, we became merely an individualized version of them. They taught us what those no-no words are, meaning profanities, they taught us when to smile and when to be pissed off, because otherwise we wouldn't know.
They taught us how to give up much of our identity and become them as much as possible, calling us "weird" in those areas where we failed. Then they put a flag over our head and told us it was worth dying for.
Well, why not, if they had never told us that, I wonder if anyone of us would have bothered with that illogical question - "Hey, I know why I want to live, now I just have to figure out why I want to die".
Now, I am not ambitious enough to make a new theory out of it, but I think that much of human suffering comes as the result of our intuitive, true self clashing with all that idiocy that we have accepted as our selves.
With Heaven and Earth against Us
Since a look at the daily news provides a sufficient proof about so many forms of our coexistence not making any sense, it comes easy to understand why our self-image sucks as well, being the product of that mess of contradictory values, principles, traditions, with even our gods and the rest of the celestial personnel seemingly unable to be on the same page.
If heaven is dysfunctional with its eternal conflict between good and evil, also one between two "goods", and one between two "evils", each belonging to a competing system of beliefs; and if society is dysfunctional with eternal disagreement between republicans and democrats; and our parents so often didn't look very functional - how the hell could we turn out functional while being the product of the joint effort of heaven and earth to mess us up.
I don't want you to recognize symptoms of some dark poetry here, but to really think about it. Are we sure we want to stick to this self-image, or a little meditative digging into our true self could bring us more happiness, better relationships, and even better health?
Under Scope of Non-Judgmental Self-Observing
Einstein said that "we cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it." Oh, I just love that smart dude with messy hair but with so much order behind it!
It's true, folks, we can't be less of our self-image while using the mindset of that self-image. We have to exteriorize our consciousness, yank it out of that mess of a programmed self, and look at ourselves non-judgmentally.
For, as long as we are playing a judge, we are prolonging that inner circus of conflict learned by imitating that junkyard of social interacting which we succeeded to internalize, and even somatize - while witnessing so much disease stemming out of self-inflicted stress.
Pissed-Off = Getting Sick and Older
It may be time at this stage of our consciousness evolution to realize how everything about survival is also about conflict. Meaning that mostly everything in the fabric of our self-image bears the seed of a struggle. Consequently our whole life is an eternal battlefield of opposing tendencies which are never meant to settle for a peaceful solution.
Ever since I heard about that theory in progressive medicine that viruses (or viri as proper plural in Latin) are actually more information than microbes of a kind, it stayed with me as a supposition that we are making ourselves sick by creating that negative information with our ever conflicting attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, and especially emotions.
In addition, it is my belief that the very process of aging is nothing but the result of body cells succumbing to that inner idiocy of conflicting energies that became a regular model of biology in us.
Getting there by Unlearning
What is left to figure out is how to coordinate our social functioning with our newfound sense of our true self, without going to live like hermits in the woods and reduce our conflicts to killing those poor animals for food - when not just for the hell of it.
Should it really be all that complicated? Personally, I find it even amusing to flip back and forth from my social roles to my cultivated sense of loyalty to that soul in me. To get to that point is easier than we would want to make it.
Like every meditator will tell you, if it's not simple - it's impossible, as it doesn't mean "learning a new skill", but unlearning by simply observing non-judgmentally our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, detached from them in our observation.
It may take some practice to just be non-judgmental, since we tend to give a dirty look at our inner mess, and mess is what we are bound to see - if we are honest with ourselves. Hey, if you don't see any mess there, then you are reading a wrong article, and something like a good comedy on TV will suffice for you.
Normal Doesn't Mean Customary
On our path of ungluing our consciousness from self-image it may take us a while to distinguish where we are present at the moment. The rule of the thumb is - if it feels great, then we are present at our true selves. We are inherently happy beings, and like a wise book says, "happiness is a choice, and unhappiness is an option".
Happiness is not an unattainable ideal, but our natural state of being. The fact that we learned through our social conditioning to deviate from that most natural in us doesn't make it normal. Our self-image generally is not an authority on what is "normal", but only what is "customary".
It all looks so simple once that we can relax into our true beingness, resolving those inner conflicts by just looking at them and not taking sides, not adding to them by judging what we see. Don't we owe it to that baby that we used to be, the one before we learned that life was going to be a constant matter of winning or losing?
Learning more from a Playful Child
I don't think there is such thing as perfectly chosen words that could possibly make everyone convinced how staying loyal to our self-image sucks, and I didn't write all this with that ambition.
It's really up to each one of us to be able to make a perfect sense out of some imperfect words. Verbalizing life's truisms obviously - by itself - doesn't have that power to ignite a change in anybody, which is proven by all those libraries with all those yellowish book-covers - not yellow from being used, but from sitting idle on the shelves and collecting dust.
It takes a seeking soul that wants to be liberated to learn from signs around, and such a person will learn from looking at a child playing much more than a person stuck in their self-image could possibly learn from all books combined.
If you agree, then my humble article could suffice, so sit beside a playing child and learn more. Or just ask that child within - how to.