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Self-Awareness: A Summary of the Process of Becoming Authentic

Self-awareness involves a process of radical insight into personality and character. We identify our restrictive ego identity, our emotional and behavioral patterns and our cycles of suffering. We maintain a habitual relationship to the world; we are addicted to this way of seeing. Awareness leads to personal freedom.
Self-awareness is the principle tool of psychological inquiry. To be free of the limitations of personality and character we must rise to the challenge of being human, to be all we are and all we can be. It is a process of radical insight of which the following is a summary.

First, you identify who you have become or who you have pretended to be. This takes great humility, trust and openness. What you identify yourself with has created a repetitive cycle of events that amount to your life history. Everything goes round and round, everything returns. If you are honest with yourself you see that you suffer in ways that have become habitual, that are very familiar to you. Your cycles are emotional and behavioral, very fixed and mechanical. You can bring no clear thought or awareness to these cycles because the simple act of doing so would result in their dissolution and you would be free of them.

But freedom from your emotional-behavioral cycles means freedom from your identity which has become fixed in your mind. Freedom of this sort sounds like saying let go of the life-raft to a drowning man or jumping out of an airplane with no parachute.

The cycles of anger, sadness, pain and fear that maintain our identity as victim, martyr, abandoned, unloved, ignored, neglected, abused, worthless or lacking are precious defenses. We hide behind them and let no one in. And we suffer within our little castle, longing for contact but depending on separation.

The human personality is like a child's merry-go-round. When the ride finishes we pay again and take another journey. We get nowhere. But if we harness our addiction to the merry-go-round and find the courage to take the first step off it, instead of paying again and again to get away from ourselves, we move outward, drop our identities for something much wiser, more expansive: the vessel of life through which we can cultivate our ability to really live.

Life has missed us - or we have missed it. Running in fear (anxiety, worry, dread), boiling in anger (frustration, resentment, irritation, disgust, depression), screaming inwardly in pain (betrayal, woundedness, abuse), drowning in sadness (grief, anguish, despair, disappointment, melancholy), we have had no time for it; we have rejected life. Yet who has been creating these circumstances? What is the source or cause of our predicament?

It is, of course, ourselves - or rather our attachment to our personal identity which is no more than a suit of clothes, though it has become a prison of our own making.

Look at yourself inwardly as you go about your day. You find that just as unconscious, biological forces regulate your body temperature and your heartbeat, your mind carefully engineers the desired levels of sadness, fear, pain and hate that you require to keep yourself attached to the sense of yourself which you have decided is you.

You are so busy maintaining it, being a dedicated creator of your habitual experience of the world, that it doesn't occur to you that something else is possible - that you may be something other than this tight-fitting suit of identity.

The most powerful tool you have is awareness. The simple practice of becoming aware of yourself leads to an overwhelming acceptance of the parts of you which you like and the parts of you which you don't like. You begin to embrace not only your out-going personality (the person you pretend to be) but also the darker, shadow aspects of yourself, which crave but never receive acceptance. The meeting of your outward personality with your inward shadow comprises you in your wholeness. Passing through guilt and shame, grief and anguish, you emerge as a whole human being.

When you have crossed this threshold of transformation, you are faced with a great challenge: to be authentic, real and true. While you practice and deepen in understanding, pretense, defensiveness and fear start to recede. At last you have embraced the great challenge of being human.
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Published: 5/19/2011
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