This post originally appeared in my old blog Journey of Peace, back in March 2012. I want to preserve these thoughts, even if I don’t necessarily embrace all of them anymore.
“About the Self”
This one addresses a conflict with…well…Self. Honestly, this one is not yet resolved, but I feel like it needs to be voiced. You hear different things about the Self. The Self is good and beautiful! The Self is depraved and Evil! Fulfill the Self! Deny the Self! Explore the Self! Crucify the Self!
Honestly, all this conflict makes me want to just be by myself!
But was do I do with this being that is me? (And what do you do with the being that is You?) My Self is the only conduit through which I will ever experience the world. My Self is both my cage and my wings.
My Self has the potential to be happy, to be strong, to experience God, to have pleasure, to ask questions, to make discoveries. My Self is made up of hopes and dreams and goals and strengths and gifts.
My Self also has the potential to make me despair, to be weak, to be corrupt, to be selfish and fearful and utterly consumed in itself. My Self is made up of fears and resentments and weaknesses and irrationalities and believed lies and prejudices and the ever demanding Ego.
There are theories that divide the Self. Ego, Superego, Id. Self and Shadow Self. Spirit and Flesh. These are nice to talk about but in reality, I always deal with all of my Self all at once. And trying to separate my raging Ego from my self-righteous Spirit all in a moment of panic doesn’t usually resolve anything.
My purpose here is not to present another metaphysical treatise, but rather to explore how to live in the most peaceful way possible. This is a challenge because I do not exist by myself. I am perpetually with the Other and frequently with more than one Other. My Self must clash with or compliment the Other Self. We look for mutually beneficial arrangements, but these are only possible sometimes.
The closer I get to the Other, the more the Self is threatened. And I wonder… Do I get to be happy? Do I get the things I want? The things I perceive I need? Do I get to be safe? Do I get to explore my Self? Do I get to nurture my Self? Or must I ignore and even hate this thing called Self in favor of meeting the needs of the Other? Is it healthy for me to sacrifice for the Other? Will I be happy if I give all my Self to the Other?
Aren’t those questions Self centered too?
The closer you get to the Other, the more you wrestle through these things. Suddenly, the Other person’s happiness hangs, at least in part, on how you live. You wonder if it can really be your responsibility to make the Other happy, safe and whole. You wonder if the Other will cost you too much. You wonder if, after you give to the Other, there will be anything left of the Self. You wonder if you’d be better off by yourself.
But then you come together with the Other and things change. Somehow there’s more than just being Self. And you hope the Self doesn’t have to die all the way to be with the Other, but you know you need the Other. You know you don’t want to be alone.
So is the Self to be nurtured or starved, acknowledged or denied? As a counselor, I will ardently maintain that the Self should receive significant care and attention…but not so much that the Self threatens the Other. The needs of the Self are valid, but the method of meeting those needs ought not hinder the Other’s needs from being met.
This leaves me precariously balancing the needs of the Self and the Other. It’s complicated and tiring. It forces me to trust the Other to remember me. And frequently I’m scared. At least I’m not alone.