Monday, April 19, 2010

Self Image, Self Identity and All That

Who am I?

Or, more to the point, what is the 'idea' of myself that I identify with?

Or, even more to the point, how do I 'like' to think about myself?

I put 'like' in quote marks because 'like' doesn't necessarily mean 'enjoy' or 'makes me happy', but here it means 'what I keep coming back to because I believe it's true'.

In other words, the way I 'like' to think about myself might not be very nice - if I'm convinced I don't measure up to my ideals.

Everybody 'thinks' of themselves as something - has an expectation of who and what they are. In other words, Everybody 'likes' to think of themselves in a particular way.

That's the setup. Now, here are some questions:
  • Am I nothing more than an opinion? Or am I real?
  • Can I change 'Who I am' by changing my opinion?
  • Is my 'World View' a result of 'Who I am' or is it something I create for my 'Who I am' to live in?
  • Do I see and hear the world around me OR do I pick and choose what I hear and know?
  • Do I really know 'Who I am'?
  • Do I really know my friends? Or do I make them supporting actors for myself?
  • Can I live without knowing 'Who I am'?
  • How can I avoid living in an Illusion if I continue to 'know' 'Who I am'?
First Hypothetical

Let's suppose that 'Who I am' is an opinion.

Opinions are just ideas that can be changed. They aren't 'facts'.

If I hold one opinion today and another one tomorrow, it's unlikely I will be arrested, burst into flame, or that anything else substantial might happen.

I'll just have a different 'opinion'.

So, with my different opinion, won't the World be different?

Won't my friends become different people?

Won't the boundaries between good and bad and Right and Wrong shift? Won't they have changed just enough so I can make my 'opinion' work - at least as well as my old one did?

All I need do to test this is genuinely change my opinion once and see if this is what happens.

If it works like this, doesn't this mean that 'Who I am' is an opinion? An Illusion? and that I am living in a false world of my own creation?

Do I want to know?

Second Hypothetical

Let's assume 'Who I am' is somehow 'real'. It doesn't matter what this means other than that it is something other than an opinion which can be changed at a whim.

Now one part of my World View ranks everything by how 'good' and how 'bad' it is. There is usually a sliding scale from 'good' to 'bad' with 'saintly' on one end and 'absolute evil' on the other.

Naturally, I will think of myself as more 'good' than 'bad' - no matter how I think about how I live up to my expectations. [for example, if I think of myself as falling far short, then I will still think of myself as 'better' for having noticed this and for admitting it to myself]

So how will this effect my World View? How will I tend to filter and interpret that which I see?

Isn't is natural for me look for the evil and bad - so I am - in contrast - much better 'than average'?

Won't I go out of my way to do so? Won't I respond with much satisfied emotion to my discoveries of the evil in others? Satisfied in my own 'goodness by contrast'?

How can we test this?

Isn't this consistent with both the continuous litany of complaint and criticism - in the press, in entertainment, and in our own, wool gathering minds?

What happens if I see lots of goodness around me? Doesn't that push my 'Who I am' down into the muck of badness - or at least shift me down a little?

If I can't change my 'Who I am', then I will not 'like' myself (and remember 'like' means what I said it means up above). Isn't that hard to tolerate? 'Who do those "goody, goodies" think they are anyway?' Doesn't it seem natural for Cain to kill Abel?

Third Hypothetical

Again, suppose 'Who I am' is an opinion.

Then there must be something which has that opinion.

That something must be able to observe - inasmuch as it has thoughts, the 'opinion' being one of them.

So can this 'something' watch it's opinion and the thoughts it's opinion is thinking? (or maybe the thought's it is thinking for its opinion).

If this is true, then 'Who I am' is an opinion and the 'something' can become aware of this.

How can we test this?

Can we watch our own thoughts? As we think them?

If we can, then this is true and it opens the _possibility_ that the 'Who I am' is an opinion and that it can be changed.

If this is true, then can't psychic trauma be impermanent? And if impermanent, can't it dissipate? And if dissipated, hasn't it been healed?

Further, how is an opinion maintained? It isn't made of wood or metal. It has no substance other than thought. If thought isn't thinked, then is isn't. It's not there. It's gone.

So, if psychic trauma is thought, isn't it impermanent and has to be 'thinked' over and over again in order to be? So isn't not-thinking it the path to it's dissolution?

Is the dwelling on 'the bad things' and 'how sick I am' the cure or the cause of disease and despair?

Fourth Hypothetical

'Who I am' and 'Who You are' are different.

It doesn't matter if they are real or just opinions.

You see the world differently from how I see the world because you must shape your 'world' so it fits your 'Who I am' and I must do the same.

But mine is different from yours, so our 'worlds' are different.

Can I really see 'Who You are'?

Can I do more than guess?

Suppose your 'Who I am' world conflicts with my 'Who I am', from my point of view. Won't I filter and squash what I see and hear to fit my 'Who I am' instead of yours (no matter how honest, just, and polite I think I am)?

So how can I ever see where you don't make my 'Who I am' good and right? And can you see me?

Deep down don't you think you're a little better than me? I know I am a little better than you - or at least a little righter.

Doesn't that prove we can never know each other?

How can we converse?

Aren't we having two meaningless conversations with ourselves while we pretend that the other is there?

Fifth Hypothetical

I find that knowing 'Who I am' leads to an expectation that I will continue to be 'Who I am' and that I interpret and bend everything I see, hear, taste, smell, feel and think so that that will be true. I insist on continuing my existence as I envision it.

Doesn't this mean that I've been living in an illusion?

Can I escape the illusion without giving up this expectation, this prediction of the future?

Realizing this, can I continue to maintain the illusion - knowing it is a lie?

If I give up my expectation that I will continue to be 'Who I am', won't this mean I will change 'Who I am' into something else? And can I tolerate replacing one 'Who I am' with another?

Copyright Mike Howard, 2010. All rights reserved.

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