In each and any given moment you are choosing your Self. But do you really choose your own Self? Body and soul offer a thousand possibilities of how you can “build” many selves. But only one of them results in the congruence between the person who chooses and the actual Self that has been chosen.
Only one – and you will find it after having exhausted all other possibilities, all curious fumbling, tempted by astonishment and desire, too shallow and fleeting to gain hold within the experience of Life’s highest enigma: the knowledge about the entrusted talent, which is in fact “you”.
Dag Hammarskjöld 1
Working on oneself
As a rule this topic is not normally at the top of the list of our daily agenda. If it doesn’t happen to be New Year’s Eve and you are asking yourself if you shouldn’t be getting more exercise or losing weight, or whether you should not be organising your day better or clearing out your closet – all questions that hover over our own self-image – working on oneself is a topic that hardly anyone really concerns himself or herself with.
The work on one’s own Self is mostly work done on one’s own self-image, and here the portrayal of how one is seen by others is sometimes of huge importance. This means everything that is connected to competition and status which encourages us to do or aspire to things that allow us to appear more intelligent/ tougher/ richer/more attractive – things which we don’t do or aspire to do merely on account of themselves. In doing so we are “working” almost ceaselessly on our self-image – but at some point, in some “psychological moment”, we can gain distance and focus on those things that are more important. Here at this point already it is clear to see that the work on the Self is not limited to the development of one’s own personality. With whatever or whomever I associate myself – well, all this plays a part. The exterior can never be fully separated from the interior (which is the “Self).
When you begin to really start working on yourself, it starts with one’s own character and by this (when you are not so easily satisfied) it means exploring further, going deeper. What is it like when we try to resolve conflicts, mend old disputes within our close vicinity? We can avoid conflict-laden topics, develop patience, and find strategies for dealing with people who consistently create tension. But we can also choose to look deeper and it is then we realise that the reasons for all the tension lie also within our own selves. Some people provoke defensive reactions within us and we want to set ourselves apart from them by accusing them of being wrong, or we push them into the background and make their own deficits clear to them. Often a sober glance is all it takes to show us that they did not really do anything wrong at all, nothing that was worthy of being criticized. Nevertheless we continue to struggle and fight. There is something about that person’s behaviour which agitates our self-image which leads us to putting up excessive boundaries. It appears that letting go of this particular conflict is taking away some part of our Self, that we are loosing some part of our Self if we resolve the conflict. Am I only if I can set myself apart from X or Y?
A path reveals itself
There is such a thing as soul development, during the course of which we are able to abandon the very boundaries we have put up. There is a soul principle embedded in each and everyone’s heart that originates from the Divine fundamental source of unity. If this soul principle is able to develop, then the boundaries of our present Self become more transparent, because these boundaries become less and less necessary. The soul which awakes in the Divine source can actually stop putting up barricades and fighting. She does not need any conflict. The present Self cannot survive without boundaries, as it thinks it will lose itself if it is not able to put up any boundaries, over which the Self has at least part control.
A struggle is thus created within the inner self – a struggle between the Self-centred and the Eternal soul. Those who are prepared to develop self-awareness learn to accept all the indications which lie within still unavoidable conflicts. The soul feels the pain of rejection, the pain of dogmatism and the pain of crossing boundaries in the relationships with others. This pain is a guidepost for making new decisions, for letting go of old boundaries. Each such sentiment shows me who I presently am and asks me who I would like to be – or who in the deepest part of my being I really am. Then a path appears which has yet to be walked down.
A friend once told me that the outer existence with all its occurrences was something like my own “external Self”. For a long time I did not Understand this statement. But for all of life the same applies as it does for the more or less conflict-laden personal encounters. I experience new events every single day which I must react to. There are many things I cannot control. But every individual incident I experience shows me who I am. Joy, greed, fear, putting up boundaries: I open and close my boundaries, I am wrestling to acquire control of the situation. In quiet moments I can admit that I am getting to know myself, based on the way I react.
I am not only that entity who I am in the privacy of my own home at the end of a working day. I am not only that entity who I am in the company of friends. I am everything that happens to me, for irrespective of whether an event is good or bad, I am the one who makes decisions about it, spontaneously and subconsciously. And this continues till the moment when I can finally allow those occurrences to shape my life – and me. Till the moment when the soul has become strong enough to bring the scales of Good and Bad to a standstill and within this silence the True Self emerges, to which I am en route to. Till the moment when I can finally choose this Self.
- 1. in: Markings, Chapter 1945-1949