I’m going to take you on a brief journey into the heart of Being. As a therapist, one of my favorite roles is to remind people of their largeness – which I define as living a Self-led life. When describing the qualities of Self, it’s not unusual for clients to look at me quizzically. Recently someone asked “What if my “self” wants to run off to the Bahamas and drink Pina Coladas all day?” I smiled even though I suspected that hidden within this comical question was a fear that she had no authentic Self.
Who is Self?
The question of “Who am I?” is at the heart of our existential being. To not know the answer is terrifying. So we tend to dismiss it with a joke, play it off as nonsense or distract ourselves with anything to avoid the discomfort of answering. Modern life helps by keeping us in a state of variable stress that our nervous system wasn’t design to endure. It was built to respond quickly to threat with a burst of energy and return just as swiftly to homeostasis.
When our systems are on constant alert, they get fatigued. We lose clarity and make poor decisions. We become susceptible to temptation and the tyranny of our “parts.” Which brings us around to who is doing the talking about the Bahamas. That’s not our calm grounded Self. It’s a part that wants to understandably run away. Thing is, if we get hijacked by a part often enough it starts to feel natural.
I don’t know what to call That-Part-of-Me-That-Knows, so I call it Self. Witness, Awareness or Consciousness will do. What I know is the feeling. It’s subtle yet distinct, uniquely different yet universally shared. For me it can be a calm voice that says, “Put down the pastry.” A knowing instinct to close the book and get some rest. Or it could be as simple as choosing herbal tea.
What Does It Mean to Be Self-led?
How do I know this is my Self talking? Because every day me wants to eat sweets all night and read a book, then drag my feet to the nearest double latte. That’s how. Self is bigger than my small, stress-driven desires. It has clear leadership qualities like perspective, wisdom, compassion, and acceptance. It knows what my body, mind and soul need to thrive.
I admit it. More often than not, I’m ruled by my parts. We all are. It’s how we handle stress. Ultimately, parts are just protectors doing their best to keep the system running. On those rare occasions when doing the right thing is effortless, I feel a deep sense of connection to something bigger and it fills me with gratitude. And you know the best part? The more I listen, the stronger it gets.