Despite more than 30 years of seeking the truth about myself, coming to know myself continues to be the most difficult and agonising undertaking. The levels of delusion, dissociation, denial, resistance and sabotage remain as strong as ever. In 800 BC at the height of Greek civilisation, people consulted the Delphic Oracle on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs. The mantra written on the entrance to the Oracle was – “Know Yourself”.
So why is knowing ourself the most difficult task in living life as a human being? The answer is I believe twofold:
Conditioning: Each of us has lived a life of being conditioned to become “not who we are” by our outer environment. This process is supported by our parents, education, culture, religion etc. In some sense, we are the aggregate of all our accumulated conditioning. This process starts remarkably early at 4 weeks in utero when brain development commences with the closure of the neural tube. The brain grows and develops based upon neurochemistry which is activated through the cellular electro-chemical activity of the mother. Approximately 8 months later we arrive on the planet primed for a world our mother has been experiencing. We developed within the identical electro-chemical field created by our mother. If our mother witnessed a horrific car crash or the death of a parent whilst carrying us, then we encoded that trauma within us as we developed.
Avoiding pain: Human beings live their lives seeking to avoid pain. Whilst this seems reasonable and even compelling, the price we end up paying for this strategy is the absence of joy. The list of ways we use to avoid pain is endless and includes: prescription drugs, recreational drugs, alcohol, food, sex, busyness, spiritual practice, exercise, depression, anxiety. The most common addiction on the planet right now is the addiction to compulsive thinking. In every case, sooner or later the avoidant activity becomes more painful than the original pain we are seeking to avoid and yet we doggedly maintain this faulty strategy. I am very aware that I am exercising this insanity right now in one important area of my life.
So what is the solution? We need to learn to be less frightened of our pain. Trying to live a life without pain is guaranteed to create a life of misery because the one guarantee is that we are born with an inheritance that includes pain. Depression, anxiety, pain, insecurity, jealousy is not a problem. Not wanting depression, anxiety, pain, insecurity, jealousy is a massive problem. The solution is incredibly simple. If we could truly accept whatever arises within us we would be free. When a difficult thought or feeling arises, there are three options. We can deny it, we can fight it or we can welcome it. We spend most of our time denying or fighting it. We need to learn to stop running, stop fighting and be still long enough to befriend the discomfort. Knowing ourselves is identical to accepting ourselves and loving ourselves. Through the process of acknowledging our ugliness and beauty in equal measure, we learn to truly love ourselves. Our capacity to love others is shaped by and limited by our ability to know and love ourselves.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung.
As we undertake the transition and transformation from 2014 to 2015, I truly hope that each one of us will know ourselves a little better by the end of 2015.
With love and courage