Lost to Our Selves
Over the course of our lives, sometimes from a very early age, we lose some or most of the connection to our authentic self – our true nature – who we really are at our core. This is adaptive at the time but sets us up for many problems (suffering) later in life.
As we grow up, to survive, we forge an armor, develop automatic thinking, feeling and behavior patterns including protective ones, to get our needs met, as we implicitly find our way to get by in the world.
Once we find a way that gets a result, that brings us some bit of relief, it tends to stick – even if we developed it when we were very young – and even if that way isn’t the best possible way to help ourselves now – it did the trick and it stuck and we’re probably using some variation of it today.
Throughout our lives, we develop dozens of these adaptive and protective ways of being (let’s call them APPs – adaptive protective programs) that don’t serve who we really are or can be today.
Living in Autopilot
It’s been said by many that we all live in some version of autopilot much of the time – it’s effective and conserves our energy and resources not to have to think about how to do everything or even what to do. It can also be said that we learn how to live as a splinter or fraction of our whole selves – not fully present to each moment, not even present for ourselves.
We can spend so much time lost in our minds, gripped by it, roped in by it, dwelling on the past, feeling guilty or shameful or hateful, or worrying about the future, concerned, scared, and anxious – or so completely entrenched in our day-to-day as a way to avoid feeling much of anything at all except busy, stressed and tired.
We often distract ourselves from our feelings in myriad ways. Many of us think this is living – being alive – being who we are – but it’s not. It’s not even scratching the surface.
Living in our minds isn’t real. Anything not existing in the now is just an illusion, so we could say that we live mostly in some kind of trance. A survival trance or a daydream – a way of being that just aims to keep us going one more day – avoiding that which we fear most, sometimes dreaming about what we want but for many, never really getting to it.
Soulful Moments Shine Through But Not For Long
This may sound extreme – and it is – because in between all that illusion, at times, many of us do of course have moments of authentic living, being who we are, enjoying the moment, loving ourselves, others, the world. We even have some peak experiences where everything feels just perfect within us and the world. Times of complete acceptance, with an awe for life, rising to challenges and doing our best and feeling our best. But we tend to forget about those moments, we don’t make them count, we dis-count them, dis-qualify them, and go back to habits of living in fear and illusion, or avoidance, or simply not being fully present and awake, aware and authentic in life.
We can get stuck in our lives, in our personalities, in our roles, in our patterns, in our defenses, our responsibilities, the expectations of others, of what people will think, and the strong current or gravity of our lives, and thus we cut ourselves off so much from our potential experience of life, of being who we really are. We are lost to ourselves.
To get by, we developed beliefs, mindsets, attitudes, paradigms or models of the world, and these habits of thinking, feeling and being, often block us off from our true nature and our potential. We tend to only see what we believe – and very often, it can be a jaded or limiting belief.
Finding Our Way Back to Our Selves
As Viktor Frankl said, “live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
One’s journey of self-discovery and personal growth is their opportunity to start changing all that, bit by bit, step by step, and to learn to live again. A new way. A more aware, conscious, mindful, heartful, soulful, and purposeful way of being. The journey is a process of self-discovery, and actually, self recovery, and it’s vital for our wellbeing and fulfillment.
What does that really mean?
In short, the message is that you are not who you think you are. The self is not your identity or personality. The self – let’s go with capital letters SELF – is your deepest essence, your life force, some call it spirit or soul. As mentioned above, we’ve become disconnected from our true core and to be whole (or to heal), we need to reconnect and live from that essence. But to really grow and evolve, we must transcend our limited scope of ourselves and realize that our essence or life force is connected to all life, to consciousness itself. And thus, by transcending our limited nature, we recover or rescue our SELF and can bring more and more of it into our daily lives.
To begin the journey, you will benefit greatly from developing mindfulness and presence – to expand your field of awareness and not be drowned by or so fully caught up in the mind with your thoughts and feelings. Developing the ability to keep bringing your attention back under willful control, so you can be more present in the here and now (and not caught up in your head) and so you can connect more with your heart and the rest of the body, so you can take full advantage of all your senses and capacities in the present.
Without judgment, through observation and curiosity on our journey, we expand our understanding of who we really are, who we’ve been, what makes us tick, what we truly want and don’t want, what we love, what we value most, what we don’t want to cling to anymore, what we fear and what triggers us or pushes our buttons or turns on our protective programs due to some previous negative or adverse experiences.
Through active, intentional experiences moving towards our desired outcomes or goals, not just thinking about it, we learn what our unique strengths or gifts are and how we can combine all the good in us and even the dark and hidden parts too, to begin to recognize and serve our purpose, which is simply to be and enjoy and share who we are.
Living more mindfully, in presence, with more calm, acceptance and ease even through the tough times, we can finally embrace life at a deeper and more authentic level. It is a path with heart and we connect to the heart to help us break out of our habitually protective habits, to live with more courage, and compassion for ourselves and others.
Self Acceptance, Self Compassion, Self Led
When we come in contact with the SELF, we start befriending ourselves, instead of the ego-driven self-loathing many of us are accustomed to and think is normal.
With presence and compassion for ourselves, we can explore our ego’s shticks and shenanigans with a sense of detachment and even humor. We learn not to take ourselves and our thoughts so seriously! This is building true self-esteem and positive regard. We can get a feeling of ‘yes, this is me and I want to live this way’ and the many parts of us, from inner critic to perfectionist to inner tormentor, eventually befriend and build trust in the SELF’s ability to lead the whole towards a richer, more meaningful and fulfilling life.
We truly come to realize and appreciate that we have CHOICE. Every moment of the day, we can be more intentional, more motivated or pulled by our authentic SELF than forced by our ought self or ego due to fear and conditioning. We have the freedom and the responsibility to choose everything from our beliefs, mindsets and attitudes to our responses to life, and our willful actions to become who we really are and genuinely want to be.
On the journey, there will be many crossroads and challenges. The choices you will make will be intentional, committed, and willful, and you will take responsible action forward, outside your comfort zone, and each time, you will learn or remember something true and powerful about your SELF. This builds your own trust and faith in your SELF, which builds strong hope and optimism for the future, which ultimately brings you peace today.
We are fortunate that we live in a time when more and more people are realizing that the old ways aren’t working anymore and helpers from all fields, including coaches like me, are here to encourage, support and guide others on their journeys by sharing their purpose and hearts to help create a world with more presence, wisdom and love.
Thanks for reading – please share your thoughts and responses below!