Socrates first commandment was to “know yourself”. It sounds clear and simple, but those who assume this challenge in a conscious way and go through the process, will tell you that is probably the hardest thing to do.
by Anda Ene
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
Why is it so difficult? Because we are deceived by the imaginary character we believe is the “I”. Representation of who we are is fueled from early childhood by our family and through socialization, we collect more data and feedback about who we are, what is our value and what we are capable of. We start to look for validation in order to understand if we are ok and develop behaviors to be accepted, to belong, to be respected and to be loved. Therefore, we create our Persona, the famous archetype coined by swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, in order to manage our life safely and to play our “games” properly in society. In the process of shaping our ego, we come to believe that this is us and this is life: the treadmill of daily life with deeds, chores, deadlines, routines, responsibilities, comfort and conveniences with all the pleasures and pain.
Is something wrong with this? No, as long as you are fine with what you feel about yourself and what you are doing. But if you are bothered by questions like: “Is this the life I want to live?” “Why can’t I enjoy my life?” “Where is my joie de vivre?” “Why am I living the way I live?” it may be time for a wake-up call. Now it is time for you to take a look inside. Maybe you feel an ardent need to change your life. The change comes, always, from within. You have to change the way you think, see, talk and act in your life and you have to start to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, tone of voice, words you use, gesture you make, everything. Observe your internal conversation and the way you make sense of what’s happening around you, the way you respond in interactions with others or when a person or situation triggers you… Be attentive whenever that “judgy voice” shows up in your thoughts, notice the way your mind is processing the facts and interpreting them. Most of the time are these negative? What is hiding behind the things that limit you? How can you recognize and renegotiate these limits? For the moment it is enough just to see, to accept and to own them. To recognize, without judgement: “Yes, I have this limit and I’m pleased to understand that about me,” or “Yes, I did this mistake, but it was a good lesson, next time I’ll know better how to avoid it or to turn it to my favor.” Or even better: “I was weak and cowardly, but this is going to change, because I will choose to respond differently next time.” These are just few examples, but you will have plenty of occasions to exercise this new ability.
Also, appreciate and celebrate your successes, no matter how small the victory is. Give yourself an A and take a moment to be grateful for your realization. For the moment, it is just enough to observe and accept whatever comes in the light. Observe yourself and others, without judging or labelling. You will start to see for real what you are made of. Get out of the illusory construction you created and finally remove what is artificial.
Make use also of what is displayed outside of you. Like a mirror, what you don’t see in yourself, you see in others. It is said that people and spaces around us, are reflections of what we are. Stop this projecting onto others, assume, accept and change what is to be changed.
To conclude, your work starts with this commitment: To see myself for what I am. Do not let the mind interpret, find excuses or project on others, don’t defend, don’t criticize, just observe. It is a very annoying period…. but after a while, an interesting kind of detachment settles and you will start to look at yourself with a kind of curiosity and tenderness. Because no longer criticizing yourself for every little mistake, stopping taking things too personally, stopping complaining when things don’t go the way you expected them to, stopping having unrealistic expectations – these things are all possible. You have to recuperate that parts of you that you don’t like, accept or even see and love it, because this makes us whole. More and more you’ll start to appreciate the features of you that you have taken for granted, or even considered a weakness: a kind heart, frankness, being slightly unrealistic and non-pragmatic, being a dreamer. The fact that you didn’t fit in won’t bother you so much because you will start to realize that maybe you are made to stand out.
This process will require from you honesty, the capacity to tolerate pain and self-disappointment, confusion, a lot of courage and determination to act on the decisions that, inevitable are needed. But ii is worth it, because at the end of the day, all you have is you.