Whenever joining is involved, the defined self enters the space. It is from that foundation of defining self that the ways we interact with others, form relationships and build community develops. The choices we make as we meet new people effect how we interact and how we connect. While it is necessary to know who the self is, it is also important to simultaneously acknowledge the self that longs for change, healing, and transformation. This self enters each new relationship in the form of the unknown - in the form of vulnerability and a desire to change.
Psychoanalysts use the term “Idealized Self Image” to name the person we most desire to be. The Idealized Self is also the person we can never be. It is the one we think will give us the most fulfillment but ironically is also the unending source of dissatisfaction and discontent. We pit ourselves against this perfect image and constantly judge ourselves for the ways we are not and can never be our ideal. We find protection and seek happiness using the idealized self to avoid vulnerability and risky intimacy.
The undeveloped ego is the best friend of the Idealized Self Image. Here we always know who we are, who we want to be, and exactly why we are who we are. We get stuck in our rigid definition of self not realizing what exactly gets activated every time a threat occurs. The ego does not like change and does not want new experiences. The ego only knows black and white. The ego is a mental construct that defines the Idealized Self Image and prevents deep connection from shaking up our view of what we know about ourselves.
The Idealized Self Image is present when coming into a group of people or community. If the Idealized Self is open hearted, we are going to have a tendency to prove that we care more about others than our self in a group. If the Idealized Self is emotionless, we will have difficulty finding and expressing emotional vulnerability or honesty. The Idealized Self may always want to be in control, thus not allowing powerless or out of control situations or feelings to arise. Do you have an idea of who your Idealized Self is?
Our brains tend to have the main say in who we are. Heart and body play second stage to what we think we know about ourselves and others. Unfortunately, we also feel habitually disconnected from our own bodies and yearn for deeply fulfilling relationships and community. Ironically, until we start to hear more of our whole selves and be present with all of who we are while with others, the Idealized Self Image is the most comfortable place to connect from.
One of the problems with the Idealized Self Image is that it does not recognize the many facets of self we bring into every situation. Learning how to name and not judge who we are in the moment is an essential tool to transformation and finding fulfillment in life. The cultivation of an accepting witness happens first when we are willing to learn new aspects of our selves and experience new situations while embracing the unknown that may or may not emerge. We all have parts we cannot accept about ourselves and parts we want to know more about.
Let’s take some time to self reflect and see if we can learn a bit more of who you will be bringing into this new group of people. Begin by placing your self in a situation where you are alone and will not be disturbed. The self begins with breath entering body. Feel the movement between breath and body, allowing acceptance for your own unique flow of breath to emerge. Allow yourself the freedom of feeling your own space with out interruption. Breathing and not judging your breath, just following your sensation to just be who you are right here and right now. Read the poem and let the words wash over you.
Forget about enlightenment
Sit down wherever you are And listen to the wind singing in your veins. Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones. Open your heart to who you are, right now, Not who you would like to be, Not the saint you are striving to become, But the being right here before you, inside you, around you. All of you is holy. You are already more and less Than whatever you can know. Breathe out, Touch in, Let go.
By: John Welwood
Consider the following questions:
How do you know when you feel aligned with your self?
What defines your self identity?
How do you want others to see you?
How do you feel when your heart is open?
What do you require to feel safe enough to connect with others?
What part(s) of you feel numb or disconnected?
How do you judge yourself?
What emotions are you comfortable feeling, if any? (anger, sadness, fear, worry, grief)
How do you push people away that want to connect with you?
What happens to you when you feel interested in others?
Take some time to journal or draw your responses to the questions above.