25 Apr Who are You?
So often in counselling/psychotherapy/social work and many self-help books, the focus is on “fixing” pathology. The focus is on exploring one’s life to find the problems so that we can fix them. In many theories, the focus is on looking backwards to childhood to find where things went wrong. In psychology and the practice of therapy, we all too often have a burning sense that there is a cause, an original experience that began a dysfunctional pattern, and so we go digging around trying to find it. I think this can be helpful in the process of growth and change, but if that is all we do we won’t help people in the long run. Further, I don’t necessarily believe that the process needs to look like digging but more like associating the past with present ways of functioning. Overall, psychology has for a long time focused on what is wrong, not always on what is right. Or, not always focusing on what is – focusing on WHO one is. Many newer theories like Solution Focused Therapy and Positive Psychology have swung the pendulum too far to the other side. They seem to somewhat ignore pathology, which is something I am not proposing. I am proposing a balance between noticing the patterns in one’s life that are not working and the strengths and positive characteristics one has – ultimately pulling out of one’s experience, who they are.
This article was inspired by a book entitled, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman. Hillman proposes a whole new psychology built around myth and mystery, around a sense of having a daimon (guiding force) that guides our soul. I cannot do justice to Hillman’s book here so please read it if you are interested. What I want to focus on is his idea of looking into childhood to find one’s daimon.
To simplify this for all of us and tease out a small aspect of what he is discussing, I want to focus on the idea of looking backwards, not to find all the ways in which we have failed, screwed up or made mistakes, nor am I wanting to look backwards to just find the things we did well, how we found happiness, or the relationships that were a success. I want to look backwards all the way into childhood to find out who one is. What are the aspects of one’s personality, temperament, or soul that began to show itself at early ages. Why look for this? Maybe it got lost, or maybe we no longer pay attention to associating and integrating the past self with the present self.
Even if one went through a very challenging childhood, I believe they can think back and connect to that wonderful child they actually were inside. How they coped, what they did with their time, the longings of their heart, even their pain, were all perfect and beautiful. Some of those things get locked away, which is why we are looking to shed some light on them again. It might be as simple as what you liked or did as a child, or it might be more complex in thinking back to the kind of child you were, WHO you were inside, not just how you presented your behavior. Again, this is not looking backwards to what went wrong but looking backwards to see who one fundamentally was. Part of one’s ability to cope is to judge the Self and relinquish it to the side. Let’s pull that back into the light and examine it, embrace it, and fully accept it. Let’s give that part of us all the ability to have a shadow again, expressing its essence.
Some of this sounds sort of feel-goody self help propaganda, but that is not what I am discussing. I am focusing us on something deeper within us, a philosophical idea of connecting to who one has always been at the core – the human being you are from the womb until now.
I would like to see therapy balance its focus and spend more time on the exploration of who one is. Much of who we are is an internal experience. Our society does not encourage a whole lot of knowledge and attention to this part of us. Usually it is predetermined ways of being that we should all attain, instead of how to look at the subjective experience of YOU. What if you could look back through your life and see the essence of you always at work in some way, whether more subtle and covert, or more obvious and overt. I believe this is our forever process, to more quickly and easily see, feel, and experience our true essence, our soul, our True Self, and connect that to our present reality. This will help to make decisions, assert one’s voice, and more intimately connect to others and one’s sense of higher being. This connection is what builds self-esteem. You don’t really “build” self-esteem, you “see” your essence and embrace it because it is yours. Stop fighting that process.
Slow down, allow the pain to settle, calm yourself, and let your fundamental presence lead you.