Unit 2 – Whose life is it, anyway?
Self and Sense of Self
Before we can understand how we come to fail to develop our Sense of Self (SoS) and make an effort to regain it, we must take a step backward and define what the Self is and what it is that makes up the Self. We also need to take a closer look at what is meant by “sensing” in “Sense of Self” and what Self and Sensing the Self are not.
What Is the Self?
The Sense of Self Method proclaims that strengthening or, if needed, restoring your Sense of Self is a key to reducing and/or eliminating many aspects of human suffering. So what does this Method consider the “Self” to be?
The Self has been an object of study and wonder for philosophers and psychologists for many centuries. If you want to learn how traditional psychology views the Self I refer you to the many good books about this subject. It is neither the purpose nor the scope of this Method to review and incorporate other relevant theories on this subject. The reader can compare or relate the underlying approach to what is already out there if he or she so wishes.
In the SoS Method, the Self is considered to be composed of six layers that, each in their own specific way, need to undergo a healthy and adequate development so each can contribute to a fully functioning healthy unit of interactive layers that we can compare the Self to. Note that the ability to sense this Self itself also depends on the opportunity or circumstances a person (child) has to effectively have those layers unfold their potential and do what they need to do at the time that it is meant to happen.
Even though the process of developing a healthy natural SoS is meant to go smoothly, all too often people encounter obstacles that hinder this process from taking place in a healthy, natural way. Please note that this is a crucial moment in the development of the young person and exactly the reason why a situation can be created in which the person identifies with other ways of giving his or her psyche a structure.
Lack of Sensing, Not a Lack of Self
Before moving forward, I want to make it very clear that it is not a deficiency of Self that I consider the root cause of many ailments and dysfunctions in our daily lives but an inability to Sense the Self. The development of the ability to Sense the Self was obstructed during the crucial moments in a child’s upbringing.
I wish it were possible to quantitatively measure the degree to which a person is (or is not) tuned into his or her Self. We could then measure when and to what degree that process is actively working in each individual person. I wish that we could attach numbers to the degree to which each person experiences their Self. We might be surprised to learn how greatly those numbers would vary, with the low numbers being found in many more people than we would think, specifically in people who have many problems in life.
The Natural SoS
A Natural Sense of Self (NatSoS) is the most rudimentary and natural awareness of our own Being and of our be-ing alive. In this fortunate situation, every layer of the Self is healthy and, having developed correctly as we grew, performs satisfactorily according to its intended function. A Natural SoS is an abiding, unshakeable, subconscious awareness—the sensation of being an autonomous human being, ultimately independent of others, especially from our parent or primary caregiver(s). Having a Natural SoS does not refer only to physical independence, which obviously does not happen until adulthood, but also and most importantly to psycho-emotional independence. Having a Natural SoS can be considered the anchor of a person’s be-ing. It is our ultimate inner home, or more exactly, it is who, what, and where we mean when saying or thinking “I” and “me.” It is the place from which we act and are motivated.
This type of SoS feels natural to us, by which I mean unquestioned, unquestionable, foundational, basic, and intrinsic, because it has always been with us and it has grown with us as we age. It is so natural to us that we do not even need to become consciously aware of it, that is, to refer to it by words, by name, or by labeling it because of its steady, ongoing presence.
What people with a Natural SoS have in common is one important, automatic characteristic: the ability to be at rest. A Natural SoS provides us with the one and only safe haven we can expect to have in life: No matter what we do or what we do not like about ourselves a person with a Natural SoS can always rely on the security of the “I am” bedrock it provides. Being rooted within us, it cannot be affected by superficial, or surface, matters. With a Natural SoS, internal peace and confidence are the rulers of our being even when the world around us is in turmoil and chaos.
A Natural SoS makes us aware that we are a distinct “someone” different from other “someones.” It allows us to fully be ourselves and enjoy being alive as who we are. It opens us to experience joy and personal satisfaction and allows us to be free to experience what we truly feel, to relate to others authentically without unhealthy filters, and to feel compassion. A natural Sense of Self is a blessing that permits us to focus on the content of our lives and “get things done” (without being distracted by an eternal search for the Self).
Self-Esteem Requires a Sense of Self
The use of the word self-esteem is popular these days, as low self-esteem is also often used as the root cause of many problems, but self-esteem and Sense of Self are not the same. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, self-esteem is “confidence and satisfaction in one’s self; self-respect.” In the SoS Method, the concept of self-esteem follows this definition, that is, confidence that is based on the opinions of others and/or the judgments of others that we have internalized. In this context, self-esteem is indeed built on events and things outside of our being—a healthy self-validation or pride in one’s achievements or performances—and is not part of the profound Self.
So if we want to compare self-esteem, and its counterpart, self-loathing, to our SoS concept we just need to agree with the following truth: Before we esteem or loathe something, we must be aware that it exists. We must sense it. In other words, we cannot have low or high or whatever self-esteem if we do not sense our Self in the first place. Therefore, self-esteem is something that people with a Natural SoS can experience, but those without it cannot because they are unable to connect with the Self.