Excerpted from the upcoming book by P.D. Lapinsky.
The Cornerstones of Self-Awareness.
1. Personal Audit
Ok, what does mean? Well, you have to audit yourself – who and what you are, what you think yourself to be, what you think yourself not to be; what is it that constitutes you? What are your likes and dislikes? What comes to mind? Who do you think your ‘self’ to be? Take some time. Write down everything that comes to mind. Keep it available – someplace easily accessible. Add to it as things come to mind. The idea here is that we’re going to get down to the bottom of ‘who’ you are.
Now, psychologically speaking – you are a combination of your experiences, your natural proclivities and vicissitudes, your natural inclinations and tendencies. But what are your
‘natural’ or ‘innate’ tendencies and inclinations? Are they objectively existent? Can they be replaced or substituted or are they, more or less set in stone? Could they be, or have been different?
It is an important question to ask yourself as you begin to take stock of ‘who’ you are. Is that a solid kind of ‘who?’ Or, is it possible that the ‘who’ you think your ‘self’ to be could possibly be changed in some way. Do you change over time? Certainly a possibility, right? Of course, we have a tendency to utter phrases like ‘I’m not the same person anymore,’ or ‘I’m a different person now than I was then’…etc. What does that mean? If you are who you are then how are you a different person today then you were at some point in the past? If the ‘who’ has changed, then who is the ‘who?’
This leads us to this question of personal identity. What about you doesn’t change? What is the true you? Is there such a thing? If you can become ‘different people’ throughout your lifetime, then is there an objective ‘you’ even worth talking about? And if there isn’t, then what are you?
From a personal identity standpoint, what about you is solid? What does not bow to the trials and tribulations, concerns and vicissitudes of your existence? What about you remains eternally steady, never to change? If parts of you can change depending on your experience, then what about you is foundational? What is that rock upon which the rest of you is built? Who are you…really?
It must be said that many individuals continue through their lives by latching onto a personal identity, a way they want to project themselves to, or be perceived by others. Perhaps they have acquired a certain occupation, a career, etc., and based on whatever that occupation may be have adopted an identity they perceive to be commensurate with the occupation. Is this foundational? Would you say that an identity based on an occupations, what one does, is the true person? Is that what is real and unchangeable about that person? If not, what is the unchangeable part? Who is adopting this identity?
Let this question settle.
Zen buddhist love this kind of thing. Famous for their koans – those questions that tend to stretch you out a little; to kind of bash your head against the box. You know, the box that you are not currently thinking outside of.
And sometimes these kinds of questions can stretch you to the extent that you recognize…well… there is no box. Only you. Only your acceptance of parameters that don’t really exist.
You imprison yourself.
Did that hit you at all? Any very vague bells ringing? Well…it happens to be true. Of course, you’ve had some help. When everyone you know is subject to this…prison mentality…well, it kind of becomes the norm. And it can be useful to extend the analogy further. What would it feel like if you’ve spent 15, 20, 30+ years in prison and one day were set free? How would it feel to walk out of those doors…to breather that air…to feel…for once…completely unfettered? That’s kind of what we’re talking about here.