Liberation of Self Creating the Self BY: Troy Murphy |August 2017
Adobe Stock Images
We are complex beings. Multitude of forces shapes our lives, slowly molding, expanding and softening the self. In the forecourt of the temple of Apollo, we find written on a stone, “Know Thyself.” We are fascinated with our self. The mention of our name across a crowded room grabs our attention. We artfully filter out the noise but when we become the topic of conversation, our attention is grabbed and focus intense. We want to know more about our self.
But how much can we know? Is self-knowledge gained from painful examination in the mirror, critically examining every line, wrinkle and bulge? How do we learn about the internal landscape of the self? Our subjective examinations are fraught with faulty conclusions; we either dismiss important flaws, or painfully ruminate on the imperfections. We struggle to settle on an objective balance, seeing the self for who it is and isn’t.
Katha Upanishad: “The Self lies beyond the senses and can only be understood by him who knows It is.”
Knowing thyself sounds simple; but it’s not. The self is a dynamic, constantly changing being, discovering our balance of big five traits will not do. We need more. The self is much, much more than a few identifiable traits. Eckart Tolle suggests, “To know yourself is to be rooted in being, instead of lost in your own mind.” Often Tolle’s writings are a bit too mystical, but this concept of self-knowledge appears on target. Knowing ourselves in this light shifts the work from subjective judgments of causes and motivations to greater self-awareness, identifying emotions and thoughts as they move through our bodies and minds.
In personal discovery, we want finality, a short synopsis clearly defining our essence. “This is who I am.” But concrete self-knowledge doesn’t exist. In the quest to know ourselves, we may discover only a complex, dynamic, and partly knowable being. These discoveries, while interspersed with unknowns, gives the knowledge needed for liberation. Over-simplified labels easily are tainted with biases, self-aggrandizements, and social influence. Misguided word descriptions of self, colored with subjectivity, over-estimates healthy traits, and painfully ignores faults. With skewed perceptions, we battle with reality. Distortions of self defy evidence and while we feel confident we know ourselves, we really don’t.
"Over-simplified labels easily are tainted with biases, self-aggrandizements, and social influence."
All is not lost. Let go of wordy self descriptions. Open the mind to mindful being. We’re not condemned to blindly plot action from a vague notion of self. We can be well-acquainted with the forces impacting our lives—inside and out. We can’t banish the biological and social constraints burdening our lives. These factors of our being are significant to self-knowledge. Chanting, “I am great,” or “I am terrible” shows lack of complexity, missing the true dynamic self that we are. They are simple judgments filtering out the beauties of existence. We are more.
With persistence, we discover elements of self (individual and group traits) that subtly shape who we are becoming. We liberate ourselves from constraining judgments by accepting the complexity of being, feeling our existence. While we will never fully know the self, we can, however, build a self that is more than it currently is, more than simple biological and cultural forces dictate. The self rather than being discovered is created.