The Self: Always Present and Always Unknowable

‘Me, Myself and I’ was a common defiant and playful assertion of my childhood that I never hear any more. I have always been curious about the meaning of this triad. The ‘I’ and ‘Me’ are well described but the ‘Self’ has defied description and understanding. Nevertheless, it is possible to explain why the Self is indescribable and unknowable even when it is always present.

The “I” is ones Personality which is well described and is how one consciously deals with external relationships. The personality is how others see us. The “Me” is ones Character which is also well described and is how we each consciously deal with our internal relationships. The character is how I see me. In contrast, the “Self” is how our unconscious deal with both internal and external relationships. Being unconscious makes it indescribable and unknowable.

This unconscious’ interface to the inner and outer conscious worlds is opaque making it indescribable. Even though “gut feelings”, micro-expressions and other pre-conscious events are physical manifestations of the unconscious Self, it remains unknowable because why these manifestations occur remains unconscious. In other words, even though the Self’s effects can be observed, the causes for reacting the way it did remain unknown.

The Self knows everything about our personality and character and is constantly aware of all our surrounding conscious and unconscious external and internal events. And, the Self is prepared to react. When someone ‘snaps’ or ‘loses it’ and does not know why they reacted how they did, it is the Self that has taken over. Neurophysiologists distinguish between “higher” and conscious reactions that predominately involves the prefrontal lobes and the “lower” and unconscious reactions that predominately involves the amygdala. But, these Self reactions are much more than just the amygdala taking over since the resulting actions are varied and individual. Nevertheless, why the Self reacts the way it did remains unknowable.

Many of the internal ‘voices’ we all hear throughout our lives are conscious manifestations of repressions. These voices are described as the anima or animus, shadow, archetypal parents, inner child and fossilized-at-one(or more)-age(s) us. As repressed these voices are closer to the unconscious Self than our personality or character. As intermediaries, these voices give the Self access to the personality and character. Repressing the Self accessing us is to risk retribution from the Self through personality and/or character disorders. These self destructive behaviors include addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, multimedia and food; depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety and other abnormal behaviors. Acknowledging and accommodating these internal voices through which the Self communicates will help alleviate conscious and unconscious conflicts in ones lives and lets one live a more harmonious life. Our personality and character are in line with our Self.

Another way to reveal the Self is through intimacy. Closeness reveals others to us in our presence while intimacy reveals our Self to us in the presence of another. Closeness occurs with those we are familiar while intimacy is strange and easier with strangers. Being intimate with those with whom we are close is difficult. Paradoxically, the Internet through Internet Disinhibition is a growing form of intimacy.

Journalling, psychotherapy, meditation, conscious dreaming, dreaming, yoga, etc. are ways to acknowledge the presence of the Self and make one consciously aware of its manifestations. This activities are required because the Self’s interface to the conscious is very weak and easily overwhelmed by consciousness unless an noted one ‘snaps’ or ‘loses it’. An effort to clear the conscious to let the unconscious Self communicate is the rule.

Many of us mull, stew or ruminate over a problem or concern until a ‘breakthrough’ occurs. This process eventually allows the Self to breakthrough to the conscious with an insight. Ironically, this breakthrough usually occurs when we are not consciously thinking about the problem or concern; thus, allowing us to become aware of the unconscious Self’s solution. Thus, the “eureka” moment is from the Self.

The Self is wonderfully unknowable yet always present. Being available to the Self’s communications is key to being in the world in good faith to ones Self.

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