OUR SELF IMAGE
The Mantra: Na’ham
Our self-image almost only consists of old, obsolete patterns stored
in our memory and mechanical, deadening identifications
whose total sum is a prison within us.
To which extent are you aware of it?
Are you concerned about it?
To which extent?
How does it make you feel?
a) The issue is introduced by this observation:
Our self-image has not been consciously created by us
but by all the influences and conditionings that we have been exposed to in the past.
It exists ONLY as a chemical-electrical activity
in some neurons banks of our brain.
IT HAS NO OTHER REALITY AT ALL.
By identifying ourselves with our thoughts, ways of living, emotions, our so called personality, etc, we ended up with a certain false image of ourselves, and then reaffirmed and energized it so many times that it became very strong and hard to change.
Now you will have to dismantle it piece by piece
to become who you really are.
Do you want to do it?
If yes, will it be for you a work of pain or one of joy?
No, “a bit of both” won’t do.
How would you change your self-image?
As Rumi said:
You think you belong
to this world of dust and matter.
Out of this dust you have created
a personal image and forgot
the essence of your true origin.
The problem with this is that until we have already done a considerable amount of work on ourselves,
our self-image, the conviction of being like this or like that is based on the ego
and is so deeply rooted that examining it often brings about
some insecurity or even a lot of anxiety.
How will you deal with it?
Wu Hsin asks:
Over the course of your life
your image of yourself
Wu Hsin wants to know
why you convey
so much power
to something so undependable?
How would you answer Wu Hsin’s question?
The Course in Miracles warns that:
You keep asking what it is you are.
This implies that the answer is not only one you know, but is also one
that is up to you to supply. Yet you cannot
perceive yourself correctly.
You have no image to be perceived.
What does this imply?
It means that:
whatever self-image of yourself you may have
it is bound to be a false one.
b) Our self-image consists of:
– A visual image of our face, our body as seen in the mirror
which works like the icons in the computer and contains all the rest of our surface being;
– Countless preferences, inclinations and repulsions:
we like more a certain type of literature, entertainment, sport, music, food, clothes, etc, and it seem so natural to that usually we do not even asks ourselves why.
– Various belief,
often not in harmony or even in conflict with each other, judgments and ways of thinking, considering this right or wrong, that to be avoided, this “indispensable” etc.
– Memories of our past as interpreted by our mind,
each with its own leftover positive or negative emotional charge,
– Projections and expectations of the future,
conscious or unconscious emotional scars and wounds, etc.
However, we have never consciously decided to have all such preferences, repulsions, beliefs, tendencies, etc:
they are all programs which have been set into the computer of our brain by others,
by our whole culture without your permission and often also
without even our awareness of it.
Our self-image is as impermanent
as a small cloud in a windy sky
How does this make you feel?
As Wu Hsin noted,
This narrative of a self is a collection of past experiences and encounters that are selectively filtered and reframed
to maintain a persistent characterization of who we think we are and more importantly, how we would like to be perceived by others.
Although our image of ourselves changes over time, something subtle
remains unchanged. Rabid pursuit of this
yields a final understanding.
Your self-image is as ephemeral as a play of light
dancing on the surface of water
and so does Nisargadatta Maharaj:
You are not who you think yourself to be, I assure you. The image
you have of yourself is made up from memories
and is purely accidental.
c) A negative self-image is caused by our parents, teachers
or other persons for us important who:
– Forced us to conform to their systems of belief
and codes of behavior, repressing our natural and spontaneous inclinations;
– Compared us unfavorably with others who supposedly
were better than us at school, sports, social interaction, etc;
– Denied us the attention, affection, love that we needed.
While remaining identified with a negative self-image we feel unworthy, unfulfilled, incapable to love yourselves, and this makes us dependent on so many things: material possessions, our family, a religion or system of belief, etc, and all this
makes our self-image even more
of a prison.
To which extent does this apply to you?
The way that Robert Brau put it is:
All your life you pretended to be someone else, and
it turns out that you were someone else
pretending to be you.
Are you still pretending to be someone else?
Are you SURE?
If you feel compelled to hold unto, reaffirm and always defend your self-image
peace of mind is impossible because then everything
becomes unreal, and there can be no joy,
no love at all in unreality.
Have you at least considered letting go of you self-image?
It is just a deception.
d) Let us repeat it once more:
the self-image that we have of ourselves
is not really ours,
but merely the result of all the programs that others – our family, culture, etc
set in the computer of our brain; a confused
amalgam of contradictory elements.
To make just a few examples, if you had been born:
– In a mountain village in Afghanistan
as a man you would probably feel that even if you are very wealthy unless you have a horse and a gun you are worthless, a nobody; and as a woman that showing even just your naked face to a male who isn’t your husband, brother or father is a hideous SIN.
– In a traditional Brahmin family in Gujarat or rural Bihar in India
you probably would be firmly convinced that eating a hamburger is the most terrible thing you could possibly do, worse than killing a hundred children – the cow is reputed to be holy.
– In Italy
you probably would eat pasta almost every day…
One of the main problems with the self-image is the cultural habit
of always comparing our situation with the one of others: of course there is always someone who is or seems more beautiful, successful, intelligent, taller, stronger, richer or whatever, and when this kept being pointed out to us by our parents or schoolteachers
we end up with an inadequate or even very negative self-image
of ourselves undermining our self-confidence.
How is your self-confidence?
If not so great, how will you improve on it?
The very first step is realizing and never forgetting
that the self-image IS NOT YOU.
But who are you then?
d) The self-image is a bit like a fantasy or daydream
that we keep telling ourselves again and again:
until we appear to be just that, but first or later reality
will tear it to pieces.
Prepare yourself for it.
through a process of dis-identification.
Jim Morrison noted that:
We’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used
to their image, they grow attached to their masks.
They love their chains.
They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.
Let us repeat the main point that Nisargadatta Maharaj made:
You cannot possibly say that you are
what you think yourself to be!
Your ideas about yourself change from day to day and from moment
to moment. Your self-image is the most
changeful thing you have.
It is utterly vulnerable, at the mercy of a passerby. A bereavement, the loss
of a job, an insult,
and your image of yourself, which you call
your person, changes deeply.
It is recorded that a new dervish from a wealthy family who had recently joined the congregation obviously considered himself better that the others and expected to be given preferential treatment.
The Kabuli instead gave him the humblest job in the congregation, cleaning up the barn and gathering the camel’s dung to be used as manure.
When he looked displeased the Kabuli told him:
When you create for yourself an image which does not correspond
to the one that the Compassionate meant for you…
you are in the clutches of the Deceiver!
The Veil turns our self-image into something like a drug,
a hypnotism, a compulsion driving us around in all sorts of dead end, and while we are still identified with it all we can do, any religion, prayers, Yoga, any courses we may attend will be of limited use
because while we are still identified with our old self-image
we are not really here in any true sense, and then
nothing we do can bring us very far.
In the Dreamgame, our self-image is like the “avatar” of a video game,
the “personage” with whom we play in it: until we can do without it altogether we should make it strong, happy and joyful, as powerful and loving as possible,
for then no external circumstance will any longer disturb us, or at least
much less than before and eventually we will become free
of any negative reaction whatsoever.
you are its PLAYER of the Dreamgame of your life, not its “avatar”,
which is… your false self-image.
The Devil’s Advocate:
You ARE your self-image!
You can always exchange it for another, no problem, go right ahead, but to live without it is the fasted road to a mental asylum!
Hold tight to your self-image and never lose if, for to what else can you ever hold to?
Without it you would be lost in the void!
Your self-image, made of memories of the past, does not
correspond to who you really are now, if it ever did,
for since it was made you have changed.
Through your self-image you have been possessed, dominated,
controlled, moved around by external influences
like a puppet on invisible threads.
How does this make you feel?
You will only begin to really live after becoming free of it,
or at least transformed it into one in harmony
with the truth of your being.
Words of Power:
May every last trace of my old self image
be utterly erased.
I am not my self-image and have
never really been.
How clearly can you see this?
If not much, become aware that you have a resistance to accept it.
Ask yourself why.
The wish to get rid of your false self-image should be equal
to the need to breathe when drowning.
Until this wish is intense enough, you will remain its slave.
How does this make you feel?
When Vijay began to understand the unreality of his own self-image his first reaction was, like almost everyone at first, to go into denial and run away from it – in just about all the wrong directions.
But he was a real hard case; you ought to manage it better than he did!
From “The Quest”
Looking inside myself I used to see only the past: a restless crowd of attitudes, preferences, inclinations, opinions, dislikes – clearly this is not what I am, for they change all the time: the introvert child in me, the philosopher, the revolutionary, the Flower Child are no more:
all the self-images I identified myself, believed in utterly,
WERE NEVER REAL.
So what about the image of myself that I have now?
It looks like the sum of all my present qualities, merely an electrical – chemical activity in yet another labyrinth, the one of the neurons of my brain.
Emil Cioran rightly said that
“If we could see ourselves with the eyes of other people
we would instantly disappear.”
I asked myself: which is my real being?
Here the mind breaks, because the “I” seems to be
just another thought,
merely more persistent, more deeply rooted than the rest –
so elusive and superficial, taken for granted by all,
does it really exist?
And when I tell myself, I must discover who I really am, this will is already at war with old formations from the past?, a civil war within me…
Question/ko’han 1 to 5:
In what does your self-image consists?
What of it you like to keep?
What of it would you rather discard?
What would you change in it?
Question/ko’han 6 and 7:
The Divine has given you one face
and you make yourself another.
Are you aware that you did such a thing, however unconsciously?
How will you recover the true face which the Divine gave you?
Mère has the last word:
This sense of one’s person becomes like a cage,
like a prison enclosing you, which prevents you from
being true, to really know, really have power,
to truly understand yourself.
It is like closing yourselves in very hard shell,
and then be forced to remain there.
1) List all the various elements in your self-image
which are not in harmony with the truth of your being, with what you really are.
– Decide how to deal with them.
– Draw a list of all major elements
which make up your self-image, for example: I am
– A spiritual person – a good guy – a victim – responsible…
– A father – a mother – a friend – a lover – a husband – a wife…
– An artist – an athlete – a businessman – a revolutionary – an ordinary person…
– A fan of the X sport team – a Christian – a Theosophist – a sannyasi –
a social worker…
– A healer – a psychic – very rich – very poor – someone always unlucky…
– I am…
– Then imagine yourself and, even more important,
see yourself without these aspects,
without holding to even the special ones to whom you are particularly attached to or consider the best:
in this practice, let go of them all.
2) Consider these words of Patricia Cota-Robles:
From the time you were born, you came to the conclusion of who you are by how the people in your life treated you,
and the things that happened to you on a daily basis. With the often erroneous interpretations you made about your life through your limited consciousness,
you developed a sense of identity that is based in low self-esteem,
unworthiness, and failure consciousness.
That distorted belief about who you are was recorded in your etheric records and your subconscious mind and has influenced every facet of your existence to this very day.
No matter how hard you try to improve your life,
it is impossible for you to transform your life into what you want it
to be while holding those erroneous beliefs,
actually lies, about yourself.
3) Meditate on these words of the Dalai Lama:
Our ego is always clutching on, at all costs, to a cobbled together
and makeshift image of ourselves,
an inevitably chameleon charlatan self that keeps changing, and has to,
to keep alive the fiction of its existence.
– Strive to find instead
who you REALLY are
1) These two verses of Ungaretti:
As an ephemeral image myself I recognize,
in an endless circle caught.
2) These verses from the Poems:
Surreal poetry and prose I liked, intense women,
Beethoven and Bach, minerals and gemstones,
creative writing, forests, mountains and deserts,
against a strong player a game of chess or Go
and more recently healing and teaching Yoga;
much longer the list of my dislikes used to be.
yet all my manifold inclinations and repulsions
never added up to what I am all…
After a rock I moved in my garden
a long line of ants run berserk all around
the place where their home’s roof
no longer was.
This reminded me
of when my old self-image dissolved at last,
like lost children countless fragments of myself
panicked and hovered around for quite a while
desperately trying to come back to me,
to exist, to manifest in the world through me,
but merely a distant echo are they now.
3) This poem of Yeats:
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
The finished man among his enemies?
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
My self-image…such a strange phantom really was,
with no reality at all the main Role claiming!
Now that it is gone at last where it came from
and where it vanished no longer matters at all.