Hello! Before I dive into today's topic I'd like to summarize some relevant points from recent blogs:
Despite what we have been taught to believe, there is no one "me" on the level of identity that is consistent through time.
This thing that we call the "personality" is, rather, a collection of identities that assume control of the body/mind in response to particular circumstances.
Who we each are authentically is not the personality.
Our authentic nature is awareness.
If we identify with the personality (i.e., with the various aspects of the personality as they come and go) then we will suffer: we will experience the angst, the confusion, and the fear inherent in a separate self. If we "identify" with awareness then we free ourselves from the personality and begin to access the peace, compassion, belonging, and contentment that we long for.
So far so good. There is at least one piece still missing, however, to make this picture complete. As we step out of the personality and into awareness, what happens to the identities that we leave behind?
Before we can answer this question we will need to get clear on exactly what these aspects of the personality are. Are they illusory, or are they real? Neither, I would say--or, more exactly, their reality is relative and depends upon the place you are looking from. Each of our identities is the response within conditioned mind to some kind of trauma. You might think of them as children who have become lost in time. At one point you were going along, being the unselfconscious child that you were, and then suddenly something happened (a parent yelled at you, another kid called you names, you were made to believe that what you had done or who you are is not okay....) that caused you to abandon that state of innocence and go into a state of survival. Our identities are the strategies we adopted to survive in a world in which it was not safe to be ourselves. Over time as the traumas piled up we learned to live in survival all the time, which is the same as to say that we learned to avoid our authentic nature entirely and identify with these strategies instead.
For example, a major message I received as a child is that I am not good enough, that I do not have value as I am. This is absolutely untrue (as it is for every person), but it was made to seem true to me through a series of events in which I was punished for being spontaneous, for expressing myself, and for experiencing my adequacy to life. Over time I learned to protect myself from the pain of this process by identifying with several "subpersonalities": a good little boy who tries (and fails) to do everything right, a rebel who resists authority, a victim who believes that the world is unkind and unfair and permits no real happiness, a runaway who hides from people with the hope that the trouble will just go away if he doesn't pay attention to it, and so on. Living on the level of these identities did not prevent the pain from happening; it did create a state, however, in which the pain was always there, but with less intensity and no element of surprise, and in which I was always defended against it. For most people, unfortunately, this is the best substitute for real living.
Once we learn how to disidentify, how to let go of the survival system and step back into awareness, then a new possibility opens up: we can take care of the various parts of ourselves in such a way that the trauma is actually healed. Who we are authentically is not just awareness; we are also compassion. We each are the compassionate, loving acceptance that we all needed and failed to receive as children. This is the exquisite mystery within the entire process I'm describing: what we each need to be whole and to live truly lies within, and it has been there the whole time. We can provide the loving acceptance for ourselves, the want of which has had us spinning and reeling through all sorts of trouble all our lives.
Nifty, huh? And so (to follow the theme from the past number of blogs, that our outer is a mirror of our inner world), how does this work on the level of society? More about that in the next blog.