Connecting With Your True Self

As young children we inherently embrace the present experience and our true self. Therefore, our happiest and most free moments of existence are often tied to our childhood. As a child I remember following a daily routine of exploring the fenced horse field with my pet dog, and that field felt like it was my world of existence. This is not because I confined myself to that space, but because I only had a faint awareness of everything beyond that space. There was no reason to explore anything beyond the field because there was so much to learn within that area. It was a pure and complete experience of my true self.

A Glimpse of the True Self

During my high school years I had a few glimpses of my true self and a clear mind. I swam for my high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sport. Mostly I loved the competition within each race. The shot would fire to start the race, and my body would simply take over the experience. I was in autopilot mode.

Swim a few strokes; flip turn; repeat.

Bolt to the finishing touch pad.

The race experience was automatic. My mind was clear and I was fully experiencing the movement of my body.

Unfortunately, I slowly began to integrate some borderline obsessions. I was constantly thinking about the next swim meet, which was trumped by the more important conference meet, which was trumped by the more important sectionals meet, which was trumped by the more important state meet. Once the date arrived my day was still about preparing and waiting for the event. The event was exhilarating, but even that started to fade with time. After the event I over-analyzed the experience. How could I have performed better? What should I do to train for the next one? The experience of my true self was only a glimpse.

Culture and the Self

In many ways I feel that our culture does not promote a full embrace of the true self. With time my life evolved to focus on the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of labels, and the pursuit of money. I am willing to guess that everyone has struggled with balancing these factors from time to time.

I thought I had a strong grasp on the human self. I studied the science of biochemistry as well as the psychology of development and interaction. I had also studied and experienced different religious and spiritual perceptions of the self. Each were valuable perspectives, but I was unable to fully grasp the interconnectivity between each topic.

I was constantly formulating perspectives of the world around me, and I did not realize that my perception was often trapped outside of myself. My viewpoint was often intertangled with what a psychologist would describe as an adapted self. The adapted self has lost touch with the intimate identity of the true self, and the adapted self has a primary goal of adaptation to the surrounding environment. I lost touch with my true self.

As I was studying chemistry I had to be flexible. I had to adapt to the new research, and mesh with my research team. In the psychology realm I wanted to help my clients identify their barriers, so they could adapt to their surrounding environment. In the context of religious practices, my goal was to practice the faith with full and complete honesty. My overall goal was to continue to grow, learn, and adapt myself (my adapted self) to the surrounding environment. I thought that was appropriate, and it matched with what I was taught as a child, adolescent, young adult, family member, team player, and employee.

The True Self Vs. The Adapted Self

Near the end of my psychology studies I came to the following realizations:

My ‘adapted self’ became my primary focus and identity

My ‘true self’ was distant and unclear

These realizations were startling at the time. I began to question my helpfulness as a counseling psychologist after realizing that I did not even know my true self. In the field of counseling psychology, a primary goal is to help the client see their world, their sense of self, more clearly. We help our clients find a pathway to step outside of their internal dialogue of entrapment. We help them to see the picture of the true self.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing my adapted self. I questioned why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. Was I doing this to conceptually please my true self, my adapted self, or the people around me?

Throughout my personal process of self-discovery, I was able to help my clients through their explorations as well. I helped my clients question why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. We explored ways in which their adapted self could undergo change for a more productive adaptation to their community. Eventually, we could then question the adapted self and reconnect with the long forgotten, true self.

I learned that strongly holding onto the adapted self inhibits the complete and pure experience of life. I struggled with this realization for 2 reasons.

  • My clients had a strong need to live within the flaws of their adapted self. Most of the time this directly related to their formulated vision of how other people saw them. It was my goal to help them modify this formulated vision for the better. The breakthrough came in directly and positively modifying the adapted self. However, the next step of abandoning the adapted self to embrace the true self was a daunting challenge.
  • I had glimpses of abandoning my adapted self and reaching my true self, but I could not maintain a connection with my true self. If I couldn’t do this for myself, why should I be counseling others?

I had too many goals to accomplish. I was trying to help my clients reach their highest potentials. I was focused on being a good family member, friend, team player, and employee. I saw the light, but I was still entrapped within my adapted self.

Social interaction was my primary concern, and if social interaction was not involved I was intertwined within too many personal distractions: Home repair projects, athletic training, watching tv, speed reading the next book, scanning social media, pursuing more education, and writing more papers. My adapted self had full control over my time.

Even though the consistent experience of my ‘true self’ had risen high on my (adapted self) list of priorities, I (my adapted self) was incapable of letting go. I was incapable of letting go because I fit the social norm quite well. I was physically active, continuously learning, financially supporting myself, saving for retirement, socially involved in several groups, and well-connected with my family. I was getting things done and accomplishing my goals. However, I was trapped within my previous accomplishments and future goals. I was disconnected from the present moment and disconnected from my true self.

I decided to fire my ‘adapted self’.

With more awareness, I learned that my adapted self was too much. My adapted self was requiring relentless effort toward constant achievement. Even my individual practices were becoming obsessions which had secondary benefit for achieving social success. My adapted self had become my identity.

I experienced my true self though meditation.

Firing my adapted self required meditation. Meditation allowed me to ‘see’ my train of thought, and eventually I was able to disconnect from it. I was able to acknowledge entrapment within goals and accomplishments. I was able to see the distance my thoughts had from my true self.

Meditation was not a quick fix for the problem. When I first started the practice of meditation I had maybe a 5-minute glimpse of my true self within the 45-minute practice. This experience reminded me of the glimpses of peace within my childhood. I wanted to experience more of my true self, so I began to focus on the thoughts which were inhibiting me from reaching that goal. I began to realize that focusing on these thoughts, focusing on the problem, was the whole problem! My adapted self really wanted to be re-hired, so it was a sneaky pursuit of re-orientation which happened a countless number of times!

Meditation eventually evolved into a 30-minute pure experience within the 45-minute meditation. My adapted self was gone. My thought director was silent. My goals pursuit coordinator was absent. My history analyst was disappeared. It was a great feeling, yet it was a bit alarming at the same time.

Nothing was in my mind other than the present experience. Rather than noticing that I was breathing, I was in the experience of breathing. Rather than noticing the feelings of my hands on my knees, my hands were simply present and touching my knees. Rather than noticing the feeling of my body sitting on the floor, my body was simply in direct contact with the floor.

No other thoughts were present, and no other thoughts were relevant.

I experienced plenty of regression within my meditation practice, and I still do to this day. I gave some credit to the adapted self earlier, but I just want to clarify that the adapted self is a remarkably efficient mastermind which is very eager to control the mind. The adapted self is a hard worker, forever available, and freely available to you. The adapted self is just waiting for an opportunity to jump back into the scene.

I applied the meditation experience to other practices.

The disconnection from the adapted self cannot be sustained if meditation is your only escape. However, the meditation experience is valuable when applying your true self to other activities. I was able to experience meditation similarities through solitary activities like biking, walking, and gardening. Initially the pure experience did not last as long when I was doing these activities, but similar to my meditation practice, time and practice helped.

Bike on a TrailWith the biking scenario it was certainly important to maintain awareness of the world around me. My goal was to enjoy life, so it was important to remain aware of things like traffic, stops signs, and deadly accidents. The first step to applied meditation was clearing my mind, and the second step was becoming one with the bike. Although the initial step of clearing the mind was more challenging in the applied biking situation, it was much easier to keep my mind clear when I was connected with the process of biking. My body became synchronized with the rotation of the pedals just as much as it was already synchronized with my heart beat. From that point I was able to expand the connection I had with my bike to the world around me. The bike synchronized with the road and the road synchronized with the traffic.

It should be noted that this goal of applied meditation has some competition with the applied self. The preparation for the experience and post experience analysis slowly begin to suffocate the true self. I still have trouble with this from time to time, but I have found ways to limit this from happening

Repositioning Your Adapted Self

The thoughts and analysis will always be there for me. I am not going to retreat to a meditation camp for years at a time to overcome this issue. I hope there will be a social shift which promotes this in the near future, but I don’t think it will happen.

That being said, I have removed my adapted self from the forefront of my mind. In high school my true self was sadly watching my adapted self maintain 99.9% of the operation. Now, my true self maintains at least 80% of the operation, and the ruminating thoughts of my adapted self still sneak in to take the other 20%. My goal is to be at 100%, but here is how I got to 80%.

I literally mapped out my physical, psychological, and rational perceptions and priorities through studying, research, practice and writing. After that extremely lengthy process I concluded that all aspects of my body and mind are only tools allowing my true self to operate on earth. I concluded that I should optimize these aspects so that my true self can fully experience each moment of life.

I continued this journey with an exploration of spirituality. I discovered many similarities and differences between the locally approved religion of Christianity and the mostly ignored religions including Taoism and Buddhism. I chose to practice one religion and continue to fully respect and experience the teachings of other religions. I recognized that religions are only tools. I choose to use these tools to help my true self be the primary operator of my mind and body.

I found that my true self needed to have some disconnection between my physical, psychological, rational, and even my spiritual references. I found that my true self was truly synchronized with the present moment in time. The practice of meditation helped me feel that experience, and I was motivated to apply that in all areas of my life.

Now my true self, my connection with the present moment, is who I am. The thoughts that are ruminating on the past and future have been quieted, and they are further from me. My adapted self has been quieted and repositioned, and my true self is my primary identity.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback and your story!

Applied Meditation

Before our daughter was born I meditated for at least 30 minutes per day. My wife and I would often follow a guided meditation including a few hand motions and about 20 minutes of calm background music. The meditation would then include the following quote:

“Just for today, I am free from anger. I am free from worry.
I am humble. I am honest. I am compassionate toward myself and others.”

Now that practice has been reduced to about 30 minutes per week. I have chosen to title this post ‘applied’ meditation because I have found that I am still practicing components of meditation each day. As I am calming Madelyn before bed time, when she is fussy, or when she just seems interested in hearing me speak, I often state the quote to her. It usually helps calm her, and I feel like it also helps me remain calm. This is especially true during more challenging situations of parenting.

The meaning I feel within the quote:

  • Each day I optimize my psychological self by remaining perceptive to the destructive and counterproductive feeling of anger. Although I accept the immediate emotion of anger, I do not cognitively reproduce or reconstruct feelings of anger into my rational thoughts. I am free from anger.
  • Each day I optimize my rational self by remaining perceptive to the emotions that I feel, and I choose to accept challenges which are presented to me. I follow the drive of my spiritual self and accept the present moment. I am free from worry.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by being thankful. I am not possessive of anything I have or anything I have done. I choose to live in the present, and graciously accept each present moment. I am humble.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by fully exploring the innermost thoughts and feelings I am experiencing. I fully accept what they are, and I learn more about myself. I choose to share my thoughts and feelings with those who would benefit from them. I am honest.
  • Each day I optimize the person that I am so that I can share love with the people around me. I value and care for my physical, psychological, rational and spiritual foundation. I pursue the complete awareness of who I am, and this allows me to pursue a genuine awareness of the people around me. With this fully encompassing awareness I strive to share an open-minded acceptance in all situations. I am compassionate toward myself and others.

The Meditation Experience

I started meditating about 5 years ago, and from the start I felt like meditation allowed me to be a more peaceful individual. I know meditation is a journey which is never mastered, but I was starting to feel very comfortable with my habits and the corresponding peace which had entered my life. Now that Madelyn is here, my meditation habits have changed. I am surprised that the quotes I had repeated for years within my meditation practice have started to synchronize with my daily activities more clearly. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the direct application potentials of meditation.

The experience of silent meditation in a quiet place certainly has its advantages. It is easier to disconnect from the human self and find a place of peace. As the mind starts to wander back into the scene, it is possible to refocus on background rhythm, meditation posture, or a place of peace and drift back to a pure nothingness. The clear mind is certainly a valuable experience. There is a new connection between the mind and the body, and there is a disconnection between the mind and the thought within it.

Applied Meditation

Applied meditation with my daughter certainly has its differences. I am usually holding her, and I am often starting the meditation at random. Also, rather than clearing my mind at the start, I am starting with the meditation quote which I continuously repeat. If I am holding her, laying next to her, or feeding her, I remain fully aware of her physical presence as well as my own. However, the thought within my own mind does eventually disconnect. I simply become present in the room with her.

Both meditation practices allow the experience of pure nothingness, but the applied meditation practice allows me to remain connected with the people around me. Each day I am grateful for the opportunity to experience and share that peace.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, and here is the quick link to the comments!

The Fear of Guilt

As Lorean and I are raising our daughter Madelyn, the choices we make for her seem to be non-stop. With my ties to psychology and obsessions with neurological development, I am known to overthink decisions every once in a while, (or all the time according to Lorean as well as reality). We are trying to provide a loving environment where our daughter can maintain her sense of peace while experiencing the world around her. Decisions including:

Food: times, temperatures, quantities, introductions, allergies, etc.

Sleep: times, habits, positions, environments, consistency, etc.

Family: times, obligations, travels, vacations, meals, etc.

Medical: appointments, doctors, research, medications, etc.

Babysitting: times, cost, selection, etc.

…can be overwhelming from time to time (or all the time). So, then I start to ponder the inevitable question: Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

Unfortunately, that question doesn’t have an answer.

Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

The black and white assessment of right and wrong is an overwhelming weight to carry. If the standard is locked at the unreachable (right) perfection, it would be more accurately described as impossible. The impossible scenario often leads to the feeling of guilt, and with habit and more thought, the guilt is enhanced with fear.

Guilt

According to Merriam Webster, guilt is defined as “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy”. First, let’s assess the components of this definition in more detail:

‘Feelings of deserving blame’

When you feel that you deserve to be blamed, you are identifying yourself as the cause of the negative situation. The feelings associated with this label include fear for the situation itself, and fear for the potential guilt which may occur. There is a potential of experiencing more guilt. Therefore, the feeling of guilt is compounded into a more overwhelming feeling.

‘Imagined offenses’

Something may happen in the future which the family, friends, group, coworkers, or whoever else will not be happy about. There is a fear that the something will happen, and there is a preconceived guilt regarding the potential experience. Personal blame is anticipated due to situational involvement.

‘Sense of inadequacy’

This sense of inadequacy may be a bigger issue to tackle, and it is important to jump right to the specific root of the feeling of inadequacy:

[Let’s imagine I am currently experiencing extreme cycles of the fear of guilt. That was a fairly negative introduction to this topic, and I am personally feeling a little down about things after that analysis. Surely if I am feeling negative then everyone else who reads those descriptions will also be feeling negative. If there is already a fear of guilt factor within the reader I don’t want to impose more negative feelings. I am feeling anxious that the reader will not benefit from my attempt to help. Somehow, I have to make things better for the reader. Everyone will probably end up worse than where they started. I need to delete this whole thing and start over. It would probably be best if I just didn’t post anything on this website. At this moment I am feeling some tension in my neck. My palms are starting to sweat. I am thinking about other faults I have, and I am wandering further into how these faults may have a negative impact on other people.]

If you can identify with similar feelings related to work, parenting, relationships, family, etc., then I have a few considerations and self-assessment work for you.

Considerations

First, let’s take some time to assess the bigger picture. Whether the situation is a couple years within the 4 million years of human existence, or the situation impacts a small group of individuals within the 7-billion-person population of the current earth, it could be argued that the ‘imagined offense’ is not of significant magnitude. Yes, all lives are important, and all time is valuable. Therefore, your time should be allocated for sharing positivity within yourself and with those around you.

Another perspective of the bigger picture might be related to the wrath of your religious leader and/or God Himself. Many religious followers and leaders have thoroughly implanted a fear within the minds of children who accept the affiliation (before their minds are able to differentiate rational choice). Thus, it may be rational to fear the potential scenarios which may damn you to hell. My apologies for sliding right back into a spin of negativity…..

Spirituality offers another helpful perspective of the bigger picture. The following Bible verse from the book of Matthew is one of the most important as well as a personal favorite:

“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

This is a very simple and profound message with 3 important take home points:

1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind

Your spiritual journey must remain fully encompassed within your love for God. Obsessions over personal and/or community issues will distract you from loving God.

2. Love others as much as you love yourself.

Your love for God and your spiritual journey will become distorted and distracted if you do not also share your love with yourself and the people around you.

3. Love yourself

This crucial message is usually grouped with the previous point, especially in the context of current Christian religions. Within the quote the statement was phrased as if loving yourself would be easy and inevitable. Although immediate personal satisfaction could be argued as our current social norm, it has become easy to disconnect from the true love of our human self. I will write more about this later, but personal satisfaction tends to outweigh self-love too much of the time.

If you have fully dedicated your heart, soul, and mind to loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, guilt is minimized. This love is a holistic entity of belonging which is more than right and wrong, it is different than the social norm, and it is a fulfilling experience.

Before we move on, it is important to first clarify a common misconception of love. The picture of yourself which you have created, your ego, will not support lasting or meaningful love. Unfortunately, it is easy to become trapped within our ego. We try to optimize feelings we have for our created sense of self, and these feelings are usually dependent on the guessed opinions of the people around us. The true entity of lasting and meaningful love becomes confusing and clouded. Personal satisfaction jumps up to become the primary concern, and there is an unhealthy dependence on the ‘love’ that other people have for you. Guessing how much you are loved and feeling guilty when optimal levels aren’t reached (or when there is a chance they won’t be reached) becomes habit.

It is time to break the guilt habit and resolve the underlying fear of guilt. Hopefully the enormous time-frame of human existence, the massive human population, and the full dedication of heart, soul, and mind references were helpful, but let’s identify some specific times when you feel the guilt and tackle the issue!

Self Assessment

What specific experiences initiate the cycle of guilt?

Has the situation actually occurred?

If the answer is yes, then you can move on to the next question. If you want to gain more control over the feeling of guilt, or if the answer is no, then it might be best to understand that many future scenarios ranging from the happiness of new life through the emotions surrounding death are quite possible. It is best to fully experience the present moment and share your love with the people around you.

Are you sure you are the primary cause?

If the answer is yes, then it may be more efficient to discuss the situation with the person or group before the negative situation occurs. If the answer is no, then it might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind.

Do you feel that you have not prepared well enough for the situation?

It might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind. If you feel that better preparation would have been beneficial, imagine this as a learning experience which will guide you through the process of preparation for future events.

Do you feel that you are incapable of preparing well enough for the situation?

This is a self-esteem or sense of self-worth issue if you feel that your preparing is always or inevitably lacking. Depending on the accuracy of your assessment as well as the level of the feeling, it may be beneficial to tackle these issues with counseling and other appropriate activities. On the other hand, if I were signed up to run a marathon tomorrow, I would certainly be having that feeling. I have not adequately prepared my body to run the marathon, and that would probably be too taxing for my body to handle. I would have to make a firm decision to either withdraw from the marathon, or pack a couple meals and plenty of water as I begin my casual 8 hour, 26.2 mile walk.

The overall goal is to focus on sharing and experiencing love. Therefore, when the feelings of guilt arise it is best to immediately tackle the issue. Here are a couple options to consider:

Stop participating in the experience if the guilt association is inevitable or it is not in your best interest.

Take a deep breath and accept each moment of experience for just that moment. Your assessment of potential scenarios is now complete, and the step-wise sequence of future events may or may not take place as you have foreseen. Either way it will be a learning experience and it will be a valuable experience for you.

The fix will not happen overnight, and you will have to remake your choice hundreds of times until it becomes natural for you. As you practice the valuable experience of self-growth, it is always helpful to focus on the positives. This applies to yourself and the potential situations which trigger the fear/guilt response.

What positive qualities are you bringing to the situation which may present potential challenges?

What characteristics about the upcoming situation may be interesting, valuable, or beneficial to yourself or others?

If you believe you will start to see progress, that is likely what will happen. However, if there are specific situations which you cannot overcome, it may be beneficial to ask yourself the deeper question: What are the specific reasons I cannot overcome the cycle of guilt within that specific situation? More importantly: What steps do I need to take to overcome the cycle of guilt for that specific situation?

As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Self Awareness

Self-awareness is a general term which fully encompasses the topics I have specified within this blog. As this content continues to grow; more importantly, as you continue to learn, do not forget to step back and re-assess how the knowledge and content relates to your sense of self. Self-awareness is a cyclic process of continuous growth. As children, we experience these cycles for the first time. I am watching my daughter, Madelyn, begin to experience more physical potentials (sitting and crawling) followed by her emotional experiences in response to them. Eventually she will be able to talk about her actions, and one day she will ask about the purpose of learning her next task. The valuable cycles will continue as she begins to apply her physical self to mastering more complex tasks. She will experience more intertwined psychological responses, and she will have a better grasp of the rational pathway of achieving her goals. Her greater purpose will hopefully become more clear as she expands her interactions with the people around her.

How can I improve my sense of self awareness?

Self awareness is a broad and potentially daunting topic, hence why it is minimized and often overlooked by many. To tackle this challenging task it may be useful to itemize the components of who you are as a person. I look forward to relating a few well known references including Maslow’s hierarchy, Erikson’s stages of development, Piaget’s model, and Kohlberg’s theory in later posts. For now it is best to start with a more simple overview.

1. What are your physical health needs?

Many people overlook the critical needs of the human body. We are all dependent on the oxygen in clean air to breath, clean water to hydrate our body, healthy foods to nourish our body, a good night sleep to repair our physical body, and maintenance of the homeostasis potentials within our body. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook these necessities as more complex social challenges inevitably become prioritized. It is always important to keep in touch with your health.

2. What are your psychological needs?

Once your health is optimized, you are able to fully and completely experience the psychology of yourself. You have a psychological need to feel secure and comfortable with yourself, and this allows you to develop healthy relationships with the people around you. This drive to improve yourself and your relationships will also motivate you to follow at least a few social trends which may or may not be optimal for your health.

3. What are your rational needs?

Learning is a lifelong process, and the amount of knowledge which can be attained does not have limits similar to physical potentials. Whether you are eating a meal, interacting with other people, studying a book, or meditating in silence, the ongoing stream rational processing will continue. Each moment you are blessed with the option of applying that stream positively and productively for yourself and for those around you.

4. What are your spiritual needs?

The robotic and repetitive nature of socially defined productivity has minimal value unless there is a greater purpose. While churches aim to assist in helping to define spirituality, it is up to you to truly connect with something more. The support of your spiritual needs helps to fulfill the sense of the human self, beyond the human body and beyond the psychological ego. Spirituality fully encompasses the physical, psychological, and rational self in order to relate with the soul which will be carried into eternity (the ‘location’/specific definitions are up for debate).

As my first blog post I left this fairly general, but please let me know if you have any topics you would like me to discuss in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.