This is something that I often have to tell myself, of myself, for myself.
Notice a lot of the ego present in that first sentence? Actually, it’s all about breaking out of the ego, out of the preconceived notion of myself that I created that in the end imprisons me.
Let me back up.
I was the kind of guy that if you asked me to go somewhere or do something out of my comfort zone, I would tell you point blank that “I don’t do that kind of thing”. Or I would stop myself from doing something because I felt that I wasn’t the kind of person who did that kind of thing. Only those kind of people go the club, or rock climb, or go to bed past a certain time. Me? I wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t on my ego’s pre-approved List of Things I Am And Do. You see, over the years, my ego has created a faux me. It’s what I think I am. I would call it a facade, but it’s too soaked through me.
Psychotherapist D.W Winncott talks about the “False Self” and the “True Self”. The False Self, in essence, is the persona created that acts a defense against other people’s expectations, of an environment that felt unsafe or overwhelming, and covers the True Self. The False Self is based on hiding the True Self from itself. It often contradicts what the True Self stands for. The True Self, on the other hand, is the “real” self, the spontaneous, authentic self. So I go through the motions of life at times that goes against the grain of who I really feel that I am. I have always felt that I was boxed into something that I didn’t want to be in. I often felt that inner voice, that Conscious Contact as I call it now, pulling me one way, and my ego pulling me the other way. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was starting to construct a pen for myself that later would confine and define me. And as I went through life, that friction of False vs. True started to heat up, and I was in a place where the only thing that cooled it down was liquor. Alcohol not only lessened the pain of moving against how the Creator made me and wanted me to be, but ironically, pushed me further into places that were certainly not the True Me. How many times had I woken up or sobered up, recounted the horrors of my actions and words, then thought “That’s not like me”. Indeed.
It’s in sobriety now that I see these things, of course. Separated from alcohol, and working the steps as I do, I have seen my truth open up like an origami bird and following the once complicated object slowly turn into a flat (ish) piece of paper. Simplification. So what is my True Self? Oh dear, isn’t that question of our lives? I am still finding out. Like the sculptor who chips away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant, I am slowly chipping away at the parts of myself that aren’t authentic to me. I know they aren’t authentic because I can just feel that they aren’t authentic. When I go with my will instead of the Creator’s will, it’s inauthentic…and it needs to go. And how do I do that? Easier said than done! If I could wish away my selfishness, my pride, my worry about what others think of me, then I could have easily have wished away my drinking. I wish.
I simply take the actions that go against my False Self. Simple. I have to strike down the things that bind and constrict me to me and life. I have to come to the world, and myself, with an open mind. I have to come with an open heart. I need the willingness to go ahead and break down what it is that defined the old me. On a more surface level, the answer to “Hey, wanna go the musical tomorrow night?” goes from “Hell no, I don’t do musicals”, to “Sure, I’ll check it out, never been to one.” And with a simple turn like that, I am on my way. (I actually don’t mind musicals, by the way, but don’t expect me at Snow White anytime soon). But at a deeper level, I have had to realize that there were a lot of prejudices, old thoughts, old patterns of behavior that once I thought defined me that now no longer serve me. And it’s difficult to just put them in the remainder bin. There are things I question still, but that I know that I need to get rid of. It’s only through prayer and meditation, awareness and willingness that allow me to move past my False Self.
It’s a wonderful thing to behold, as the changes slowly make their way through and in me, and I can feel the state between False Self and True Self smoothing out, gravelly friction relenting to finer sand. I am no longer in the pen, fences blocking me from myself…the gate is open and I am learning to dismantle the fence.
I am no longer my own warden.