So, who am I? 3 little words that communicate the biggest question any of us can ever be asked.
For me, answering this question is a lifetime’s work, because the person we all think we know best, we actually know the least. And that’s because, unless you got really lucky when you were growing up, we are not taught to understand ourselves, to be curious about ourselves, nor to observe ourselves and as a consequence, we struggle to understand and connect at a deep, authentic and truthful level with others too.
Instead, we are taught to study subjects that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, are tangible, logical, and quite frankly, easy to write down, assess our competence in, communicate and pass on through the generations. We are given an intellectual and physical education, but not an emotional one – interestingly the most important of all and one I would argue, that is the easiest to teach and actually does not need to be written down, simply demonstrated through our actions and behaviours. Indeed, if we were all to receive an emotional education, I believe that we would avoid much of the loneliness, self-sabotage, suffering, and human conflict we currently live with. As Carl Jung wisely said:
The privilege of a lifetime, is to become who you really are.
And I believe the ability to become who we really are is dependant on each of us receiving an emotional, as well as an intellectual, and physical education. An emotional education is one where we are taught how to understand, observe, and to be curious about ourselves and others, to ask the question, why do we respond to certain things in a certain way, what are our core values, what really brings us joy and perhaps most importantly of all, who were we before the layers of life were painted upon us? And the reason that these and other questions are so important, is that as human beings we are all effectively the walking wounded.
No matter how much our parents and families loved us, our teachers supported us and our friends held our hands, we will all have encountered hurt, betrayal, rejection, failure, and suffering to a lesser or greater extent, it is an indisputable part of being human. And therefore all of us will have our own unique triggers, truths, and beliefs moulded by experience. If we can understand and accept this, we can start to look at ourselves and others with far more compassion and kindness, because we can begin to look beyond the behaviours to their root causes and therefore speak to the inner, vulnerable part of ourselves and others, rather than the egoic, superficial facade so many of us remain trapped in for much of our life. As Wayne Dwyer so touchingly said:
“We have a choice, we can be right or we can be kind”.
And I have no doubt that we have all been driven by the need to be right and as a result suffered conflict, regret, and loss. And therein lies the real tragedy, because being right blinds us to seeing what is really going on at a much deeper and more truthful level. We are so immersed in proving our point that we fail to see the wounds of the other, nor our own, both of which are driving a set of behaviours at odds with one another, when in truth we are just 2 vulnerable, traumatised people trying to find a safe haven. It’s a little bit like having a cut that you ignore and it gets infected, but the problem is because you did not acknowledge the cut, you did not know you had it, nor that as time goes on it is getting worse and causing more pain and more toxicity. Therefore you learn to live with that pain and it becomes your identity, because how can you heal what you do not know is there? It is only when you lift up your covers and have the courage to look below, that you finally see the cut and understand that in order for you to be free from the pain and return to your true, peaceful self, the cut must be cleaned and allowed to heal.
Often our wounds are discovered when they are triggered by others’ actions or words. We can know this by observing our behaviour in an objective, kind and non-judgemental way. It is important to understand what elicits an angry, fearful, defensive or judgemental response, that is precious information we can use to start to really understand ourselves, how our life experiences have shaped us and how we can move beyond them so that each new experience is just that – it is not prejudiced by those that have gone before, we can choose a different response, we can choose not to respond and we can choose not to allow it to inflict yet more wounds. Ultimately, any negative response that ‘puts your hackles up’, brings a knot into your stomach, or pushes you into a justification of some sort, is being driven by a fear of something. As Ram Dass profoundly said:
When I am afraid of something, I come up as close to it as possible and I notice my resistance. I allow myself to just notice the resistance because the resistance intensifies the fear – there’s no doubt about it. Get as close to fear as you can, noticing the boundaries of it, just being with it, seeing it as it is.
And it is through the act of allowing yourself to truly see your fears, to get up close to them, that you can liberate yourself, through simply seeing the raw, unfiltered truth, recognising your wounds, and understanding yourself just a little bit more.
So, answering the question ‘who am I?’ is a lifetimes study for me and that is why I would simply say I am a student of life, exploring all that it has to offer.