"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom."
- Laozi, The Daodejing
If we yearn to become awake or conscious individuals (the spiritual terms for being at peace with both our inner strengths and weaknesses and those of our world at large), one of the best things to do on a routine basis is to conduct a check-in with ourselves. This is similar to an assessment that evaluates the many aspects or areas that give structure, duty and meaning to our existence.
Viewing our many selves through different lenses: our professional, social, personal and spiritual selves; are the usual components of this check-in. From this, we can acknowledge the condition in which we see our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes we do so in an over-simplified way of judging: satisfied or dissatisfied. This, in itself, is problematic because we are much more dynamic and multifaceted, with complex emotions that go beyond satisfied or dissatisfied.
Many people are also hesitant to do any real self-analysis because the connotation of self-analysis naturally brings to mind traditional psychotherapies, which can be seen as invasive or tend only to highlight what was wrong in the past and how it led to what is making us unhappy now.
Another hindrance for some is that traditional “talk therapy” is usually administered in individual or group- sessions that can naturally take a lot of time to build a comfort level, background knowledge and properly flowing rapport. It is no small thing how emotionally draining it can be to admit we have difficult but poignant issues. What if instead, we had a way of looking at ourselves that was more explorative, creative, generous and gave us the type of insight that is expansive, instead of just something static and general?
"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."
- Carl Jung
The Myriad Paths to Self -Discovery
Self-discovery methods of inner probing are not meant to highlight the problems we want to fix in our lives because there will always be things we want to improve - whether it is something about our physicality or our status. Instead, one of the most signifying traits of being on a path of enlightenment and self-discovery is not forcing ourselves to immediately get busy on improving ourselves, but to sit and be a witness to all the selves we are. Somehow, we must not use the information we have gleaned in the process to force change upon us or, worse yet- others around us, but rather invite change or solutions to come to us organically.
Walking on the path of self-discovery might be more attractive when we see it not as yet-another self-help project but a journey wherein we celebrate the conditions (people, knowledge, actions, places, things, etc.) that are beautiful, healthy and clearly already working hard to support our highest good. When we know how to focus our attention on finding what is bringing us joy in our lives, no matter how small or irrelevant it might appear, then we also have insight into developing unique coping mechanisms that we can always rely on to get us through difficult times. The best part of the journey of self-discovery is that it never has an ending, just more paths that appear before us to continue our discovery.
“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end - you don’t come to an achievement; you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
Methods to Understanding the Madness!
In this month’s issue, I will introduce innovative ways to open the window into our inner worlds. Some of the methods might be familiar. In fact, you might have done something similar such as a Meyers Briggs personality test, but these methods I will introduce are not simply about labeling our personalities through our answers, rather, they are about looking deeply at the answers to even challenge our own beliefs to truly see if our vision is accurate or perhaps a bit distorted.
Some self-discovery methods will require the knowledge and perceptions that others have about us: our partners, children, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. You might be surprised to find out that the grocery clerk you have seen every week for the last ten years and talk to regularly might have some unknown, astute and jaw-dropping insights about who they perceive you to be. Even if others’ assessment of us is totally off the mark, the knowledge it elicits will encourage us to delve deeper into our own belief systems, our dreams and our behavioral patterns to empower us to challenge our conception of what we bring to the collective table of life.
The Johari Window is one such technique that uses information given to us by others to help us better understand our relationships. This method was created by psychologists in 1955 and was commonly used in corporate workplaces as a heuristic exercise - something that is problem-solving in nature, which provides perhaps not always the optimal solution, but one that will be satisfactory to create progress. The Johari process is often fashioned in grids for information or a house with rooms. One person is chosen as a subject and then chooses adjectives from a list that they feel describes their own personality and are put in a grid by it. Next, others who are participating get the same list of adjectives and pick words that they feel represent the subject, and those adjectives are put in lists next to each other in the adjacent grid.
If we could see these lists as rooms, it would be described as four rooms: one room has a list of the adjectives we would use that clearly describe us, the second room houses the adjectives that others would use for us, and we are possibly unaware of (Yikes!). The third room has adjectives that describe what we know about ourselves but choose to keep hidden from others. The last room is the unconscious part of ourselves that no one gets to see, including ourselves, but we know sometimes we feel it.
This is just a brief description of the Johari system, but if it interests you, then you should read up about it further to understand what the meaning of it all leads to and how to assess it. Next month, I’ll discuss the enneagram as a tool for deeper self -discovery.
By: Jyoti Paintel, Spirituality Contributor.