One day about six years ago I had a sudden realization about what true self is. I have found the common advice to “just be yourself” was vague and hard to follow. What is “your true self”? How can you know what it is? That has been a difficult one for me because I am a person in constant flux, emotionally, mentally, geographically, even physically. This fluctuating sense of self partly creates the need to make art. After embarking on a path of spiritual growth during graduate school, I began to discover that my true self is whoever I am in the moment. The truth is temporary. And subjective. And subject to constant change. The true self is a stream that is both within us and that we ride on top of. True self is contacted when we are present, spontaneous, integrated. We become familiar with our true self when we slow down and pay attention. When we are mindful.
Children are the best teachers on how to be your true self. Children are constantly changing and growing. They are bursting with spontaneous energy. And their spontaneity is infectious. A healthy child is naturally integrated with mind, body, and spirit. They cannot help but be their true self at all moments because they are living in the present moment. As their guides and teachers in how to survive and thrive in this world, we sometimes need to teach them how to control this irrepressible true selfness. Not destroy it, or ignore it, but to recognize their present truth, and then to look outward to see what else is going on. Part of growing up is realizing we share the world with others and learn how to manage our true nature in balance with others.
Carl Jung’s theory of The Self, the ego, and the individuation process has greatly influenced my personal growth and my work. The true self as seen as the whole self. Jung called it The Self archetype, often symbolized by a mandala (a circle or spiral with a center) to show completeness, as well as no beginning or end. “The Self is the ordering and unifying center of the total psyche (conscious and unconscious) just as the ego is the center of the conscious personality.” (Edinger, Ego and Archetype). Jung believed that we all born with original wholeness (where the ego (which only exists as a potentiality) and The Self are one, and the individuation process is the process of our ego’s separation from The Self. Simultaneously, we become conscious of our ego (our conscious personality) as it comes into being and separates. As our ego develops, we begin to reject certain parts of ourselves that doesn’t feel acceptable, these parts are our subpersonalities, that become our shadow. Our original wholeness becomes fractured, or at least it seems that this is so. As we continue to develop, however, we begin to long for our original wholeness, and these split off parts of ourselves. We reintegrate them by bring them back into the light by accepting them. The process of reintegration is the process of embracing our shadows and integrating our polarities. Archetypes are symbols or subpersonalities that emerge out of the collective unconscious that help this process. Jung is viewed as the grandfather of expressive arts therapy, as he experimented with art making, active imagination, sand play, as tools to aid in the process of individuation. Through out life, we cycle in and out of ego-self separation and reunion. It is a dance that gradually brings us closer to integration. When we are integrated, we live in consciousness of the ego and its needs, but from the perspective of The Self (the totality) and we feel empowered to choose which parts of we want to embody or connect with. These parts of self, or archetypes, can be seen as signs, or symbols that have mutable meanings depending on the person, and the culture that the person exists in. We all have polarities within us, and in the collective culture, and yet we often see ourselves as only one half of a polarity. This is painful partially because we are ignoring significant parts of our truths and our experience, and partially because it is an isolation from our spirituality, or Self. What appeals to me about Jungian theory is its innate multiplicity, it creates more space for all the varied and in-between experiences of being human, across culture, gender and time. In a certain way, I believe Jung was a postmodernist. I continue to use archetypes in my own process of individuation. These are characters that continue to appear in my life, naming them, drawing them helps give me a more playful, curious approach to the sometimes painful experience of development. This has been a rudimentary explanation of a very complex, and beautiful theory. I will write more about Jung and his theories in the future, especially as I continue to gain more knowledge of his work.
This daily web check in gives me consistency while there is so little consistency in my experience of my self. To have this space to check in every day (in whatever way that feels most relevant and true to the moment) is one constant, while all other aspects of life are so variable. I see the site and the whole year (the 365 days) as the integration of all my selves and polarities. By allowing myself to freely flow, but keeping daily track of this flow, I am allowing an integration process of all aspects of self, while still finding a center point (represented by this site.) I have chose the spider web as the mandala, the symbol for The Self. This will become the organizing web map page. And, of course, the spider is a perfect symbol of creativity, wisdom, and the complexities of life.