When the noise in your life dies down for a moment, or something happens which rocks you to your foundations, you might get in touch with a very deep question. Who am I really?
Going there can be a terrifying or life-changing experience. Sometimes, it takes the loss of a loved one, or losing a relationship or job to stop you in your tracks in that way. A question opens up about what is meaningful and important.
If I’m not this…partner, employee, home owner, friend… then who or what am I? It can be like waking up and seeing yourself for the first time.
An identity that you had, as a competent colleague, or a dutiful girlfriend or boyfriend, a loyal friend suddenly comes into question.
When you strip that away, or it is taken from you, it can be very unsettling. But what makes it so?
When you get too attached to one way of being
Often what happens is that you can become over attached or identified with one way of being, to the point where other ways of being get forgotten or distanced as irrelevant or unhelpful.
That way of being probably helped you survive difficulties earlier in life, defending against disappointments or feeling unwanted or unloved.
For example, if your main way of operating in life is as a pleaser, always bending to accommodate others, it could feel very uncomfortable to ask yourself, what would I be if I didn’t do that? More than uncomfortable, it might feel very scary.
The key question is, does being that way serve you still? Does it make you happy and content or does it leave you with some sense of unvoiced frustration at others or yourself?
Here’s another example. If you find yourself always coming to the rescue of others, whether friends or colleagues, what would it be like to sit back and do nothing. And who would you be if you weren’t the rescuer?
These are profound and challenging questions. They call in to question long lived ways of being and dive into the heart of who you are.
Finding your patterns
The process of Psychosynthesis counselling, is about coming into awareness of these patterns and behaviours and to question whether they serve you.
Together, we delve into those deeper questions of identity, bringing other parts of yourself which have remained hidden or marginalised, back into the light. The goal for this work is that you can then actively chose, taking the example above, whether to rescue or not, rather than defaulting to that behaviour, because that’s just what you’ve always done.
Alongside that growing awareness, we also start to ask the profound questions of your life’s calling. Who are you meant to be in this world? These are difficult and potentially life-changing questions, because when you start to listen to and hear that inner calling, it can’t be ignored.
Like a constant drumbeat it starts to penetrate into all aspects of your life. Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey, captures this existential awakening so well, when she writes that setting out on our life’s journey to be all we can be, the only thing we can do is to save the one life we can… our own.
When you start to listen to the drumbeat in your life, you begin to hear more of who you are and what you want to be. Perhaps it confirms to you that you are on the right path, or it awakens you to the potential of taking another direction in your life.
This week’s life line
This exercise is about connecting with that deeper sense of who you are.
Take some space, settle into a relaxed seating position and focus on your breathing.
Imagine yourself in a long corridor, with many doors, each opening on to another possible avenue in your life.
Make your way along the corridor, opening each door. Behind the door you will find a version of yourself.
As you open the door, say to yourself, behind this door I am…
Go as far along the corridor as you can, opening the doors onto possible versions of yourself.
When you are done, make a note of all those you can remember, whether it be one or two or many.
Take some time to be with this list. Did it confirm what you already know or did it open more horizons for you?
If you are struggling with who you really are…
I offer counselling and psychotherapy in Totnes, Paignton and online, with a supportive and gentle focus on life purpose and life direction. If you would like to explore more of who you are or could be, why not get in touch?