Find out what you think about yourself!

We always carry a self-image or a definition of self in not just our heads but in our actions, postures, and critical decisions we make in our lives. In fact, if we look at ourselves closely, the ‘I’ that exists is that self-image. We’d also like to think that we know ourselves better than others do about us and we are very clear about the self-image we hold within. But the truth is almost always far from it. Self awareness is as scarce as common sense. What we believe consciously to be our self-image is, in fact, the defensive-self or the mask we’ve created to face the world. A mask that we’ve built very early in life and have been developing and polishing ever since.

But the true image we hold of ourselves is very deep in our subconscious minds that it takes some practice of awareness to come in contact with it. We get brief glimpse of it when we are provoked into emotion unexpectedly and in our dreams. There are very simple exercises to find out what is truly our opinion about ourselves.

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Voices in your head are subconscious projections of your self-image

If you’d read one of my previous posts about Voices we carry in our heads (opens in new tab/window), you’ll know that most of the time the arguments we have with other people in our heads are not really arguments with others, but actually an inner conflict. I’ve categorized in that post, the various kinds of voices we carry and it is those voices that provide us with real clues and thoughts about self-image.

These ‘voices’ in our heads are extensions of conflicts we’ve had with others in our lives. For instance, say your spouse said something about you and you found it judgmental – say about your capacity to speak up against your boss, you may or may not argue with your spouse about it, but you then carry around a ‘voice’ of your spouse judging your similarly through your daily activities. And you start an internal argument with that voice and it gradually becomes a part of your daily mental noise.

Now coming back to finding out your self-image through the use of this inner voices we carry in our heads, every time an argument pops up in your head try to look at it dispassionately and without attachment as if you are listening to two strangers speaking to each other at a bus stop. By doing that the first thing you may notice about the voice is that it is not actually a real person speaking to you at that point of time but an imagination on your part. Any voice in your head is a part of your imagination and therefore an extension of your beliefs about yourself and not opinions of others. See what category the voice falls into (see Voices in our Heads for the categories).

Voices of guilt and shame point to a kind of self opinion, like say seeing ourselves as a ‘bad’ person or a ‘sinner’. They may even speak about how ‘deserving’ of something good we feel we are. ‘Put-me-downers’ speak about our opinions about our capabilities. They could also be speaking of the ‘loser’ in us. Morality checks also speak about our guilt – more likely our current actions and our own approval and disapproval of them. Voices usually fall into more than one category since at a deeper level all our problems are interconnected webs springing from our sense of insecurity, self-hatred, and fear.

Once you start trying to find your self-image through this exercise, you may encounter the difficulty of trying to watch your inner arguments being pulled into them. It is an expected difficulty. Just keep on with the practice. Every second of dispassionate observation adds to inner enlightenment. Some ‘voice’ may even start commenting on your inability to stay detached and try to use this activity to feed your mental noise. Just be aware of it, and you will be able to bypass it. Remember, awareness is the key.

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Emotional Drama: Our Addiction to Issues

The subconscious has a penchant for emotional drama. It likes to repeat the daily dramas it has because it the only known way for the subconscious to cope with issues. However, such a repetition can quickly become an addiction and instead of seeking to resolve emotional issues, the subconscious manipulates situations to repeat the emotional dramas. Such emotional dramas are a severe threat to your relationships, personal development, general well-being, peace of mind, and material progress.

Just like us, our subconscious too has a penchant for emotional drama. It prefers to involve itself in the drama of everyday life, or at times, it seeks to create drama out of everyday life! Drama excites us and keeps us alive but at the same time it has the potential to turn into a noose around the neck that holds us from resolving our issues in life and successfully moving ahead.

When we get used to experiencing certain emotions in certain ways we like to repeat that whole emotional graph – of the emotional involvement, the peaking of emotion and the subsequent decline of it. For instance, when a housewife approaches her husband about asking him to let her go to her parents’ place (not considering the fact that she can actually inform and discuss instead of seeking permission) and the husband refuses, the wife goes through an emotional experience of feeling frustration, then helplessness, intermittent sobbing, grousing, finally fighting with the husband and then gaining permission. Now as this cycle repeats itself, the subconscious becomes not only habituated to this emotional graph but also comes to prefer it. The entire emotional experience has become that woman’s comfort zone.

So next time the wife makes a similar request of the husband, the subconscious not only expects the refusal but also wants it badly so it can go through the whole emotional drama again. We are not aware of this at a conscious level. Instead of trying to find a simpler and happier solution for the problem, she is geared to fight, cry, grouse, and pull her hair. And the subconscious has the ability to make true any belief put into it. So everything from the tone of voice to the facial expressions and the timing of her approach is aimed towards inviting conflict instead of resolution.

To give another example, a teenage son can become so used to quarrelling with his father, breaking household items, running out of the house, drinking, and complaining to a sympathetic friend, that he will always approach the problem with the intent of going through the entire graph. Likewise, a father used to beating his head and chest over his children’s misdemeanours and shouting at the wife for bad parenting, always invites such situations into his life. He seeks to vent out his frustrations through these emotional exertions. A girl letting her frustrations take over every time she nears her periods, a disgruntled employee complaining over the unfair load of work allotted to him – let’s face it, we love the emotional drama! Don’t we all love to get drowned in the sadness of Kishore Kumar’s melancholic songs?

Even the stoic suffering of a chronic patient, sacrificial demeanour of an overburdened head of family, silent sobs of a lonely dumped girl, need for mental stimulation for intellectuals, philosophies of loners, impulsive violent outbursts, patriotic fervours all have the dangerous potential to turn into loops of emotional drama.

Why does our subconscious love this drama? To put in simple terms; for the subconscious mind the known is pleasurable and the unknown is painful. When we get used to these emotional dramas it becomes the known way of dealing with crisis. So the subconscious prefers to repeat this than to expend resources on being creative and more constructive. A new approach is unknown and hence fearful.

The more we seek the drama, the deeper we go down the rabbit hole. And this rabbit hole is neither metaphorically therapeutic nor liberating in any sense. The hole is an abyss of self pity or self hatred – a dangerous path of escapism and destruction. The deeper we go, stronger the impulse to ‘play’ the drama.

If our conscious need to get out of crisis is real, then we need to identify dramas of our lives and resist successfully the emotional temptation and the nervous impulse to ‘act out’. Then seek better and harmonious solutions to our problems.

Remember, contrary to conventional thought, it is never too late. You just need to be desperate enough for change and you can extricate yourself out of any rabbit holes and spider webs of life! Get desperate now!

Photo Courtesy: Freedigitalphotos

Suggested Reading:

Mind Drama

It’s Too Late Now

Frustration: Shortcut to Failure

Fighting Parents and Nervous Children