Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Self Image

I guess that many of you know, that the human brain, whenever it sees an image - don't be fooled into thinking that it's the eyes that see-, fills up the details of that image by its own accord, as indicated by previous experience. It does this for the sake of economy, for saving valuable energy. Thinking about this function of our brain, I came to realize, that we paint the mental picture of who we are -our personality-  in the same way. The image we have for ourselves, is a collection of memories and past experiences, hardly ever questioned or explored on a deeper level, in reference to their validity and meaning. The features of our personality often consist in the impressions made by certain events of our life, i.e. the praise of our teacher at the elementary school, the offense of our schoolmate, the betrayal of a loved one, the time we pushed our limits, etc and the consequent reactions caused by them. Those reactions determine who we believe we are and we tend to regenerate them whenever we come across to similar situations or people in our everyday life. But what If we tried to break that vicious circle of mechanical reactions? many of them are pointless and void and they lead to negative situations rather than creative solutions.

I invite you to notice how each one of us adopts various attitudes, depending on the person or situation we have in front of us. We act in a certain way when we are in the presence of our parents, in another way when we are with our friends and yet differently when we talk to our boss. We change masks and roles all the time and we do this with extreme ease, almost mechanically. I'm not saying that this is necessarily bad, on the contrary it can be very convenient,  but it becomes a problem when it happens without any awareness - which is the case of most of us. How conscious can we be in our interactions with others if this chameleon behaviour happens so automatically? At times, we slip even deeper into unconsciousness and we get stuck in one or two of those roles and we act according to what we think the proper reactions for that role should be (or rather we don't even think about them, we just act without any awareness).

Think about it for a moment and see how many of our (re)actions happen without any sense of logic or purpose. They happen just because we are used to reproduce them for many many years. They are those actions that give us an identity, a sense of self. The problem lies in the fact that many of those attitudes derive not from our own, conscious choices, but from the need to live up to the expectations of other people, be it our parents, our friends, the society in general. Trying to eliminate what we consider to be a  negative aspect of the self can be very hard, as we soon realize that the Image has become an entity in itself, who will struggle to stay alive, no matter how malicious or destructive it may be.

Our reluctance to redetermine ourselves while life and situations shift around us and our attachment to that rigid sense of who we are,  is the source of many personal disasters and dramas. And the ultimate (self) hypnosis.

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