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Gnothi seauton

Know thyself

I am what one would consider a ‘spiritual teacher’. But one who is inspired by the Delphic maxim : Gnothi seauton! Or in plain English ‘know thyself’. Socrates expanded on this concept by stating that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Many centuries later Shakespeare reworded the concept by quoting “to thine own self be true”. They are all different ways to describe authentic living, and being authentic is not easy. You may think you are yourself, but trust me; you are not. Matthew 7:3 – “And why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not notice the beam in your own eye?” Nowadays a psychologist would refer to this as ‘a blind spot’.

We are our behavior, not necessarily who we say we are. The words we speak are a projection of ego and usually that image is how we want to be seen. Flawless. Good. We have actually copied most of our identity from our parents, and later in our teens from our heroes. Many kids changed themselves to how their parents wanted them to be like. And so the psyche of most individuals was shaped by what ‘they’ wanted for us, projected on us, but that is not who you were born as. Your own preferences were essentially wiped away. Or to be more precise; you as a child changed yourself because you wanted to be a good kid, right? Society stigmatizes kids with issues. And it fails to recognize where the problems really come from.

There are even more complex mechanisms at work in most people, like shame displacement and projection. If you want to know the effects on a child; shaming is devastating, you have no idea. I get to talk to people who have been suffering all their lives because of some ‘minor’ incident in their youth, except there are no minor issues. Such trauma’s create subconscious triggers, what one could observe as complete powerlessness, compensated by ego and expressed as passive-aggressive behavior and denial. Denial is an indication of an uncomfortable truth an individual is unable to deal with. I have been studying these mechanisms for years now. I have of course resolved the cause of all these subconscious triggers in myself, haha! This took me nine years and it was an intense process of observing my emotions and responses… Or to be more precise the attempts by my own ego to not acknowledge the emotions I have. Ego is very cunning in using motivational reasoning as a way around shame and ego death.

Ego death is very complex. Ego death is a ‘complete loss of subjective self-identity’. The term is used in various intertwined contexts, with related meanings. In Jungian psychology, the synonymous term psychic death is used, which refers to a fundamental transformation of the psyche. In essence, your own ego fears death which is a natural function of the psyche. You need a healthy ego to be aware of danger. But at the same time, it prevents you of being your true self. However, this is the door to freedom and it turns out was also discovered by Socrates; The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing…. 

Know thyself, Roman mosaic.

Can you admit to this ancient truth? It starts by realizing consciously the possibility exists you could be wrong. About everything. The world, people, family, your mother and your father, yourself. How much do you really know about them, or is it more likely you have assumed 99 percent of what you think you know? And then there is more to discover. You have to take a good look at your personal boundaries. Are you staying true to yourself? Or are you believing everything they tell you without scrutinizing? We also like comparing ourselves to others. The reptile brain does this for various reasons but mainly to feel better about ourselves. People are so self-conscious nowadays. Ego wants to avoid shame desperately and is easily offended, it isn’t funny. Nope. Finding and being yourself is exceptionally hard, and it was like climbing out of a box of beliefs I built myself to protect my precious feelings. Becoming vulnerable is the keyword here. But at the end you will realize this. When you arrive at a mindset where you do not conceptualize of yourself as an individual, but as being part of your social group having no fear to show your emotions, then you’re there. That is what true authenticity means. And that is the moment when the fun begins.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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