Self and Self-Discovery

Who am I, really?

Posted Jul 23, 2012

Who am I, really?

In my search to answer this question, I realized that one level of authentic engagement is to develop the practice of listening, in the moment, to what is going on inside of me -- my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, memories, and dreams.

Jim Bugental, Ph.D, a renowned existential humanistic psychotherapist, called this listening practice inward-searching. He wrote that it is the process we all use when pondering a life issue and most of us do this without much awareness. For inward searching to be truly effective and life changing, we must listen to what is going on inside of ourselves while maintaining an expectation of inward discovery. This goes against the cultural tendency to identify with what we already know about ourselves and stop the exploration there. When we have an expectation of self-discovery, we will surprise ourselves with what we uncover.

The effect of this subtle and intentional type of listening is that I will peel back the layers of my defense mechanisms just like peeling away the layers of an onion. In that process, I discover more truly who I am. It’s opening up to what is not conscious and bringing it into my consciousness. This allows me to realize who I am in the moment, and in turn, allows me to live my life more fully because I can now make conscious choices based upon who I really am.

To experience this practice of self-discovery, have a friend ask you the question, Who are you? Then, answer with the first thing that comes to your mind. Your friend then asks Who are you? again. You again answer with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue the process of asking and responding for about five minutes. What you will uncover may surprise you as you delve into deeper levels of knowing who you are. You may start out by answering with the roles you have assumed in your life (I’m a dad, a husband, a therapist, a tennis player, etc.) then as the exercise continues you may realize who you want to be but haven’t yet become (an author, a singer, a gardener). You may then move into thoughts and feelings you were not completely aware of (a vulnerability or confidence you didn’t know you had). The point is you will get in touch with the depth of who you are as a human being. These self-discoveries can lead to feelings of excitement, as you realize you can always open up to more of who you are. We are never static human beings. The process of learning who we are never ends. What a dynamic way to live.