"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Can your REALLY Know Yourself?

My brother is in town visiting for a few days. I enjoy his visits greatly as we often generate some interesting discussions, and tease each other mercilessly. He's reading some books on brain activity and was sharing some of his insights in response to my blog. He questioned the whole "Know Thyself" theme in the light of his studies.

There are so many aspects of our personality and our actions that we just can't account for. If you were to divide your brain in half your right hand wouldn't know what your left hand was doing - literally. When someone loses a limb, their mind doesn't adjust and actually feels the limb attached to their body. The brain often doesn't always register reality.

Here's another thought to ponder. Do others know us better than we know ourselves? Even though we have more information into our psyches, other people can observe us and sometimes see things that we are unable to see. This is why getting an "objective opinion" is often helpful because we all have "blind spots" and often miss what is right in front of us.

When I am bothered by something I often share my heart with close friends who can shed light on my problem because they know me so well. Even though this is true, even my true friends aren't in my mind all the time as it spins and churns. They have themselves to puzzle over! So I still maintain that people know themselves better than others, with some exceptions. But then again....

The mind is a complicated thing. What is reality anyway? Are we all just part of some big matrix? If we are, what's the point to any of this?

Here's my take on the discussion. Yes, we are complex individuals in a crazy world. No, we can never REALLY know ourselves, but we should give it a good try. I think self-discovery is a good mystery to unfold. When I speak about knowing ourselves, it's more about listening to our feelings and knowing our own mind.  I believe that most of us have spent too much time dismissing our own insights and feelings. We have been conditioned to believe that we need to think a certain way. We are programmed from early childhood on how to act, what to wear, what to think, how to respond to certain situations. But who programs us? Other people who have been programmed by others and on and on it goes.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. Say there is a family, in the great grandparent generation. The man is abusive and the woman learns to walk on eggshells. She is very careful not to ruffle feathers and not be a problem. She teaches her daughters that you should never ever ask for anything or put anyone out. They teach their daughters the same lessons and on it goes through the generations. No one knows the root of the teaching, they just know that it must be true because that's what their parents taught them. It becomes a "family rule". Sadly, sometimes this keeps abuse alive through the generations because the grandchildren are being encouraged in passivity and allowing others to hurt them without comment. At the very least it's not a very "empowering" message for these women who now live their lives in the business world, competing with others to earn a living. There are so many rules that have been imparted to us that really don't make sense and don't serve us well.

When we are trying to get in touch with ourselves, often it's important to go back and figure out what your "family rules" are and decide if they are needed in your life anymore. The less "programmed" we become the more honest and true to ourselves and our own lives we will be.

What are your family rules? Do they serve you well in your life or is it time to push them out to sea?

Do you have some good friends that you can enlist to help you understand yourself better? Friends are like a mirror we hold up in front of us, they bring out the best in us (hopefully). Relationships with family members too can shed light on your inner workings. These can be raw and honest and humbling as family can bring out the worst in us at times.

Today, continue on your journey to self-discovery. Let your friends and family hold up a mirror for you with new insights. Review some of your belief systems and see if they really make sense in the light of your life. Turn over a few stones and take a good look - it's good for the soul!

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