This morning I watched a lovely Tedx Talk by Caroline McHugh on the Art of Being Yourself (video available below). Aside from the inspirational quality of the content as well as her very embodied, grounded, and delightful presentation, it really made me think about how, at least for me, this notion of a "true" or "core" Self is central to my approach to therapy. As I think about it my "Self" doesn't exist in a vacuum, isn't alone, isn't stagnant. There is no final resolute definition. We keep breathing, keep growing, keep moving, and interacting. Self is a verb, and I feel it as a quality of Beingness, ongoing, and somehow fundamentally In Alignment.
In Somatic Psychology terms we might think of the body as a very real and present manifestation of exactly this concept of Self: "You" are not your legs or your head, not your thoughts, not even your feelings or how you walk and interact with others. "You" are a very unique confluence of ALL these parts, all these experiences happening across time and in space. Mindfulness and somatic awareness are ways to tune into this process of being as it happens: what Eugene Gendlin calls the "Felt Sense". It can take some practice, but once we can feel into this moment by moment experience of BEING it becomes much easier to find the Self that is there, having this experience; the Self that Caroline's talk highlights: the Self underneath Ego, underneath Persona, underneath Perception. It is very similar to what Jon Eisman calls the Organic Self in his Recreation of the Self (R-CS) approach to psychotherapy, one of the approaches that I hold dear.
Experiment: If you're interested, here is a simple exercise derived from R-CS: Get comfortable, turn your attention inward, and settle into a mindful and non-judgmental awareness of your experience. Take your time. When you're ready, say the words "I love You". Notice how they resonate inside you. Linger a bit with the emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts, images, anything at all that comes up. No judgement, just noticing. When you're ready, give yourself some space and find that neutral and ready place in your attention again. We are going to try on another phrase. This time say the words "I love". Give yourself plenty of time to notice how this resonates in your body, your heart, your mind. Notice how the emotions, sensations, images, thoughts might differ from the first phrase. Notice how it feels: better? worse? how? Take your time. Notice. And when you're ready, coming back to a place of mindful awareness, we're going to try on the last phrase. This time say "Love". Give it plenty of time. Again, paying attention to sensation, emotion, feeling, images.... warmer? cooler? more calm, less calm? What do you notice?
In R-CS terms, Love is one of the Absolutes - a concept that is so intricately tied to Organic Self that when we tap into Lovingness we are automatically tapping in our true Self. All kinds of complications can arise of course (stories, beliefs, fears, etc), and that is some of the work (or play!) of therapy. But I think sometimes we get too hung up in all this "work". Sometimes we simply need to practice being who we truly are.
When you are in your True or Organic Self you shine, and that feeling "pings" the True Self feeling in others. We touch each other, echo into each others souls, breath, skin. The interrelatedness of it all is humbling and inspiring. We get to impact each other. So, I guess my final thought is: Be Yourself because it feels good. But also, be Yourself because it's what the world needs. It's not always easy, but As Caroline says, "There's a You-shaped hole in the universe".... and You are meant to fill it.
Thanks for reading :-)
(You can learn more about R-CS here. And my gratitude goes out to the wise client who shared this delightful Tedx Talk with me. Thank you!)