An unexamined life is not worth living
Who are you?
It is a question that is at the same time so incredibly trite and so amazingly vast that it never actually seems to warrant the thinking it takes to produce an answer. It is in fact quite an annoying question.
But why is it annoying? It may be that those feelings of annoyance are toward ourselves for knowing that we are actually unable to answer this question in any sort of meaningful way. It is a question we should be able to answer. After all, do we not spend every single second of the day with ourselves. How could you possibly not know who you are?
The truth is that it is remarkably hard to develop a proper understanding of how we operate: what we want, how we feel and why we react the way we do. And this lack of self knowledge and awareness can have serious consequences. It makes us choose the wrong careers, choose the wrong partners or relationships, and may cause us to chase life long goals that will ultimately prove unsatisfying.
There is no easy to way to arrive at the answer other than to starting asking yourself the right questions and answering these questions truthfully. We should come to know things about ourselves. For example:
- what kind of person are you attracted to in love
- what difficult patterns of behaviour are you susceptible to in relationships
- what are your talents
- what issues do you have around success and failure
- how are you at receiving feedback and why
- what do you do when you get frustrated
Below are some general questions or tools to help you start to identify themes that may be prominent in your character. The answers will help you live more wisely with the different parts of yourself.
What happened to you in your childhood?
The question sounds cliche and absurd. Unfortunately, it is extremely important and the best starting point for discovery. Almost everything we are today is the result of patterns developed in childhood that we have forgotten. The first ten years of life we were blind in terms of how our emotions and motives worked. To start down the path of self discovery we have to go back to that time and understand what happened to us during our childhood. Spend time thinking about your childhood memories. Open them up and examine them.
I am most proud of ...
I am most ashamed of ...
Money is important to me because ...
Why am I friends with ...
In love, what’s your type?
The people we tend to find attractive often bring with them some special kind of trouble or difficulty to which we are especially prone. Most people have a compulsion to repeat certain sorts of suffering in their personal lives, normally based on the sufferings of childhood. We tend to find comfort in this familiarity. Spend some time considering this point.
What Do You See?
Your imagination will fill in the ambiguity in ways that releases some of your repressed fears, hopes and desires.
Answer these Questions
What do you blame your parents for? Why do you think they were the way they were What were the pressures and difficulties they were under?
The primary problems in my relationship with my mother were ... The primary problems in my relationship with my father were ...
On a Sheet of Paper Draw Your Family; Your House; A Tree; The Sun
This is suggestive – not science:
- who you draw yourself next to is who you are closest to.
- who you have you put furthest away is emotionally most distant.
- the size you have drawn yourself is the size of your self-esteem.
- the house is an extension of yourself: it is the ego. Is it in good shape? Optimistic? Ordered?
- windows imply your degree of communication. Does your house have a door?
No doubt these questions and exercises may seem cliche to you. But give them the time and energy that their true seriousness actually deserves. Out of these well worn questions and exercises and you will gain important insights into your values, motivations and interests. This knowledge is the foundation for walking in the direction.