Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
Artist Alexander Milov states, “It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children start to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives." Photo Credit: Vitaliy Deynega
I was first introduced to the concept of the autobiographical self in my work as a mental health practitioner at a mental health treatment center in my home town of Willmar, MN. Upon further investigation, the concept really resonated with me. I've always been a naturally curious person, who isn't satisfied with being told what to think, but was more interested in the mechanics of thought and memory itself. I have an innate desire to investigate a matter on my own. I will elaborate more on this at the end of this blog post.
The sculpture above was erected at The Burning Man Festival held annually in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada, approximately 100 miles northeast of Reno. It really speaks to me. I see two adults, backs facing each other, their two inner children reaching out to one another while being trapped in the cage of the false self. They appear to be in a state of external distress, but carry within them an internal desire for connection. It's a solemn reminder to me to never make snap judgments about people. If I don't understand their journey, I will not understand their pain. To me, fake empathy is as gross as false piety.
I am reminded of the story of Thomas doubting the resurrection of Jesus and his insistence on personally seeing Christ's wounds before he would believe. Jesus, in standard fashion, turned it around on Thomas by showing him his wounds so he would believe. A man demanding evidence from God? I don't know that I would be so bold, but Jesus, the incarnation of God as the Son, was willing. This act has inspired generations of wounded healers to share their wounds, so the broken, would likewise share their mental and emotional wounds. Thomas was a skeptic, but became a true believer after seeing the wounds of Jesus first hand. I share this with the people I've served in a drug and alcohol treatment center
We all have emotional wounds. Some will deny this, which is a pretty textbook definition of a defense mechanism. Others are more than aware of their hurts, in fact, they're plagued by their memories of the past. Then there are those who have done the hard work on their souls and have made peace with their past. In all my years of pastoral care experience, with God’s help, I've been able to develop discernment when it comes to working with people on their lives. I can easily identify those who aren't being their authentic self from those who are operating out of the false self. We must be willing to look inside. With God's help and the Spirit guiding us, we can look inside and give our pain a voice.
Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. C.G. Jung
The autobiographical self can be explained a lot of ways. The easiest way for me to describe it is to call it the inner critic, or the inner chatterer that incessantly reminds me of my past faults and failures. Fr. Richard Rohr calls it the egoic self. Some refer to it as the unconscious self. It's the background information, or the meta-data playing in the background of our thoughts. When we become aware of this negative-unfolding narrative and how influences our self-perception, we can begin to challenge the veracity of its false claim. We are not our pasts. By God’s grace, we are not beholden to the lies we tell ourselves.
We do not have to believe the lies we tell ourselves. We can challenge those lies with truth. As a person in recovery, I remember the humble guidance I found in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it reminds the reader on page 86 not to drift into "morbid reflection." We do not need to rehearse our hurts. We can stop licking the old wounds. We take it off of life support.
The Bible, my favorite book, offers us the most profound wisdom to ponder, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" No matter how negative your inner narrative is, or the story of self becomes, you can take solace in the fact the God sees you differently than you see yourself. He loves what he sees in you!
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. C.G. Jung
When the autobiographical parts of our brain are trying to push a false narrative that we know is not true, we have to push back with the truth. No one can do that for you, all they can do is support you and help reinforce the truth about you. Ultimately its our job to think better of ourselves than we have. I trust the Spirit of God to lead us all into the truth, which is the only thing that will set us free and keep us free.
Be blessed my beloved friends.