The Self Experiment: Part 4 It’s lonely all by yourself!
I have been steadily reading through my chosen text, my guide to self, and after the initial ‘off we go’ moment things have slowed down. Very similar in a way to a trip my wife and took on the Ghan train in Australia in fact. We had all the ceremony of being welcomed, meeting the crew, finding our cabin and learning about what lay in store and it was exciting. Then after settling down, having a meal we found that mile after mile we were presented with the same scenery. Over 24 hours later the arrival was just as exciting as the departure, but that bit in the middle!
I am at that bit in the middle I suppose, well at the start of the bit in the middle. I have been waiting for another moment where the light of insight flashes and I can see further than I did before. What I have found is the slow and methodical building of a case. I am presented with situations, things are explained in a way that makes everything clear but nothing startling leaps out of the pages. I realise I am in for that middle bit, the bit you just have to work through to get to the end, to reach your destination and have the excitement of arriving somewhere new with a new insight and new things to explore. I could really do with a companion at this moment. I have withdrawn, I have not discussed my journey with anyone and found nothing to tell them without imagining them being bored so I don’t say anything.
I wonder how this present state of mind would be taken in a school lesson. Would I appear bored, disinterested, disengaged I wonder? How would the teacher respond to the student who one minute was full of enthusiasm and energy and who now appears to be dragging his heals? I said at the start this is a learning journey and not all journeys are exciting all of the time. So what motivates us to continue when the going gets tough? Is it the thought of the arrival or is it an act of being stubborn, a little like being determined to finish that book even though you gave up on the plot half way through.
What about the self? Well there are times when it appears to be more active and this correlates with key phases in our development. These phases are associated with social activity and influences. At the age of four we start to be concerned about how others see us. How others see us becomes very important around adolescence and can have a major impact on behaviour. When we can see an image of our self, for example in a mirror, it affects our behaviour.
Labels play a part in establish self and we need to be careful of these. Strangely enough the first thing we do is label children, we may even do so before they are born. Picking names can be stressful. If you have an image of a John or Joan that is rather negative I bet the names will be put at the bottom of the list. Likewise a favourable personality, perhaps somebody you admire, named Marcus or Mary will make you think about including them in your possible.
Even before naming though is the label of sex, ‘is it a boy or a girl?’, is one of the first questions we get asked after the birth. Our sex can be a major part of self. It may be the very first factor in building self. ‘Boys will be boys.‘ and girls are made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice.’
Our image of self and how we form it is a complicated affair but relies on social interaction. We are how others see us. Labels are how others describe how they see us. Labels carry social stigma and values and whilst we care about how others see us they can influence how we behave.
We need to be careful what we say to others and the labels we give them. We may be helping to build a self that no one really wants or we may be excusing behaviours that will ultimately lead to those we do not want in our society.
Take care of yourself, and those of others too!