The Changing Self

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Although most people who attend therapy voluntarily bring with them a desire to change, they often say things like, “Well, it’s just who I am” or “This is me.” My sense of their sense of their Self is that they see it as something static rather than ever-changing. So, this is where we start in therapy: With the understanding that emotionally healthy people are open to change and recognize that sometimes it happens in what seems like one gigantic leap and most other times it’s such a minor shift, it almost escapes notice.

In Existentialism for a New Era, The Millennial Therapist Sara Kuburic criticizes the view of “finding yourself” because “It assumes there’s a preconceived, constructed sense of Self that’s been given to you and you just need to find it . . . In my mind, you create your sense of Self. And that Self is perpetually evolving . . . Every single interaction, conversation, and experience is molding and shaping this Self . . . It means we’re responsible for every tiny decision . . . Knowing that every single thing you do is what shapes your existence and your sense of Self can be such a significant realization.”

Boy, that’s a lot to take in. I feel it even as I write it. The idea that at some point, I am totally responsible for myself is both heady and frightening. Whatever horrors or unfairness makes us who we are now is our responsibility to incorporate into our Self in a healthy way, and this includes any kind of trauma you can think of. Kuburic says, “You didn’t make the mess—it wasn’t your fault—but you have to clean it up, and the reality is, no one else can do it for you.” Wow, another power packed truth.

For example, one of my clients decided she would no longer put others’ feelings before her own and, instead, planned on taking better care of herself. After much thinking, though it greatly upset her boss, she decided not to take on more responsibility at work because she already felt stressed with her duties. Weeks later she described a conversation in which she cut back over-parenting her college-age son, then shared an anecdote in which she’d refused to drive out-of-town relatives of a neighbor who’d died to her funeral because she wasn’t planning to go herself. She made these choices due to having a clear vision of the Self she wanted to have.

I’ve blogged a good deal about the Self and how to build the one you want. For further reading, here they are: Meaning MakingDefining YourselfBe YourselfThe Importance of a Sense of SelfWhat Self Are You Trying to Curate?IdentityMore on Meaning MakingMeaning Making and BeliefsChoose the Meaning of Events, Even Traumatic OnesMany Meanings to Each Life Event.

 

Best,

Karen

 

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