There’s a lot of talk about the real self. What is it, where is it, does it exist?
Recently, I listened to a Ted Talk (2011) with philosopher and author Dr Julian Baggini who addresses the question, ‘Is There A Real You?’ Having spent most of my adult life wanting to find the ‘real me’, (which I write about in the book, Return to My Soul), I was interested to hear what he had to say.
Julian Baggini begins by presenting what he calls the ‘common sense’ view of who we really are. According to this idea, we have a core, or essence, that is fixed and permament, and that defines us. During life, we accumulate experiences and we have memories, desires, beliefs, knowledge and sensations. In other words, we are a person with ‘….all the things that make up a life experience.’
He claims there is something fundamentally wrong with this model. What’s wrong, he says, is that ‘….there isn’t actually a you at the heart of all these experiences.’
Baggini then presents a slightly different understanding of who we are. According to this model, we are made up of our experiences, memories, desires, beliefs, knowledge, and sensations. In other words, we are the sum of our parts, which also includes our bodies. It represents a shift from the idea that we are a permanent being who has experiences, to understanding ourselves as a collection of experiences. This means we are no longer seen as fixed and permanent, but as fluid and ever-changing.
To support his argument, he turns to neuroscience. Here, the consensus is that there is no one center in the brain that controls everything. Instead, the brain consists of different processes that operate independently, but because they are interconnected, it gives us a sense of self. He calls this ‘….the ego trick….the trick is to make us feel that inside of us is something more unified than is really there’
Towards the end of the talk, Baggini says, ‘The true self….is not something that is just there for you to discover. You don’t….look into your soul and find your true self. What you are partly doing….is actually creating your true self’.
I’d like to suggest a different way of understanding the real self – the real self as soul.
When I wanted to find my real self, I didn’t know what it was exactly. If someone had asked me what I meant by my real self, I wouldn’t have known what to say, All I knew was that there was something inside that needed to be lived out, but was repressed. It was this ’something’ that I thought of as the real me.
After my marriage broke down in 1999, I embarked on a powerful inner journey. I cracked open inside and descended through darkness and pain to the core of my being, where I experienced pure awareness and light. It was my essence, my soul. It can also be called God, love, or the divine.
From my own experience, I have learnt that the soul is our essence. It’s what we are. It is whole, permanent and unchanging. It doesn’t originate in the brain, but arises deep within us.
The soul is separate from the mind, or ego. This means that ideas, beliefs, thoughts and emotions do not effect the soul. In the same way, physical injury or illness do not affect the soul, either.
Yes, there is a real you. It is the soul, a state of being where the mind has ceased to exst. It is a place of great beauty and peace, and immense power. We sense the presence of the soul. We just need to know how to connect with it, and live from there.
If you’d like to learn how to connect with and live from the soul, I’d love to show you how. You can always drop me a line via the contact form at the top of the page.