You would think that knowing yourself would be pretty straightforward. After all, you spend your entire life in your mind, monitoring your thoughts and responding to your impulses. Eventually, you would expect to get a handle on who you are and what makes you tick.
Bizarrely, though, this isn’t always what happens. Instead, our minds shield valuable knowledge from our conscious awareness. Some people can go through their entire lives never really crystallizing essential truths about themselves, never getting to know who they really are.
This matters because knowing yourself is the key to unlocking positive mental health. The more you understand the real person inside, the better you can manage your life, pursue healthy relationships, and get the career you want.
The True Self
If you take part in online psychotherapy, you’ll spend a lot of time talking about your childhood. That’s because most people’s traumas and dysfunctions emanate from their early experiences. Perhaps they were abused or neglected by their parents. If so, it can manifest as mental health issues in their adult lives, preventing them from living in a happy and healthy way.
Often therapists will talk about something called “the true self.” What they mean by this is the person you would have been without the trauma. They will also occasionally reference the “false self” – or the version of your personality that emerges in response to trauma and, in a sense, becomes your de facto personality.
The goal of therapy is to unlock the true self – or try to reconstruct it posthumously. Trauma in childhood often makes this part of you inaccessible because it was never allowed to develop. However, you can understand your scar tissue and, in some cases, cut it out to reveal the person you would have been under the surface.
It’s a strange concept, and it takes a little getting used to, but saying goodbye to your false self can have a profound positive impact on your health. The more you understand where your impulses are coming from, the more you can deal with the underlying motivations. So, if you’re prone to eating to excess, you can finally uncover the emotional roots of that. The same goes for smoking, drug habits, chronic stress, or anger problems.
A Little Bit Of Self-Knowledge Can Go A Long Way
You’d be surprised how far a little self-knowledge can go. You soon discover why you behave the way you do, allowing you to chip away at the underlying issues and get on the path to health.
If you always feel anxious, for instance, you can turn this around. Self-knowledge introduces you to a set of new ideas about why you have these feelings and where they might come from. If you never knew whether your parents would get in a rage, that might explain why you have this gnawing sense that the world is out to get you. You’re living in the shadow cast by that earlier danger, even though there are no threats in your current environment.