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Journey to Wholeness: Understanding Sense of Self and Individuation

The film Inside Out 2 was released this month and centres around Riley discovering her sense of self. Most 13-year-olds are unaware that this is what they are forming, yet as we mature into adulthood and find our place in relation to others and the world, we naturally seek to make this sense of self more explicitly felt and known. It often manifests as the question, "Who am I?" As we grow older, another powerful process of individuation begins to unfold, leading us to ask, "Am I living in alignment with my true self?"

The Distinction Between Sense of Self and Individuation

Individuation and self-concept are related but distinct from each other. Sense of self focuses on one’s perception and evaluation of oneself, while individuation is a deeper, integrative process aiming for the experience of wholeness. A coherent sense of self can be seen as a component of individuation. Understanding and positively evaluating oneself is crucial for integrating various aspects of the psyche. The process of individuation can deepen and refine the sense of self. As individuals integrate unconscious aspects and experience wholeness, their self-concept becomes more authentic and aligned with their true self.

"Killing Your Darlings": Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs

Recently, a friend referenced these concepts and encouraged me to join her in the process of "killing your darlings." A phrase I had never heard before, I quickly learned that it is often used in creative writing to advise writers to be willing to delete or revise their favourite parts of a text if those parts do not serve the overall story or theme. Applied metaphorically to shedding beliefs that are not truly ours, it suggests a process of letting go of cherished beliefs or ideas that we have held onto, even if they were no longer aligned with our evolving understanding of ourselves or the world. This brings us back to knowing oneself well enough to let go of what no longer serves us, enabling us to embrace our truest selves.

Questions to Deepen Your Sense of Self

These questions might encourage deep reflection on our self-perceptions, values, experiences, and reactions. My hope is that they provide insights into our self-concepts and help us to better understand and appreciate our true selves, while at the same time revealing where our 'little darlings' are tucked away.

1. What are my core beliefs and values, and how do they influence my daily actions and decisions?

- Reflect on the fundamental principles that guide you. Consider how these beliefs shape your behaviour and interactions with others.

2. How do I define success and fulfillment for myself, independent of external expectations?

- Think about what truly brings you satisfaction and joy. Separate your own definitions of success from societal or familial expectations.

3. In what ways do my past experiences shape my current identity and self-perception?

- Consider significant events and experiences from your past. Reflect on how they have influenced your view of yourself and your place in the world.

4. How do I respond to failure or setbacks, and what does this reveal about my self-esteem and resilience?

- Analyze your reactions to challenges and failures. Reflect on what these responses tell you about your inner strength and self-worth.

5. What aspects of myself do I most appreciate and celebrate, and how do I express this self-love in my daily life?

- Identify the qualities and traits you value in yourself. Consider how you acknowledge and nurture these positive aspects regularly.

Sense of self and individuation, Judi Blum Somatic Spiritual Coach, Montreal

Introspective Questions for Your Individuation Journey

These questions are offered to encourage deep self-exploration and to uncover and integrate the various aspects of our psyche, with the intention to support a more unified and authentic self, an individuated self:

1. What parts of myself have I been avoiding or repressing?

-Reflect on aspects of your personality, emotions, or desires that you may have pushed aside or denied. Consider why these parts are hidden and how they can be acknowledged and integrated.

2. How do my dreams and fantasies reflect my unconscious mind?

-Analyze your dreams and daydreams to uncover hidden thoughts, fears, and desires. What recurring themes or symbols appear, and what might they reveal about your inner self?

3. In what ways do I conform to societal or familial expectations, and how can I honour my true self?

-Identify areas where you may be living according to external expectations rather than your authentic desires and values. Consider how you can make choices that are true to yourself.

4. What inner conflicts or contradictions do I experience, and how can I reconcile them?

-Explore any conflicting desires, beliefs, or behaviours within yourself. Consider how these conflicts can be understood and integrated to achieve greater inner harmony.

5. How can I embrace and integrate my shadow aspects to become more whole?

-Reflect on the traits or behaviours you find undesirable or have difficulty accepting in yourself. How can you acknowledge and incorporate these shadow aspects in a way that contributes to your personal growth and wholeness?

Embracing Authenticity: The Path to Inner and Outer Harmony

Has this reflection shed light on your 'little darlings'? One of my little darlings was the belief that I need to be interesting and create interesting conversation to be relevant. What I know now is that I am a much better listener and enjoy being more interested than interesting. There is freedom in that for me!

Might you 'belong to yourself' more after this exercise? Do you yearn for some focused time to address these questions? As a coach, I hold space for you to find your answers, your true self.

Maybe you wondered, "Is this selfish?". For a moment, envision a world where each individual answers the call of their authentic purpose and joy. Judgment and comparison fade away, replaced by trust in each person's clarity and authenticity. Did that thought bring a sigh of relief or perhaps even a gentle smile? Wonderful! Join me in this vision of people gathering up their sense of self and walking on the road to individuation. It might just create heaven on earth.


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