One of the hidden truths of life that very few ever discover is self-discovery. Self Discovery is a necessary stepping stone in one’s own development in life that leads to the next evolution of the soul: self-intimacy. Let me ask you a question, who here among you knows who they really are? What do you identify with and why? Who do you identify with and why? Why should I care? Why should you care? And of course, we have the more relevant questions to the present moment which are what is self-discovery and what is self-intimacy? Why are these important?
To be blunt the truth is that without self-intimacy, human beings are not able to be truly intimate with their fellow human beings. Furthermore, a prerequisite to self-intimacy is self-discovery which is colloquially framed as “finding your self.” So we must find ourselves in order to be with our other selves (other half?) in terms of the intimate relationships we seek. And we all seek them, so let us do it right this time instead of perpetually recreating a kind of “toxic shame.”
According to Robert Glover, author of the men’s development classic “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” toxic shame is defined by being “the belief that one is inherently bad, defective, different, unworthy, or unlovable.” Many psychological symptoms can take place known as “bitter roots,” a concept brought about by Pastor Ken Hubbard in his sermon titled “Roots.” Some bitter roots that have formed early in our lives are implanted by bad seed being sown within our souls at early ages. Bad events in our life, especially as children, occur with or without warning and leave wounds (bad seed). If these events are recurring, then these bad seeds germinate and sprout bitter roots (scars). These bitter roots entangle themselves with the good seed in our lives and become trees that bear bad fruit (actions). Below is a simple illustration (many more seeds and fruits exist outside of what is shown) as to how this works:
The point is that the above bad seed being sowed within our souls is unavoidable in this life. This leads to bitter roots that grow deep within ourselves that produce the bad fruit of toxic shame. And it is this toxic shame that leads to relationships that lack true intimacy. If you are reading this, then it is likely you are in a relationship lacking in intimacy or you are seeking to gain a relationship with intimacy. While the above outlines the source of the problem behind such dysfunctional relationships, let us now examine the solution.
The Greatest Commandment
One of the greatest examples of the solution was queried by a man named Nicodemus, a lawyer. So he asked Jesus directly, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied: 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Verse 39 is where we will focus for it is the foundation of reaching the self-intimacy required in order to be intimate with other human beings. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Simple isn’t it? Not really. One must understand that in order for one to know how to love another human being they must first know how to love themselves. Sound selfish? Human beings are inherently selfish, few would argue against that assertion; such that we can safely assume it is true. The problem here is that few people allow themselves to know themselves in such a way where they can prioritize their own goals, standards, needs, and boundaries. Logically speaking, if a human being can prioritize those four things for themselves, then they can prioritize those four things for others.
Or more simply put, if I can learn to love myself then I can learn to love you. If I do not know how myself enough to know how to love myself and care for myself, then I am incapable of being able to love or care for you. This is a simple concept to grasp but in our first world culture, it is extremely difficult to implement and is rarely practiced by the vast majority of human beings within our society. The main reason for this is toxic shame. As toxic shame develops, we find ourselves often seeking the approval of others over our own self-approval. I tell you the truth, there is nothing attractive about someone who is constantly seeking approval. Who can respect such a person? And it is this approval seeker (likely abandoned many times in their childhood) who ends up recreating the same dysfunctional relationships in their adulthood that they had in their childhood.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” implies self-intimacy. And due to the implication regarding self-intimacy, it also implies that we must come to know ourselves as a component of the greatest commandment.
Let us look at another philosophical point of view from Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote the essay “Schopenhauer As Educator.” According to Maria Popova at Brainpickings.org, she posits that Nietzsche “believed that embracing difficulty is essential for a fulfilling life, considered the journey of self-discovery one of the greatest and most fertile existential difficulties.” Another quote to consider from Nietzsche at this juncture is also: “Any human being who does not wish to be part of the masses need only stop making things easy for himself. Let him follow his conscience, which calls out to him: “Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, desiring, all that is not you.”
The main mandate from Nietzsche is that one must “Be Yourself!” As obvious as that sounds, again few people are ever able to accept themselves and live as such in our western society. We often find ourselves immaturely adapting to our nurture an environment which ends up causing us to lose ourselves before we even have a chance to find our self, to begin with. Those aforementioned bad seeds of life are planted right from the get-go in our childhood which will always lead to the bad actions or bad fruit of life. The only way to overcome or mature our way out of this endless cycle of pain is to find, water, fertilize and nurture the good seed planted in our life.
But how can we do this if we do not even know our own selves!? Nietzsche goes on to say: “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across, but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!” Allow me to translate: Take Action! By having the faith and willpower within one’s self to take action, even if you lack the information or ideal plan you desire to take “perfect action” that will guarantee to yield a positive result (fruit); it will inevitably get you to where you are going.
Here is another point Jesus made regarding this subject in Luke 17:6: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” The mulberry tree is a tree that comes from “bad” seed and its “bitter” roots entangle themselves on “good” roots sprouted from “good” seed. It then saps the life out of the “good” tree’s roots to feed itself in order for it to grow and eventually produce the “bad fruit” or the negative actions in life: abuse, addiction, abandonment, judgments etc. The point is, in order to uproot this mulberry tree of bitter roots in our lives we need to have faith.
Faith is defined by: “…evidence of things hoped for, a certainty of things unseen.” The point is, if you have the faith, you can move forward in our journey in self-discovery and begin to come to know yourself in such a way that you can begin to love yourself. As a result of reaching the state of mind where you can love yourself then, at last, you are ready to “for real love others” and be “for real be loved by them.” Love your neighbor as you love yourself. As Owen Cook said, “You have to make yourself strong in order to be able to do good things for other people if you do not make yourself strong first, how can you help others?”
By having enough faith to see this journey of self-discovery through, Nietzsche provided yet another observation to this phenomenon that I find pertinent to consider:
“How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being — our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens. For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its own life with a view to the following question: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I.”
As long as you have the faith and willpower to not give up the journey of self-discovery, you will find yourself, you will know yourself, you will learn to love and respect yourself. Then at long last, you can truly love and respect others and they, in turn, will truly love and respect you.
The above statement is, after all, the solution to the toxic shame that is plaguing our society on a daily basis. It is the cure for the disease, it is the antidote to the venom. We must find ourselves, accept ourselves and develop ourselves so that we can be our best for not just others but also for ourselves. That is the key to living a fulfilled life. That is the key to being happy.
The Four Pillars
Based on all that, let us now look at what I call the Four Pillars of Self-Intimacy. The four pillars are four avenues or paths in which an individual begins to define who they are to not only themselves but also to others. Without exploring, defining and strictly living by these four pillars, one will inevitably continue the seemingly endless cycle of pain in one’s life. And this is especially true with one’s relationships with others. If one does not have personal standards, if they are not taking responsibility for meeting their personal needs, if they allow others to break their personal boundaries and walk all over them or if they lack personal goals and allow their dreams to die with them in the grave; well then, sounds like a life of misery and a life not worth living.
The problem with people in our society, especially those living with depression, is that no one is cultivating or maintaining the four pillars. It is as if most people forgot who they were or are too scared to realize who they are and what they are capable of. I know because I was one of these people. Between weighing 289 lbs. when I was 15 years of age and serving my idol World of Warcraft for 6 years of my young adulthood; I was going absolutely nowhere while sinking deeper into depression and self-loathing. It was not until my son was born into homelessness that I started to realize the harsh truth of life. It was all my own damn fault. I was to blame for my own unhappiness and failures.
As a result of taking responsibility for my own failure as a man and as a human being. I began to walk the journey towards maturity and discover what the four pillars of self-intimacy meant for the mature masculine and how I could apply them to my life. I quickly became a student of many mentors and focused on self-development in hopes of finally obtaining self-fulfillment. It was through these mentors and many books that I was finally able to erect the four pillars of self-intimacy to create a foundation in which I was able to at last find out who I was and who I wanted to be. In the upcoming posts, we will be discussing these at length. The four pillars are as follows:
- Developing and maintaining personal standards
- Developing and maintaining personal boundaries
- Taking responsibility for meeting personal needs
- Seeking and achieving personal goals