January 18, 2019

Life & Art
In Search of the Illusive Inner Self

Why is it so difficult to discover one’s inner self?  Shouldn’t it be an effortless process occurring naturally as we age — where ultimately, like mental slight-of-hand, the inner self is magically revealed?

The difficulties people experience while striving for inner peace and harmony would suggest that achieving psychological and spiritual growth is a bit more complicated than a hunt for something intact and hidden waiting to be found.  In fact, a thoughtful analysis could go a step further to suggest that “the search for an inner self” is but an illusion. 

So, what is a more reasonable explanation for how self-growth actually occurs?  Initially, our DNA sets certain proclivities for each us relating to our environment and how our perceptions will color who we are and what we will become. 

From early on, mental/emotional (psychic) energy is used for coping with our surroundings and providing fuel for our development. If we compare an individual’s psychic energy to a pre-established number of troops available for metaphorically going into battle to deal with loss and trauma, then troops are left behind at the site of emotional wounds that result from trauma.  They [are] left there to protect those unhealed wounds. 

As our troops protect, isolate and avoid these wounds, our developing “self” can become fragmented, as “unhealed” wounds are akin to scabs with the potential to be opened, rather than scars or completely healed skin.

What energy remains after dealing with loss and trauma, is needed to deal with life’s present challenges.  Do we have enough energy (troops) to allow ourselves to be open, engaged, and welcoming to new sources of energy entering our system?  Or are we emotionally depleted, inflexible, and rigid? 

As there is no hidden, intact inner self waiting to be discovered, growth, is a process of healing wounds by recapturing parts of our self, and integrating these splintered parts back into the wholeness of our being. 

As our ability to deal with loss and trauma and the amount of energy required to shape our personalities influences the decisions we make, we can become prisoners of our past.  WE must heal our wounds and recapture the present in order to allow new experiences to splash onto our life’s canvas and take us in a forward new direction.    

Like the abstract painting that evolves as each moment is guided by the color and shapes preceding it, our inner harmony is created by healing our wounds, recapturing fragmented parts of ourselves, and allowing who we are to evolve into who we might become.  When viewed as an ongoing process of integration rather than quest for the discovery of an intact “inner self,” we can proceed with a different focus that allows our life’s painting to expand, rather than to have it become smaller and smaller influenced by the traumas of the past.

By Carl B. Gacono, Ph.D., ABAP
Author/Artist – Asheville, NC

6 thoughts on “Life & Art
In Search of the Illusive Inner Self

  1. Jason, thank you. Jonas offers these as a public service. They are in line with his general altruism and desire to aid others in their spiritual journey. I plan on writing 10 more.

  2. Hi Carl, I agree with Jason, this is great. Fits so well with your work on the Rorschach as test and art are intertwined for obvious reasons. I thought your piece was insightful and made me think. I look forward to seeing more of this. With all the terrible things going on in the world, this is a nice piece of light!

  3. Paulo Barbosa Marques says:

    Hi Carl,
    This is a wonderful piece…your words flow in such a smooth manner and make me travel on my thoughts and give new meanings to everything I’ve achieved in this journey! I’m on the train back home from another day at the unit and this piece is the perfect way to unplug and absorb all the good emotions of arriving home! On the other hand, I’m looking forward to show this to my wife…I think you won two followers in Portugal!

    • Paulo, thank you. As psychologists it is part of our journey to share the knowledge of personal growth to those whose psychology keeps them from moving along their spiritual journey.

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