Reaching our potential will only occur when all of our elements work together.

Key points

  • Language allows us to create and dream and imagine.
  • “Me” and my “self” are the same.
  • Mindfights generate torment and despair.
  • Contentment emerges from cohesion not conflict.
andreyzaretsky, Image ID: 144157765, @123RF

Have you ever considered what a ridiculously astonishing, even bewildering, thing that language is?

The ability to create language is a supreme skill that helps us relate to others but also enriches our own private worlds. We can ponder and contemplate and dream and imagine and plan. We can think about things that have no direct, independent counterpart in the physical world. We can conjure tooth fairies, dragons, and Easter bunnies. We can also dream up things that are entirely fictional but later become highly valued items in the world beyond our minds. Microwave ovens, mobile phones, Olympic gold medals, Wimbledon trophies, electric cars, and terabytes were all just figments of someone’s vivid imagination once upon a time. And then they arrived.

One of the consequences of developing the abilities that allowed us to invent languages was that we created the ideas of an “I” and a “me” and a “self.” In many ways, we could describe our current era as the “age of the self.” A quick google search reveals a fantastic potpourri of terms such as: self-empowerment; self-control; self-destruction; self-healing; self-discovery; self-help; self-forgiveness; self-hate; self-realization; self-centered; self-love; self-coaching; and self-interest.

This collection of all things “selfy” is an example of what we can do with language. With language, we can, quite literally, put any words together. We could discuss a “hope-sandwich” or an “oyster-calculus” or a “digestion-catamaran.” Just because we can put words together, though, doesn’t mean that we should put them together, or even that it makes any sense to do so.

When I think about a term like “self-love”, the only way I can make sense of it is to suppose that the term refers to a self that is being loved by a self who is doing the loving. But they are the same self! We could conduct this analysis with any of the “self-X” terms. “Self-destruction” implies a self being destructed and a self, the same self, doing the destructing.

Generally, this linguistic trick of thinking of ourselves in terms of different parts is completely fine and can even be helpful. Sometimes, though, our contentment and peace of mind can be rocked by a fight within the boundaries of our mind. These mindfights can range from brief squabbles and bickerings to savage and ongoing wars.

People can become so consumed and tormented by these mindfights that they sink into despair and conclude that they hate themselves. Again, such an idea necessarily involves a hater and a hated. The trouble is, the hater and the hated are the same entirety! They literally exist within the same skin. The one mind is, at the same time, hating and being hated by itself.

And that’s where the problem comes in. We have become so good at thinking of ourselves as different bits we often forget that the bits are all part of a whole. We neglect the importance of understanding ourselves as a multidimensional, interconnected unit. Each of us is like a magnificently intricate and exquisite jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are necessary.

Becoming all that we can be will only occur when all of our intriguing elements are working together. And they are all intriguing. Do you know, some people routinely expect the worst to happen in almost all situations? How remarkable is that? When we have the ability to quite literally think whatever we like, why would someone develop a habit of thinking that bad things are going to happen? How does this habit contribute to that person’s unfolding life story?

Many of us can identify things about ourselves we don’t like. Perhaps we’re embarrassed by certain pieces or even loathe them. Whatever the reason for our discomfort, as long as loathing and discord feature in the landscape of a mind, there will be no reprieve from torment.

Peace of mind and contentment come from cohesion, not conflict. Appreciating all our parts as worthy and valued contributors to our “self” or to “me” can help us discover the wonder and magic in the cacophonous collection of capacities and capabilities that we are.

Maybe, instead of thinking of myself as “my-self”, I should think of myself as “our-self.”

Now that was a hoot! Even as I was forming that suggestion in my mind, I got a sense of something, kind of like a voice, expressing the attitude, “No way…uh ah…that won’t be happening.” My “I” wants to be in charge. He’s not sharing it with anyone! At the same time, though, there was a smiling appreciation of what an exciting idea we (the we of me, that is) might have stumbled upon.

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