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Self-Knowledge • Know Yourself

Six Fundamental Truths of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness might be said to involve a set of fundamental realisations about the relationship between past and present.

1. Who I am today is, to a humbling and maddening degree, the result of events and dynamics in a lengthy childhood I cannot for the most part remember, almost certainly don’t seek to explore and am understandably invested in trying to think well of.

2. Most of our difficulties come down to a shortfall in love and attunement in childhood. The physical vulnerability of children has its counterpart in an elevated degree of emotional susceptibility. Not very much needs to have happened in order for us to pick up a substantial wound. 

3. We spend a great of deal energy in trying not to understand our pasts, in the name of maintaining our poise, our illusions and our self-respect. Most of who we are lies in the unconscious.

Painting by Vilhelm Hammershøi of an empty room with an easel in it.
Vilhelm Hammershøi: Interior with an Easel, 1912

4. What we feel will happen next around people in general carries complex echoes of what happened back then around certain people in particular. With great unfairness, we constantly attribute to people in the here and now motives and likely patterns of behaviour unknowingly derived from figures from our histories.

5. We become slightly less difficult to be around when we start to appreciate the extent to which we are continually distorting reality through lenses scratched by our pasts. Maturity means no longer insisting too hard on our sanity.

6. To go back over the past – the work of personal archaeology – is almost certainly going to be a mixture of frightening and irritating. It would be extremely odd if we didn’t have very mixed feelings about the entire business of self-examination.

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