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Self-Knowledge • Growth & Maturity

Who Might I Have Been If…

We might at times have played a game in relation to money and career: what if I had won the lottery, what if I had been school buddies with a tech titan, what if I had been the third employee at…? Equally interesting might – for some of us – be an emotional version of this game of good fortune: who might I have been if I had been loved properly, that is, if my parents or caregivers had been more attuned and balanced, gentle and kindly, contained and boundaried? The question may provide a fruitful vantage point from which to look over some of the complexities of our past. 

The answers might include some of the following: 

I would not always have been calm but when challenges did arise, I would have been able to greet them with a different degree of poise; I would have felt in my bones that I would get through things. 

I wouldn’t have always left a room imagining everyone was laughing.

I wouldn’t have felt nauseous and eerie whenever kindness and intimacy were on the cards.

I wouldn’t have been so terrified and abject about what other people thought.

I could have been a better, more natural friend on the basis of more clearly understanding and sympathising with my own needs.

I might have more quickly identified who the good people were – and when and how to get away from the others.

I might have been a less worried parent, more able to let go; less keen to do it all right, more confident things would be good enough.

I might have approached intimate relationships with less shame.

I would have felt less internally persecuted – and therefore shouted less – when the printer broke down and the keys went missing.

I wouldn’t have been so beholden and strangely impressed by unkind damaged people. In the face of bullying, I could have told myself; the unhappiness is in them, it has nothing to do with me.

I wouldn’t have wasted so many beautiful occasions feeling introverted and anxious. I could have been more present. 

We talk a lot about luxury. There are even things called luxury goods houses. It’s almost funny how bad human beings can be at knowing what they really really need. There truly is only one genuine luxury, and that is to have felt loved and adored from early on – the true privilege from which a full enjoyment of existence can follow. Of course, life can remain painful, people will die and there will be conflicts and unpleasant events. But one won’t forever also be fighting a civil war; one will be substantially on one’s own side.

Part of getting better is to allow room for regret. The price of healing may be a strong feeling that one has wasted most of one’s life up till now. But this doesn’t negate the effort: a few remaining years when one is inwardly free can be worth decades of feeling shackled, ashamed and scared.

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