Unravelling Your Soul

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Superman made transformation look so easy: step into a phone booth, whirl a few times, and voilà, a whole new identity.

But for us regular human beings, transformation is not quite as simple.

When we were children, we tried on all kinds of identities and roles. We were curious and imaginative, playing dress up and make-believe. If someone asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up we’d say a doctor or an astronaut, depending on the day.

As we moved through our teenage and early adult years, our identities helped us build our sense of self. They slowly became less about play and more about our self-worth. If someone asked us who we were, we introduced ourselves by our job title, or perhaps as a mother, father, or other role.

At some point in life, we decided that some of our identities – labels, roles, titles, and characteristics – looked quite nice on us, and that we would hold on tight to them. People gave us complements when we embraced these identities, which further pleased our egos. We began to feel so comfortable in our roles, we forgot that they were only costumes.

Roles and identities are the playthings of the ego. Our souls enjoy these playthings too, for the changing perspectives and experiences they offer. By stepping into a new role we change our perspective on the world, and see things differently. For example, if we were a student and become a teacher, we learn something more than if we had remained a student. If we become a parent, we gain a whole new viewpoint on what it is to raise a child; most certainly a different view than we had as a child growing up. But our souls are wiser than our egos and do not get tangled up in our identities.

When the ego’s identities and labels go unquestioned for years and years, they wrap us up like mummies, so tightly and completely that we can no longer move or see. And in that condition, we have little access to our souls, which lie in wait beneath all our ego’s fancy clothes.

The personal growth and wellness movements in the West encourage us to add things on to ourselves, to become more.

True spiritual transformation asks us to become less. Radical spiritual transformation asks us to become nothing.

What does it mean to become nothing?

It means disengaging our sense of self from the titles and roles you play. It means peeling off all the names you’ve ever been called or called yourself. It means recognizing that any role or identity that might have once helped you navigate the world is now holding you back from a new experience. As long as we stay attached to our identities, we remain blind to another way or movement in life.

Here is an exercise to begin to dismantle your ego’s identities, and make your way past them to the soul.

Grab a blank sheet of paper and a pen or marker. (Actually, you might need a few sheets of paper.)

Now, without censoring or second-guessing yourself, write down every word, label, title, or role you’ve ever been given or taken on over your lifetime – including those you’ve given to yourself. Do not divide them into groups, categories, or lists. Simply write them all over – upside down, right side up, sideways, it doesn’t matter.

Go back as far as you can and write down anything you were ever called in elementary school, middle school, high school, and on. Think of nicknames, insults, and compliments.

Write down all the roles you’ve ever played in group dynamics – peacekeeper, rebel, joker, etc.

Write down all the labels you’ve applied yourself from personality tests, astrology readings, psychologists – anything else you can think of.

List all the titles you’ve ever held in workplaces and at home, as well as all the many roles you play in different relationships in your life—sister, mother, friend, cousin, etc.

And definitely, don’t forget all the things you’ve ever called yourself, or any label or expectation you’ve given yourself—whether it’s served you well or held you back.

When you’re finished, you will likely have a full page or more of labels and identities.

One by one, explore these identities and labels. What have you gained from them? What have you lost? How have they shaped your beliefs? How have they limited you, protected you, shamed you, boosted you?

Then, over time and with patience and care, begin to ask yourself who you are without these labels? Can you reach the part of you that has never merged with any of them? The part of you that knows your worth and your identity are not linked?

Cross them off, one by one, after you’ve done the work to detach. Label by label, you will unravel the part of you that cannot be limited: your soul. And from here, you can once again enjoy moving through life trying on and taking off identities with the ease of a curious, imaginative child.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. This is SO beautiful! I can’t wait to do the exercise – so insightful. Thank you!

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