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What is the Self

/ 7 min read

This post is written in order to log how my understanding of the Self, the ego and certain tied up concepts change over time.
Hopefully the first in series, Nah chuck it.

This was also written at a time, when one was teared apart on choosing a side between the ego and the self. The existing framework that one had, started to tumble when I started reading old books, poems which emphasised and focused on being like a melting snow (selfless), washing yourself of yourself and on the other end, being accountable to an identity, ego, I for day to day activities.

Below is the account of reasoning which has restored the operating system back into normal boot and one hopes we don’t enter safe mode at least for some months.

The one question that bothered me greatly was,

What the heck is the SELF ?

Whenever reading a book of most of the authors, they considerably say to be selfless, realise your self, express your true self, explore your self, self realisation is important, be oneself. Or have you ever noticed this self is there in the word “Themselves” too.

Honestly it sounded a lot convoluted to me, as in, when in case (I know you won’t) you ask someone what is the meaning of recursion, and the reply you get is, “Oh that concept, it’s simply recursive in nature and does recursion, you get it right. See” and you nod your head with a wide recursive grin.

That’s how my life was or is, when I hear the word self being used.

I wanted to understand and update my backend dictionary look up table, so that it could return some new words to explain whenever it came across that word.

The search lead me back to a book which I had not processed properly, only read it .

Enter Man and his symbols by Carl Jung1.

The chapter to address my concern started out with this term called Individuation.


What is this process of individuation ?

The way I understood it is, that it’s the holistic manner, in which a person comes in proper term with all the elements of their inner being, shaped by the ebbs and tides of the environment and particular circumstances they face.

It is a continual journey of being attentive to one’s own sense of what feels right and making sense of patterns that nudge through small hunches, dreams, intuitions extended over a long period of time. The important part being in taking a leap of faith on such pings.

And the striking thing, which eventually takes place is, because of not imitating but being true to their own being, one emerges as a distinct true individual.

And the centre of it all is the self.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are - C.G Jung


The way we interpret self is that, it is an intelligent creative force, revolving at the centre of all our activities, however disconnected it may feel on the outset, yet in the inner recesses of our being, it drafts, plans and pings those hunches, intuitions which ultimately lead us to realise our actual potential.

The self
The backend explanation goes in this manner.

There’s a black ball of unconsciousness, of which we don’t know what much happens, apart from the fact that it affects our reality.

At the centre of it is the self, the intelligence that we just mentioned above, which utilises the unconscious elements to guide us to achieve our true potential based on our responses. It may employ means, which may seem “good” or “bad”, as we term it in the conscious/subjective level, which is shown by a light grey coloured elliptic ball. What ever we are/can be conscious of, falls in this area of light.

At the centre of the light is our character called ego, I, Me and so on.

The elaborateness of the pings, messages, hunches that surface to conscious level, through the medium of dreams are enacted by the unconscious elements and directed by the Self.

Now if I want to wrap this up with an analogy, it’s goes something like this.
Don’t be scared okay!

Because, it’s going to be a bit dark.

The analogy.

Imagine you are in a huge theatre, while a play is going on.

Much of the theatre is filled with darkness, in which the audience sits.

The other members of the play are also standing in the darkness of the side stage, either waiting for their part to arrive or waiting because they have already played their role.

Then there’s the director of the play too, who is siting in the darkness along with the audience, who has planned everything in advance and wants to enjoy his show.

If anything goes south, he knows what has to be done and get things on track.

The stage is the only place where the light falls.

Now you are also there in the theatre, but where you might ask.

Baby right on the stage, Yes, you heard me.

But there’s a slight twist, you are there but you are not “You”, you are playing the role of a character.

The play has been organised to give a message to all the people involved.

And just in case if you don’t play your role properly, the audience is not going to like it at all, lest of all, your colleagues and the director.

So keeping all these things in mind, let’s relate back.

The theatre is our psyche, the dark areas beyond the stage is the unconscious.

In the darkness, the person coordinating is our beloved director, know as the self and audience along with the other actors are the entities of our unconsciousness.

The character you are playing is the ego.

Now many questions might pop up in your mind as they are doing while I write.

  • Like am I the main character ?
  • Is the theme of the play of which I am playing a role in, already decided and cannot be changed?
  • Who has decided to make the director the director ?
  • Hey deeps let’s discuss the psyche of the character I am playing just for fun. (I have 100+ year to spare)
  • And many other recursive questions.

Will try to come back to them when my character needs to address them. (Get it…)

The ego

Now comes the part where, the books I read were full of nuggets of content pointing to the fact that, the ego has to know it’s place and it’s limitation.

” Like the strong wind tumbles down mighty trees, but not the lowly grass. ” - Rumi

” Be like melting snow wash yourself of yourself ” - Rumi

So looking back now with the theatre analogy in mind it makes sense that, if the character’s role is not played by us, eventually a crisis arises.

And honestly I don’t know what we are outside the play.

However, this gave a bunch of insights to the turmoil that lead me into the quest in the first place,

Which started more on the premise of “Choose either the the ego or have no identity at all”.

The answer now being, one has to embrace the identity of the ego to function properly in the play as well as acknowledge in the faith that, in case while playing the role, if some problem arises, the self will help us.

Perfect balance between a healthy ego and the self lead to a true being.

It’s the least and most definite step of righteous action that one can take to make sure that the play and all it’s character are satisfied, by just letting them play their role, by not stoping to play yours.


  • The process of becoming an individual is marked by a good old shock to the ego.

  • Because of which the ego, or the “I” casts blame on the situation, their partners, or faces extreme boredom and meaninglessness, sometimes literally sleeping on all their problems.

  • Let’s see how our Ego buddy solves that problem, with some of his friends from the darkness.

This log would not be possible, if not for the authors who put out their work.

1: Man and his symbols - C.G Jung