A Strong Sense of Self
I’ve always been interested in dressing up, putting on masks, and playing with dolls and puppets. To be someone else, either through acting or through writing. But hey, am I not being myself? Behind these characters? Allowing the Self (whatever that is) to come out, to express, to feel, and to know my place in the world?
As a kid I lived in the countryside in Denmark. Among farmers and by the woods. My parents were from the city but my mother insisted that her kids grew up in the country. She didn’t want us to become like ‘them’. She was talking about the group of friends that she and my father belonged to.
“Here, you roam free without the pressure of looking, feeling, or being in a certain way,” she said.
Still, she wore expensive clothes and she dressed me, her oldest, in the finest white organza dress for my confirmation, and for my ‘second day’ outfit I wore a dark green velvet dress with a white peter pan collar. Both dresses were custom tailored for me. We had a big party with family and friends attending.
A perfectly staged event.
I spent my pre-teen days writing and setting up plays in our barn. I wrote stories for my core class whose authorship was questioned by my teacher. I acted in several class skits, often based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale like ‘The Swineherd‘, and I acted in full production school plays. Later, as a teen, I took acting classes.
I never questioned who I was. I knew I liked to play, act, and write and whether there was a ‘me’ in there, is the question. I was all of the above. The free spirit roaming the woods and countryside, the dressed up confirmand, the playwright, the writer, and the actor. I’ve always been told I have a strong sense of self, and today I wonder what that means.
Buddhism tells us there is no self unlike western psychotherapy that aims at helping create a self that is stable and wholesome. Buddhist thought is about interconnection and impermanence. Western thought is about separation and permanence.
I know what I like, what I value, what I strive for, and what I live for. Is that my sense of self? I also know that I’m different as to whom I’m with and as to which situation I’m in. I am not an isolated being; I am very much depended on other beings and situations to influence and develop the self or non-self that I am.
Image from ‘Persona‘ (1966) Opening Scene by Ingmar Bergman