Not to be confused with the recent movie of the same name, it was the movie, in fact, that got me thinking about this blog subject. The movie, a strange and surreal tale of predator aliens harvesting the skin of human bodies in order to experience human life, focuses on the alien’s disconnect from the human experience despite living under the human skin. I began musing about our own human disconnect with what is beneath our own skin. What goes on underneath there remains mostly a mystery, a mystery we spend very little time attempting to solve. We know a bit about our physiological bodies, but we know almost nothing about the mind, the component that is essentially responsible for just about everything we do. Don’t get me wrong, while we have incorporated the teachings of psychologists and neuroscientists, what do we really know about the everyday workings of our individual minds and how they dictate what our physical bodies outside of the skin and even our internal physiology are doing moment to moment? The question, then, is how well do we understand exactly who we are and how aware are we of our intentions and behavior? But even more concerning, how much effort do we make to have any understanding of this?
I was just wondering……
It has occurred to me that we spend millions and millions of dollars annually on clothing, makeup, toiletries, hair products, perfumes, cosmetic surgery and all things to improve our surface layers. We also spend many more millions attempting to make ourselves feel better with alcohol, vacations, massages, relationships, movies, gambling, parties, cars, adventures, and so on. We spend even more with physicians, chiropractors, and other health care professionals attempting to stay healthy and feel well. So, compared with how much we spend attempting to improve the outside, and the physiological body, what efforts do we actually make individually towards self-understanding?
There is a paradigm known as Johari’s Window which addresses this concept. It is shown as a square divided into four equal sections. One square represents the aspects of self that both we know of ourselves and what others also know about us. Another represents what we know about ourselves that we do not share with others. Still another square represents what others know about us that we don’t (clearly an area we might want to get more acquainted with!) The final square represents what both we and others don’t know about us. So according to this model, we are actually acquainted with only about half of ourselves. This is a startling comment on our lack of awareness and understanding of self! This means that half of our behavior is occurring without any conscious awareness of it! That is surely cause for alarm, but the question is, what will we do about this? Anything?
I have personally been involved in several spirituality groups that promote self-awareness. Even in these situations with sincere seekers of truth, it appears to be a challenge for us to really look within. I recall my frustration in one group, which spent a great deal of time every week examining the content of what we read. After digesting all of these sainted messages of advice for over five years, I suggested that we begin focusing how we were applying these learnings to our lives, to explore how it felt to try new behaviors, to see how much we were actually assimilating. This idea went over like a lead balloon! It seems that it feels much safer to play with the idea that we are really exploring within than to really explore within. But before you give me too much credit for trying, I’m sure I would have been just as blocked as everyone else when it actually came down to doing it. This is why therapy such as Freudian analysis goes on for years. It is fraught with defense mechanisms, like denial, minimization, intellectualization, rationalization, and the biggest block of all, resistance.
In my practice as a psychologist, resistance reigns. I have found that there are actually very few people who really want to know themselves. Most people just want to attain a quick fix from whatever is distressing them at the moment. To really know oneself is a frightening and challenging journey that only few really attempt to undertake.
We are afraid of what may lurk under our skin. We fear that our demons lie there, waiting silently to be released, when in truth, it is our demons that control us because we are unaware that they are already at the helm of our body ship. If we became aware of our dark urges they would be brought to the light and no longer have any control over us. We could become acquainted with the bright beauty of our souls if only we would have the courage to look beneath the skin.
So I wonder myself what prevents us from spending equal time exploring our inner caverns. Why do we resist? What do we fear? Are we just created so as not to look deeply this way? Are we just so superficial that we only care about appearances and how we feel? Are we just not interested in a true mystery? Do we just not have the courage to look within? Are we brave enough to face ourselves? Are you willing to discover your essence?
I was just wondering……………….