Pursuit of Calm #16
As we all know,
but often forget,
is very important.
Now more than ever do we need to be actively engaged in doing everything we can to take care of our psychology – in terms of being mindful of what & how much we mentally consume, whilst dedicating time each day to take refuge in quiet reflection to ‘compose’ ourselves for the day ahead.
With our breakneck-speed distracted lifestyles being incredibly effective at corralling our attention away from ourselves and towards distraction and (dis)comfort [self-suppressive escapism] it is crucial, that we instigate strategies that will motivate our innate desire for self-improvement.
We have a choice to continue to divest in our time and attention to become more narrow-minded by closing down the vision we have of ourselves. Or, we can choose to invest in this precious, finite resource of time, and open-up ourselves to seek new possibilities, with the view of becoming more brave and altruistic,to seek a better ‘self’ to escape to.
My Second Self(s)
Those familiar with these posts will know that I often refer to my philosophical teachers as ‘my mates’. There’s my mate Marcus (Aurelius), Seneca, Aristotle, and my ‘girlfriend’ Pema (Chödrön), and the big kahuna himself, my buddy Buddha.
I have, and will continue to dedicate and commit intimate time with these people. These wise-souls are my role-models, mentors & teachers, they coach and advise me everyday.
They task my days with tools and strategies to practice in the real world. They both tutor me, and keep me accountable, to be calmer, kinder, more compassionate, to breathe, to slow down, to nurture and build my strength & resilience – all guided through a prism of humour, patience and the shared values that I’m keen to hone.
Everyday, as I proceed along my path, I’m constructing, dismantling and remodelling the very essence of my second self. For me, this process is like meeting parts of myself that I didn’t even know were there.
So, what is a Second Self?
We can use a second self as a means to take refuge from, and begin to understand, the darker sides of ourselves – such as our self-hatred, our low self-esteem, our anxieties & addictions.
To use the words of one of the 20th century’s most influential philosophers Karl Popper, it’s an opportunity to become “active makers of ourselves”, and that so doing is best accomplished by using the very methods that gave birth to our initial sense of self, namely emulation and imitation.
The person you are now was shaped by many forces but primary among them were our role models. We were influenced by our parents, guardians, elders, priests and school teachers and peers, we copied their strategies for dealing with the challenges of life and their feedback, whether positive or negative, helpful & hindering, they shaped the person you are now.
The second self is simply an alter ego we create after studying the lives of great individuals and which we then use as an ideal around which to shape new patterns of thought and behaviour. In short, our second self is who we would be if our life had been spent emulating empowering role models rather than having been sculpted by the role models we were given, and often too immature to properly adjudicate.
Constructing a second self begins with searching for people we deem worthy of emulation. This could be individuals you know personally, or one of the countless great figures of the past or present.
We want to study these individuals and glean from them what made them great, what personality traits they cultivated, what were their daily routines & rituals, and how they dealt with adversity, and overcame challenges.
Its important to highlight that we must be mindful, when constructing our second self, not to completely ignore who we are now – we must remain firmly steadfast in reality – we need to be aware of our own strength and weaknesses and integrate these into our conception of our second self – it’s important to identify & accept that which cannot be changed.
Once we have formulated an idea of who we would like to become, we could go as far as to write a character sketch of our second self:
What are the defining traits of this person?
Do your values align?
What are their habits (virtues)?
How do I differ?
Journaling helps: The process of putting pen to paper, can make the second self feel more real – a Q&A dialogue can be constructed, similar to a Socratic method of self-questioning, using the second self as your mediator and mentor.
Establishing a close link as such provide us with important information for the second stage of this process which is to use our second self as a healthy means of escapism.
Our second self in some ways must become our alter ego and our goal is to spend more time behaving and thinking like the person we want to become and less time behaving as we are now.
If we remain diligent in the practice of behaving as our second self, using sober routine and ritual to return us to form each time we falter, we will find the almost imperceptibly our second self will become second nature.
The success of self-transformation is contingent in both the degree of courage and curiosity we can muster. This process demands living a disciplined lifestyle that encourages us to challenge ourselves, and to ‘do the work’ – inebriation, fatigue, stress, distraction will almost certainly kibosh any desire for introspection and curiosity…let alone a sense of well-being.
This process does require courage and curiosity…
We need our mental faculties working in our favour, self-transformation will induce anxiety – and an experiment such as the second self, will engender a fair quota of anxiousness…this has to be expected, and embraced, as you are shining a light on aspects of yourself that have remained dormant and in the dark for decades.
Because we spend decades hiding away our neurosis and shortcomings, when you work with your second self, your neurosis and shortcomings appear to become heightened, and this is when the doubts creep in and threaten to derail us, and when the pull of our old self-suppressive behaviours are strong, it can be helpful to remind ourselves of why we are attempting this experiment.
We should take time to contrast how our life will become if we remain as we are now versus how our life could become if we somehow achieve a healthy escape and become more like our second self.
There is never any guarantee that we will be successful in our endeavours, but there’s not only the mere chance that we may be, but what is being ignited going through this process will not only reset your life trajectory, but continue to push you forward, by stimulating your courage and self-curiosity to make friends with yourself.
And ultimately that’s the goal, to reduce the fearful, polarising incessant noise that we have allowed to poison our psyche and compromise our habits, by refocusing our commitment and intention, and practicing everyday to be active makers of ourselves.
[Ref: Academy of Ideas]
“My teacher said that making friends with myself meant seeing everything inside me and not running away or turning my back on it. Because that’s what real friendship is. You don’t turn your back on yourself and abandon yourself, just the way you wouldn’t give up on a good friend when their darker sides begin to show up.”
– from the book How To Meditate,
by my girlfriend Pema ❤️
Next: Bookend Your Day “Compose Yourself”
Mind exercise for the body
Body exercises for the mind
Current Reading List & References:
Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chödrön
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
The Wisdom of Frugality by Emrys Westacott
4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Mindsight: Change your brain and your life by Daniel J Siegel MD
Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall
Wherever You Go, There You Are. John Kabat-Zinn
“Start Where You Are” by Pema Chödrön
“Breathe” by James Nestor
“The Places That Scare You” by Pema Chödrön
“In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté
The Shortness Of Life by Seneca
“Lost Connections” by Johann Hari
How To Meditate – Pema Chödrön
The Wisdom of No Escape – Pema Chödrön
‘Breaking Down the Wall of Silence’ – Alice Miller
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
Atomic Habits – James Clear
The New Rules For Lifting For Life – Lou Shuler
Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker PhD
Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit Of Less – Greg McKeown
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahnemen
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Resilience Project: Finding Happiness Through Gratitude Empathy & Mindfulness – Hugh Van Cuylenburg
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods – Catherine Shanahan MD
The School of Life – An Emotional Education
The School of Life – How To Think More Effectively
The Consolations Of Philosophy – Alain De Botton
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief – Jordan B Peterson
The Owners Manual for the Brain: The Ultimate Guide to Peak Mental Performance – Pierce J. Howard
The Daily Stoic / Stillness Is The Key / Ego Is The Enemy / The Obstacle is The Way– Ryan Halliday
Indistractable – How To Control Your Attention & Choose Your Life – Nir Eyal
Mindset – Dr Carol Dweck
The Holy Shit Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in A Minute – James Fell
Stop Playing Safe – Margie Warrell
The Worlds Fittest Book – Ross Edgley
The Art Of Resilience – Ross Edgley
The Oxygen Advantage: Scientific Proven Breathing Techniques To Revolutionise Your Health – Patrick McKeown
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
The Practicing Mind – Develop Focus & Discipline Your Life – Thomas M. Sterner
Mistakes Were Made – Carol Travis & Elliot Aronson
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Life: A Users Manual – Julian Baggini & Antonia Macaro
Good Habits Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick – Wendy Wood
The Madness of Crowds – Douglas Murray
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Wired To Eat – Robb Wolf
Philosophy For Life, and other dangerous situations – Jules Evans
Peak – Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool
The Body, A guide For Occupants – Bill Bryson
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz