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Institute for Jedi Realist Studies - Developing a Strong Core Identity - Institute for Jedi Realist Studies

Developing a Strong Core Identity

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Kol Drake created the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

As younglings, we grow up wanting to 'be like' those who we idolize -- parents, friends, public servants, Power Rangers, Yoda, etc. We 'identify' with them -- either for what they do, 'save people', or for some trait or characteristic we wish we had -- truthfulness, honesty, steadfastness, etc. In today's technological jungle, it is too easy to be overwhelmed with information and 'examples' -- some good and some bad -- which one might latch onto but find it does little for Self when those idealized examples are stripped away for one reason or another. We feel like we are left blowing in the wind with nothing to hang on to.

Many of the IJRS intro level courses touch on this -- learning to go within and learn about yourself and your Self. Learning techniques to help strengthen 'who you are' and 'who you wish to be'. Seems like we need a course which might address this directly -- pulling in all the 'bits' from the other courses and going into more detail. For now, I will give it a go and maybe we can polish up a nugget into something worth looking at --

from http://www.becomeselfaware.com

Becoming Self-Aware requires that you master recognizing your ego and that you understand ego is a functional part of your mind, instead of the essence of who you are. The challenge of being aware of your ego is that your mind has been programmed to believe it (ego) is you.

Every one constructs a personal identity as part of normal human development. You need an identity to be able to learn to function in the world and, recognize yourself as a unique distinct person. Once you know how to function the importance of your identity changes, it becomes less important. What allows the transformation of your humanity into expressing true greatness is letting go of your attachment to a fixed personal identity. Instead you identify with the dynamic presence of your Being. Your personal identity perceives everything as separate while presence of being knows the essence of everything is interconnected.

What is ego?
The human ego is the leading edge of biological evolution. Ego carries out life’s mandate to survive danger by adapting to adverse environmental conditions. From plants to bacteria to humans, all living organisms are endowed with intelligence to learn to respond to external circumstances, your ego is an expert at this. Learning involves having the capacity for memory. You must remember what hurts and what feels good! Memory records what supports life and what doesn’t.

Ego is the animal nature in humans that has learned to survive external hostility through aggression, competition and being territorial. Ego’s aggression arises in order to protect itself and, “get” what is needed to survive. Your ego is not your enemy! The level of tenacity with which your ego embodies its inherent traits determines your success in physically surviving dangerous circumstances and, providing for what you need to live. You also benefit from developing a strong enough personality to not be pushed around in social interactions.

What is your ego identity?
Your ego identity is a series of core beliefs (self-definitions) that also function as a defense/protection mechanism. Now that you have a technical description let’s acknowledge the obvious: your ego identity is who you think you are as well as familiar feelings and emotions you identify with yourself. One of the most familiar and unconscious (out of awareness) emotions that confirm everyone’s ego identity is nervous anxiety.

Your ego identity is a mental and emotional construct held together by core beliefs. A belief is a firmly held opinion that is taken as truth. Beliefs are necessary to build a workable understanding of life, explain your relationship to people and develop a way to recognize who you are, during childhood. Beliefs are unquestioned assumptions that are taken for granted. In contrast, knowing-ness emerges from common sense wisdom. Knowing-ness is derived directly from experiences once the brain has fully developed and, abstract reasoning is available and functioning well. Children believe beliefs while adults have the capacity to Know, provided they are psychologically matured.

Core beliefs are primitive (before reason and logic are possible), interpretations of repeated experiences that left a strong painful or pleasurable impression during childhood. Beliefs arbitrarily assign meaning to experiences. A child needs to understand why something happens in order to repeat it, if it feels good, or avoid it if it hurts. Core beliefs are instructions for how to behave in specific familiar situations.

When is the ego identity constructed? Ego development parallels the physiological development of the body. The ego identity begins around two years of age when the child understands simple language and the child begins to associate names with objects, including the body. The ego identity solidifies as a mental structure around 7 to 9 years old.

What is the personality?
The personality is a mental “protective” shell that guards the delicate, pure, innocent essence that humans are when they are young. It is assembled by associating positive and negative self images inside a core self–concept, a core belief the child has acquired about who she is. For example, “I am a good girl” is a positive self-image that is attached to a negative self-image such as “I’m stupid”.

The mind “thinks” in pictures. A self-concept is an inner picture that literally represents how the child sees themselves in relationship to their parents and other caretaker.

Building a personality is an intricate process beyond what I can describe here. What is important to know is that it functions mechanically like a machine. The instructions for this machine are contained in the core beliefs that make up the ego identity. Each core belief generates an emotional atmosphere representative of the many similar experiences that created it. The collective core belief “I’m not good enough” has the common origin of a child being criticized harshly many times. This form of devaluing is a judgment against how they perform a task or a tendency for cruel comparisons to others or simply criticizing the child for just being themselves. All these different attacks generate painful shame and humiliation. This treatment conditions the child to react by adjusting her behavior and meet her parent expectations. The end result is internalizing their idea of “how she should and should not be.”

The personality produces a fragmented existence
Before a child develops the protective shield of a personality they are a powerful authentic being with no hidden agendas. Once the personality takes over behavior self-expression is unnatural. The terrible twos are an example of how difficult it is for both children and parents to agree on rules of behavior. However the civilizing process unfolds, the child is forced to suppress their emotions and do as they are told.

When a child is not given any rules they become aggressive because they don’t have a boundary to push against and know whom they are. Children need to learn what is acceptable behavior in their community. A child conforms by learning what is to him a very unnatural behavior.

This process, which goes on for a few years, leaves profound emotional wounds.

The shadow self
Every personality contains within it fragments of disowned ego identity. These fragments consist of negative self-images that compete for control of behavior against positive self-images. The shadow is made up of repressed strong emotions including overwhelming sorrow and grief, paralyzing terror, deep-seated hatred, rage, and fury.

During periods of high stress or prolonged crisis the normal ego defenses weaken and the ego gets out of its own control. When the shadow takes over all kinds of self-sabotage are acted out. The most normal is telling lies and withholding information and other forms of self-deception including fun-hunger (one my personal favorites), where a drive to resist responsibility is acted out by an appetite for feeling good activities.

When too much pain has been suppressed this internal crisis becomes normal and people’s behavior becomes continually self-destructive. Examples of these are addictions of all kinds including addiction to dysfunctional relationships where misery is the normal atmosphere. What cover these painful emotional states are acceptable unauthentic fits of hurt, fear and anger. This is the mechanical acting out of pseudo-emotions. You know, when people get instantly sad or insecure or angry and appear to be out of control except it happens regularly.

The aware ego
Just as the body is endowed with self-organizing intelligence that knows how to repair and heal itself so does your mind. Within you live a knowing-ness of harmony and peace. It may start as a faint whisper of hope that awakens a remembrance that there is more to life than meaningless suffering and false happiness.

Your ego’s tenacity can be inspired by the presence of your Being, the higher Self, to transform suffering through forgiveness and a willingness to listen to the inner guidance of your common sense. The aware ego responds by engaging in the path of personal development and emotional integration. When your ego surrenders control of its life to something greater than itself, it has emerged out of complete unconsciousness and entered the path towards Self-awareness. The aware ego is a stage of personal development where your desire to overcome limitations and experience love changes you. This stage inspires you to learn to take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions and behavior. The aware ego is characterized by pursuing access to the presence of unconditional love within you.
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Kol Drake replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

Recovering More of the Core Self
Published on March 18, 2011 by Steven Stosny, Ph.D.
Psychology Today online

[...] There are four components of the core self that can easily erode in the stresses of modern living. These are: self-concept, identity, self-efficacy, and self-value.

Self-concept consists of emotionally-charged beliefs about yourself. Emotionally-charged is the key. Your capacity to love is likely to be part of your self-concept; your ability to drive a car probably is not.

Self-esteem is inextricably linked to self-concept, and both are linked to behavior, which is why attempts to raise the former without changing the latter fail. (Saying, "I'm a good person," can actually lower self-esteem, if you do not behave in the way you believe a good person does.) But self-concept goes well beyond how you feel about yourself.

Your brain uses self-concept as a guide for interpreting the world. We tend to process only the information that confirms self-concept and filter out anything that contradicts it. If you think you're incompetent, you'll focus exclusively on your mistakes and overlook the vast majority of tasks you do well. If you believe you're a hard-worker, you'll notice evidence that supports your self-concept - you go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn, cook dinner, etc., and discount your tendency to procrastinate or take more than the allowed breaks at work.

Identity is an umbrella term in psychology, used variously to label everything about the self. In regard to our discussion of core self, it's useful to define identity as an image of the self that helps us know how to behave. My identity reinforces certain qualities and helps me play certain roles. For instance, I might identify with being a teacher, artist, or sportsman, with qualities of loyalty, intelligence, perseverance, etc. These roles and qualities become guides for how I behave. When I falter, I experience the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.

Identity also defines how we want others to perceive us. If I have a diffuse identity, I'll spend a lot of effort trying to manipulate the impressions of others, to avoid the guilt and shame I feel when the world lets me know that I'm not all that artistic, talented, intelligent, or compassionate.

The external aspect of identity produces most of the ill feeling about the self and makes us susceptible to abuse. If someone you care about says that you're a lousy parent, you may be crushed, feel abused, and want to retaliate.

One goal of core self work is to become impervious to emotional abuse, while remaining open to useful feed-back. If someone you care about says you're a bad parent, but you believe that you're a good parent, you will want to know why he/she thinks that, but you'll deflect any unreasonable or abusive behavior. It will seem like a ridiculous accusation, equivalent to, "You have green hair." You may perceive the accuser as a child in a temper tantrum.

A person with a strong core self cannot be verbally or emotionally abused. But the relationship with an abusive person most certainly will be damaged. This bears repeating: Your partner - or anyone else - cannot emotionally abuse you once your are in touch with your core self and your core values; only relationships can be emotionally abused. Abuse and other forms of betrayal make it impossible for relationships to thrive.

Self-efficacy is the perceived capacity to make a difference. It requires the ability to set goals and meet them. The key to self- efficacy is emotional regulation skill to convert negative emotions into constructive motivation. People with poor emotional regulation skills must rely on things going smoothly in their environment to achieve what they set out to do. They often try to manipulate other people - or become doormats themselves - in vain attempts to ensure that things run smoothly. Their high degree of reactivity to others often leads to failure. For example, I might plan a great presentation, only to lose concentration - and my audience - when I see someone yawn. The dread of failure is so great for those with low self-efficacy that they often stop setting goals and eventually quit thinking about the future completely.

Self-Value is a more useful concept than self-esteem. The latter, simply put, is how you feel about yourself. But it's not an entity that you need to "work on." It's more like a temperature reading of the interplay of self-concept, self-efficacy, and identity. Self-esteem can be improved only by improving self-concept, identity, and self-efficacy. Research has shown that Pollyannaish programs to raise self-esteem - "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" - always fail. While the indiscriminant praise of children ("You're special! You're one of kind!) does not raise their self-esteem, it can make them narcissistic. They'll cut in front of you in line because they're "special!"

Self-value is about how you regard and treat yourself. Remember, value is very much a matter of regard and behavior. If you value a da Vinci painting, you appreciate its beauty and design, which are not diminished in your eyes by the cracks in the canvas. Above all, you treat it well, making sure that it is maintained in ideal conditions of temperature and humidity. Similarly, people with high self-value appreciate their better qualities - while trying to improve their lesser ones - and take care of their physical and psychological health, growth, and development.

***

Taking a 'look' at your inner self, values, etc. can go a long way toward making a strong 'inner core' which can allow you to 'hang on' during the strongest of storms. Hopefully, those members with experience in this field (or personal experience with storms and cores) can add on and aim us in the right direction for growth and enlightenment.
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Asta Sophi replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

A lifelong study, to be sure!

Nice articles, Kol!

- Asta
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Adam replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

Knowing oneself is very important when it comes to self-improvement. Of that there is no doubt. However, aren't there many strains of philosophy and even Jediism/Jedi Realism that declare ego is an illusion? What of these strains? Is it still possible to know oneself if its all an illusion?

"Man fears the dark so he scrapes away at its edges with fire." - Rei Ayanami
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Kol Drake replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

Correct. There have been many 'philosophies of self' which tried and are still trying to definitively define 'self' and how ego plays it's part in that definition. Some say 'all is an illusion' therefore self/ego is also an illusion.

In many eastern traditions of 'self' -- spirituality, and especially non-dual, mystical and eastern meditative traditions -- the human being is often conceived as being in the illusion of individual existence, and separateness from other aspects of creation. This "sense of do-er-ship" or sense of individual existence is that part which believes it is the human being, and believes it must fight for itself in the world, is ultimately unaware and unconscious of its own true nature. The ego is often associated with mind and the sense of time, which compulsively thinks in order to be assured of its future existence, rather than simply knowing its own self and the present.

The spiritual goal of many of those traditions involves the dissolving of the ego, allowing self-knowledge of one's own true nature to become experienced and enacted in the world. This is variously known as enlightenment, nirvana, presence, and the "here and now".

For Socrates, the goal of philosophy was to "Know Thyself".

Then again you can find 'pro and con' arguments going both ways across the 'western traditions'. Heck, even the Buddha attacked all attempts to conceive of a fixed self, while stating that holding the view "I have no self" is also mistaken. This is an example of the Middle Way charted by the Buddha -- the expression Middle Way was used by the Buddha in his first discourse (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to describe the Noble Eightfold Path as the noble path to achieve Nirvana, instead of taking extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence... right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

By 'right conduct', the ego does not enter into the equation of embodying the Middle Way... so it's a non issue... not an illusion.

With all that, one can find a Self which is not 'dictated to' BY ego but rather has come to see ego for what it is and then proceeds to right mindfulness, etc. to act accordingly. One could say Ego is 'put aside' as part of the enlightenment of Self.
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Kol Drake replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

Here is an article on 'The Illusion of Ego" from www.innerfrontier.org

.....What is it in us that blocks our connection with the spiritual depths? If heaven is real, why am I not in contact with it? All religions and paths address this central question, under a variety of names, the most common today in the West being “ego.” The term ego, in this context, alludes to our deeply ingrained self-referential, self-seeking disposition, our well-hidden and highly adaptable attitude that life revolves around me and mine. Ego cuts us off from other people, from Nature, from God, from our authentic self, from our true responsibility, and from fulfilling our destiny. Our ego is the great usurper. It focuses on our local independence, falsely presuming it to be a global independence. The ego convinces us that we are truly separate beings with ultimately separate will, having no inherent connection with other people or with God.

.....Our ego installs us at the center of the universe, separate from all and enslaved by time. Dwelling on our past history, our conditioning, our grudges, our manufactured identity, our personality, or on our future hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, desires, and pressures, ego creates a constant torrent of mental structures, each of which proclaim “This is me.” In childhood we become so involved and enamored with the growing arsenal of our ego, that we unquestioningly assume it is who we are. That insidious assumption constitutes the ego's iron grip on us.

.....This ego, this false pretender, whenever it arises grabs the seat of honor at the core of our being. It purports to speak for the whole of us, even though our various parts lack integration. It adopts the voice and desires of whatever part of us pushes itself temporarily to the top of the heap. So for example, our ego, under the influence of one part of us, “decides” to do something, but later under the influence of another part, we find ourselves doing just the opposite. I may think “I am going to quit smoking tomorrow.” But tomorrow my hand, not caring what my mind thought yesterday, reaches for a cigarette. The pretender to the throne does not bear the royal seal, does not have the power it ascribes to itself.

.....Why is it that the ego, or separate self, produces such a major difficulty in the spiritual path, indeed THE major difficulty? The answer can be found in the subtlety of the place occupied by ego and I. That place is not readily visible, even to our inner eye. It lies in the realm of Will, more interior than all our thought, emotion, and sensory experience, more interior than our awareness or consciousness itself, more interior than our mind. Ego and I reside in the place of who we are, that in us which chooses and decides, or abdicates choosing and deciding. A thought that says, “I will …,” masquerades as the source of decision. When this does represent an actual decision, the true source is will itself. Our will, however, usurped by the self-centered ego, an aberration of will, enters into a wrong and self-referential mode of working. Our true I, our true will, does not act by force, but rather by the cooperative assent of our various parts. The uncooperative ego can thus come and stand in the place of the I, hiding and splitting off our authentic I from the rest of us. Under the influence of ego, we believe ourselves to be our own source. It turns out that, although we are indeed our own source, that very source is the Source of All.

.....Religions and paths portray the nature of our egoism and how to deal with it in one of two quite distinct modes. Usually, and to our misfortune, the ways solidify ego into a something, an enemy, which must be overcome, which must die, which inherently resides in our tainted nature, which must be purified. True enough. One cannot argue with the accumulated wisdom of great religions. For our modern culture, though, the notion that our ego must die seems frightening. More importantly, the notion that we harbor inherent spiritual taints gets interpreted by our self-bashing, insecure psychology to mean that we are bad, or at least inadequate — something that we in the West are often trained to believe from childhood on. We believe we are not good enough. So we don the knowledge of being corrupt to our core as a mantle of supposed wisdom, and flock to those that teach it. Then the religious teaching about egoism simply gets co-opted by the self-denigrating side of our ego, eagerly adopted and accepted as yet another weakness. We hang our heads and beat our breasts and feel the better (or worse) for it. Unfortunately, all this only strengthens our egoism and leads us into an endless cycle, akin to a dog chasing its tail.

.....Casting our ego as the enemy in a holy war and winning that battle is an exceedingly difficult proposition, primarily because the ego proves to be a most subtle adversary. In fact, the ego will even join the battle against itself. It will take it on and say “this is wonderful, I’m going to battle against ego, I will become free, I will be wonderful, I will be better than I am now, and I will be better than other people, because I will be a highly evolved spiritual being.” Pretense, for example, cannot solve the problem of egoism. Acting humble does not make us humble. Non-egoism cannot be added on from the outside: it must be subtracted from us, from within.

.....The ego happily joins our forces in the great battle. As an enemy, it infiltrates our lines, wearing our own uniform, its soldiers and officers indistinguishable from ours. How does one fight a battle against such a devious and resourceful enemy? For most of us, it comes to nothing but another heap of suffering as we merely fight ourselves in the name of spirituality and sink more deeply than ever into the morass of self-centeredness. Only the rarest of souls find a way through this conundrum.

.....An alternative, but also traditional view casts ego in an entirely different perspective, not as an enemy, but as an illusion, and invites us to see our ego for what it is: an empty, ephemeral sham, a hall of mirrors, a self-referential and insubstantial web. The rise of Buddhism in the West is, in no small part, due to this kinder yet no less incisive and perhaps more tractable formulation of the problem of egoism.

.....Our belief in our ego, or separate self, is to a large extent learned from society. All the people around us labor under a self-centered perspective on life, which naturally devolves to impressionable children. Repeatedly shining the light of awareness directly on this sense of separateness gradually disperses it. But if we look carefully for our ego, for this separate self that we think we are, we shall not find it.

.....Am I my body? I can control my body, I can be aware of my body, and my awareness is greater than my body. So I am probably not my body.

.....Am I my feelings? I can be aware of my feelings and have some rudimentary influence on them, so I am probably not my feelings.

.....Am I my thoughts? My thoughts claim the title of I, thinking “I think,” “I am hungry.” But that “I” is just a thought, having no more substance than any other thought. It fools me though, this thought “I.” I believe in it. I believe it refers to something real and substantial, to the real me. But if I look at it clearly, I see it as only a thought with no real referent. At best, I may have a vague idea that I am some combination of my thoughts, feelings, and body. Again it proves empty to the insightful observer.

.....Am I my knowledge and experience, my habits and desires, my style - in short, my personality? But I can see all this at work in myself. And clearly, the one who sees seems closer to me than this whole complex of acquired patterns and inherited predispositions that I call my personality. So no, I am not my personality. I need my personality because only through it can I function in life, but I also need to remember that this personality is not who I am.

.....How about my awareness? Am I my awareness? Two problems here. First, I have some control over what I am aware of. So there must be something deeper. Second, the deeper I go into awareness, the less it is centered in me, so how can that be me as a separate entity, as an ego?

.....How about my attention? How about that in me that decides, my will? This is the subtlest of all. Yet again, the deeper I look into my will, the less it is centered in me, and the more it opens beyond me.

.....So wherever we look, we do not find this self, this separate person that takes our name, this self-important actor on the stage of our life. The more we engage in spiritual inner work, the more carefully and persistently we are able look into ourselves, and the more this once-compelling ego, this self disappears. Or perhaps we see that it never existed to begin with. Gradually, our belief in our ego assumes a porous quality, which rather than cutting us off from others, merely clouds our relationships intermittently. This separate self never was. Our devotion to it shrivels and we are left to truly be ourselves, to play our unique role in the larger story of our common life. When moments come in which we fall back into that trance of selfness, we feel uncomfortable, like in a shoe that no longer fits, and we let it go.

.....Our ego, this illusory pattern, however, endures with remarkable resilience and persistence. Complete freedom from ego comes only at a very high station of spiritual development, something to which we may aspire and work for with diligence. The best approach lies somewhere between the two outlined above. Seeing and letting go can only work insofar as we are able to see. The depth and subtlety of our seeing must increase. For this, efforts of various kinds are necessary. These efforts may include grappling with some of the propensities of our separate self. Doing so can illumine the tentacles of egoism, while creating energy for seeing more. Only we must not have the idea that such struggles will, by themselves, reform our recalcitrant self-centeredness. A project of reform by force is doomed to fail. Efforts at reform can only be useful to the extent that they help us to see. Sensing the energy body and working at presence also help us see. And seeing, it is said, leads to liberation: liberation from the illusion of the ego and into the freedom of interconnectedness.
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Adam replied the topic: Developing a Strong Core Identity

Kol Drake wrote: Correct. There have been many 'philosophies of self' which tried and are still trying to definitively define 'self' and how ego plays it's part in that definition. Some say 'all is an illusion' therefore self/ego is also an illusion.

For Socrates, the goal of philosophy was to "Know Thyself".


Thanks Kol! I appreciate your responses to my questions/comments!

Also, it wasn't only Socrates' goal, it is a Delphic Maxim! Those are said to have been given to humanity by Apollon himself and are guidelines for "right living."

"Man fears the dark so he scrapes away at its edges with fire." - Rei Ayanami
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