“Just who do you think you are?” That was a question my parents would often ask me when I was a boy – not from any philosophical standpoint – just as a remonstration for something said or done that in their view amounted to mischief or cheek! Little did I know then that I would spend my adult life exploring that question. So let me ask you, very politely, “Who do you think you are? Who are you?”
The normal response to that type of question would be something along the lines of, “I’m Jim (or Alice or whatever our name happens to be,” wouldn’t it? That might be followed with a description of our occupation, where we live or any of our personal details. The fact is, though, that answer is false. Conventionally we have to say it and will always say it because we have to communicate in a world that is full of conventions; but it isn’t right when we look at things in a deeper way than normal.
Does it matter?
You might say to me, “Does it really matter when all we’re looking at is happiness?” Well, yes it does matter because the most basic and fundamental threat to our own happiness is not who or what others think we are; it’s who we think we are. We all see ourselves as separate human beings – individual, self-contained units – and as long as we see ourselves in this way, there will be things in this world to protect ourselves from. We will see danger “out there” to our peace and happiness. So what do we do? We build barriers, barriers of protection in our minds (and often physical barriers, too). The trouble is that these barriers affect our thinking, our feelings and our behaviour. They stop us engaging fully with our world and with ourselves.
For our own sanity and well-being, we have to overcome this mental picture that creates a false sense of identity or reality. Keep reading these posts because we’ll be looking at how to do this.
Adapted from The Great Little Book of Happiness