Knowledge and self-knowledge is a fundamental human need. We hear almost daily how self-knowledge is so important, its positive influence on our inner world, relationship and family nevertheless a lot of people get stuck on this journey or without even starting it. Sometimes I sense a very strong resistance from clients’ side when we start to talk about self-knowledge. Often I see that their root of problem is in their incorrect or lack of self-knowledge, notwithstanding that I can explain and prove it they still refuse it and believe the source of problem is or from someone or something else.
What does hamper those people to learn about themselves? Why is it so difficult to face with the real self for a lot of people?
As Freud has it the main cause of our mental sicknesses is a fear of knowing ourselves. With suppression we try to avoid to get connected with our undesirable/negative emotions, experiences, impulses or opportunities. This fear is so much connected to being unwilling to know better the outside world which is our internal and external problems very often are connected and similar to each other. This fear is defensive type and we can hold our self-esteem, self-respect and self-love if we are consistently cut ourselves off from threatening recognitions which are able to destroy this ideal self. We are afraid of getting connected to that knowledge which can cause shame or we may feel weak, vulnerable, evil, selfish or unworthy. With repressing and similar defensive mechanism we maintain that self how we would like to see ourselves so the unpleasant and dangerous truths can remain in obscurity.
In psychotherapy we call these mechanisms resistance which with we try to avoid facing with unpleasant facts. With therapeutic help we are able to see our own distortions, facing them and getting stronger and more confident to be able to take them. Being honest with ourselves requires a strong effort indeed.
Under the insistence on our problems often we might make an effort to avoid personal growth. Here other distresses might appear like if we are not able to perform or fill up expectations we feel weak and unworthy ourselves. Our talent includes the responsibility of profiting and the possibility of loneliness as well. Our wonderful inner potential can transform into fascinating and motivating at the same time terrifying as well. Our fear is completely understandable on the other hand we must realize that we must overcome these fears to be able to create.
Here it comes the well-known pyramid of needs made by Maslow. For instance we might remember that curiosity is a higher need than security. Liable to danger, anxiety and fear is very difficult to take a path towards to ourselves. Just imagine a small child being in a foreign environment. Being close to its mother and just step by step exploring because security is more important. Getting to know the negative aspects of our identity/self we can eliminate them so they can become our gentle travelling partners.
Ostrichism in the role of declining responsibility
As an adult our fears and anguishes are more cultured and hidden. If we don’t need to face with our emotions by force we are willing to suppress them and denying their existence to ourselves. Well that’s why so often we do not even realize we are anxious. Numerous times might be better not knowing our problems or incompletions well if allowed ourselves consciousness we should act. Act like sticking out our heads from sand and actually so often we are afraid of consequences and responsibility hail from knowledge.
Well what can be the solution to relieve our negative emotions burden? A cognitive coping strategy can be a good alternative if we make known, predictable and manageable the imminent, hidden things, thoughts and emotions. If we know and understand unknown scary things we are able to eliminate the negative emotions which are attached to them. Important to see that this process requires daring and endurance. Paradoxically the knowledge about ourselves becomes the best medicine against our anxiety. Besides our personality develops and enriches, enlarges our knowledge with the function of homeostatic defense as well.
The work of self-knowledge is a battle between our fears and bravery. The available award is visible, freedom, harmony with ourselves and self-confidence.
Onto the margin of this topic
When we decide to work on ourselves we always can find positive characteristics inside as well. Like everybody else, we are all have good/positive and bad/negative part too. If these two parts are becoming visible and we are aware of them we can start to understand and work on the negative side to diminish it and correct their outcomes. The fact is we can’t run away from ourselves, sooner or later we must face with ourselves.
The reward of the self-knowledge work is priceless. Living our days in harmony, loving and respecting ourselves and having a special tool in our hand which is the ability to deal with problems on a successful and proactive way.
Charles S. Carver-Michael F. Scheier: Perspectives on Personality
Maslow, A.H. : Motivation and personality
Freud, A. : The ego and the mechanism of defense