The writer explores the mesmerizing development and manifestation of the self.
The self is the human mind’s greatest act of creation. A creation molded to fit a specific time, place and cultural landscape with a spark of free-will, allowing some freedom of self-expression and to some extent uniqueness in the manifestation of that self.
The formation of the self commences far before the parents punitive/reward teachings of yes and no. As humans, we carry our ancestor’s perks; aka personality traits embedded in DNA. After all, how many times have we heard: “You’re just like your mother, stubborn. You’re like your father, never satisfied…” to loosely quote Prince.
Before proceeding into a swift presentation of what the journey of the self is, starting from newborns to young adults, the following comes with a fine writing: this is not by any means an account of what every individual passes through. There are variations (in the manifestations of the self), just as there are variations in personality, situations, and culture.
The birth of the self has little room for self-expression in its early stages of infancy. Newborns are entirely dependent on their parents, and their understanding of the self as separate and independent from their parents only happens in the latter years of infancy. In its simplicity, the self ensures its livelihood and so remains compliant, unless it is suffering and survival mode kicks in.
Fast forwarding through childhood, we reach the wonderful world of the self during the teenage years. This brings with it rebellion and the experimentation of diverse selves, forming ideas and opinions to ultimately come forth with a self that declares itself rightfully here.
Friends and cultural influences and trends all play a part. Perhaps one of the most painful years, but equally exhilarating, is finding out who this self is. This stage is not always linear, and for many it lasts throughout their twenties. The development of the self slows down, and the self reaches a form of stability.
Then, life happens. Whether it’s becoming a parent, or the death of a loved one, a divorce or any life-changing situation. This deeply affects the self, regardless of whether one sees it as positive or negative. This is the point I find most interesting and intriguing. The power of the mind and the malleability of the self. They form a symbiotic relationship where it is capable of recreating a self when all sense of the self is lost.
In year 2015, like Alice in Wonderland, I heard the caterpillar’s asking, “Who are you?” The only difference to Alice was that I was both Alice lost in wonderland and the caterpillar. I had always known my self as being strong, confident and very much sure of who I am. But life happens, and when it happens, it can shake you up to the core. My divorce very much did cause my existence to tremble and fall. While writing this article, I overheard on a talk show that divorce impacts a person either as an event or as a role, mine was the latter. The self is not just an outward persona we set up for the world; it is an active participant, it anchors us within a reality and helps us navigate throughout life experiences.
For the next two years, I redefined and rediscovered who I was and who I wanted to be, at times adopting an alter ego as a form of protection or a façade to test out with my new definition of selfhood. This phenomenon is not only restricted to recent divorcees but equally can be seen when, for example, pop stars adopt alter egos; a temporary mask to wear for the world. Without judgment, this is equally a solution to test and try to be someone else. A new self, and why not become Sasha Fierce like Beyonce? But that very act of creation and recreation of the self has set me off in utter awe and admiration of the capacity of the human mind. With every fall there is a form of adaptation of morphisms and the concept of the evolution of the mind is infinite. We may fall but we can always come back up to become anything and whoever we want to be. We carry on.
This phenomenon of the recreation of the self is what mesmerizes me alongside the human mind and faith. With these three elements, the self can be created and recreated to be anything or anyone dreams it to be. An existence that is both fluid and capable of recovering, in time, from a fall and to start a life every day on a new chapter until one is capable of reaching to the closest truth they could ever reach: their own truest self.
Al Shamsi’s recently published book Alayah by Sail Publishinghas been awarded the support from Dubai Culture part of their printing and publishing movement “Reading in Arabic Challenge”.
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