Lately the phrase “de-inventing myself” has been rolling around in my mind. It’s a potent phrase for me because I feel as though that’s exactly what I’m doing at this stage in my life.
Over the last many years I have become acutely aware of the identity that I inherited, an invented identity that conformed to societal and familial expectations, but which wasn’t really me.
We all inherit an identity, handed down to us by our ancestors and societies that reflect the beliefs they developed. This inherited, invented identity isn’t ever truly us. It is a sort of pseudo-self we are given and from which we unconsciously live—until we don’t.
There comes a time when the impulse within us to be true to ourselves, to be truly our Self, becomes too insistent. It is like a shoot pushing up through compacted soil that will not be deterred. It will express itself. And in order to do that it must break through the crust of the invented self.
We can try to keep it down. We can try to hold onto who we have thought ourselves to be out of fear. But deep down we know that’s not what we are here for.
People sometimes talk about reinventing themselves. Personally, I have no interest in that, because in the end it would still be an invention.
I do, however, have an intense interest in continuing to relinquish everything that I have mistakenly believed myself to be so as to abide in the continual awareness of the True Self, the Eternal Self, the Divine Self—whatever you want to call it.
Unlike re-inventing yourself, de-inventing yourself has nothing to do with deciding what to become, but stripping away everything you aren’t—all constructs and beliefs—so that you can uncover the essential Self. And the essential Self is not something we invent. It is something we are.
I know people may look at my life and believe that over the past decade I have been reinventing myself, leaving my vocation as a pastor and setting out on a new life trajectory. But that’s not at all what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing some intense spelunking down into the deepest caverns of my thought patterns, belief systems, down into the origins of the invented self. I’ve been excavating every artifact of that invented self and bringing it to the light of awareness and Love for it to dissolve in the elixir of non-judgment.
De-inventing yourself isn’t easy. It requires a lot of persistence, awareness, and a fierce resolve to dispel illusions wherever they show up within you. It requires both chutzpah and humility. But it’s worth it, because uncovering and living from the Eternal Self is what we are here to do.
There are many things the invented self, or egoic self, frets and fusses about that the True Self doesn’t give a hoot about. Like how other people see it, for instance. It just isn’t the True Self’s concern, because its purpose is simply to radiate its essence, just as the sun radiates its light without concerning itself with how it will be received.
When you really start to look deeply within, you will be astonished to see how the self you have thought you are is nothing but a construct, a set of ideas, an invention. Then, when you begin to let go of that invented self you begin to uncover a vastness, a serenity, an inner strength you never knew was in you. You begin to humbly accept the brilliant magnificence of who you truly are.
Dawn Davidson says
Patricia, thank you for your wise words. I am currently sitting with my de-menting mom in TN, working to move her and my dad into an assisted living facility nearby (he’s been in a different one for a decade or so, due to brain surgery.) As I watch her lose touch with herself, and as I watch her deconstruct her life and some of mine, I have been thinking a lot about the self, and what makes me me. I don’t often have time to read your posts these days, but when I do they are always worth it. Thank you for radiating your true self, and helping me to see this process of loss as also a process of uncovering, and of unburdening.
Patricia Pearce says
Dawn, it’s great to hear from you. It sounds like you are in the midst of a profound and challenging time with your parents, and I can imagine how the situation is leading you to ponder the nature of the self and what makes each of us unique. Please know that I’m sending you many blessings and much love!
Dawn Davidson says
Thanks, Patricia. It’s a measure of how intense things have been that I only just now read your kind words, many months later. They are safely in the facility now, and I am back in CA both re-inventing and de-inventing myself. 🙂 What a crazy year+ this has been! Next up: I am taking an online course in Zentangle, and looking to enter grad school in the Fall. Hope all is well with you!
Larry S. says
I especially like the distinction between de-inventing and reinventing.
Shifting mental models, in Lean Thinking the goal is to strip away everything that is not value-added; to “eliminate the waste” to free up capacity to do more value-added activity.
I’ll be reflecting on this for a while …
Kip Leitner says
This posts reminds me a lot of the concept of [ true self / false self ] introduced in 1960 by the psychologist Donald Winnicott. He noted that the sense of self is rooted in the sense of “aliveness” and goes back to the very beginning of the way that infants and children are cared. In a real sense, the first thing our caregivers give us is the sense that we have a right to be here and that our needs will be met. This grounds the entire sense of self and the elaboration of the personality will come later.
Lori Murray says
Thank you, Patricia.
I am curious about what your letting go of personal constructs looks like?
I find it is one thing to see at first, is just that, egoic thoughts monitoring an unreal conditioned life.
And then I find, even with this Awareness, patterns still play out.
To ‘let go’ of a noted egoic reaction, some folks will remind themselves, this doesn’t reflect the Truth of what I really am, and dismiss the reaction and/or perhaps call on Holy Spirit for help.
I see this will halt further engagement for the time being, if simply let go via dismissal.
A letting go, more like a letting be, while consciously recognizing all is the Beloved, and experienced “there,” has proven ‘letting go’ results here and for no one.
Paradoxically. seen from beyond the personal contructs, yet then reflected back, in their dissolution.
Is this your experience, when you say let go? I question my interest in wanting ‘“personal clarity” on this subject, yet it remains. Thank you!
Patricia Pearce says
Hi Lori. Great question. I find that reminding myself consciously that what the mind is doing is just generating a story, and then doing what call suspending my belief in that story definitely helps. (And also, it is the *resistance* to the thought pattern that keeps it in place, so compassion and acceptance is always key).
But for me the process goes even deeper, and is something I do in a meditative, almost trance state. It feels more like deep shamanic work than anything the conscious mind can engage in. It goes to the subconscious level where the patterns are being generated, and again, Love is the essential ingredient.
It’s a bit difficult to describe in words, but I hope that helps answer your question.
Penny Gill says
a really wonderful post, Patricia. It sums up in such simple language so much of these last years of my life – supposedly my “retirement” – ha! This excavation, stripping, and letting go is so hard, and brings such ease and freedom and new life. Remarkable, really. One big help, I have found, is to keep breathing kindness to myself, as all that old pain surfaces: the pain must be experienced, it seems, and so the instruction is to “lean into it.” The compassion and kindness are essential. Blessings and deep thanks!