The self is an ever-expanding, ever-evolving function. While we first begin developing it immensely early (the mirror stage happening as early as 6 months old), it can take entire lifetimes for someone to come to terms with any type of dialogue with their self. This makes the development of a self to be a particularly tricky concept to discuss and work through.
My first instinct is to determine what people mean and want when they talk about developing their self. In most cases, it is meant as a greater, conscious understanding of the expansion of their worldviews, life/living, and how these factors influence their interpretations and reactions. I think of this quote in the discussion on the Mirror Stage:
The function of the mirror stage thus turns out, in my view, to be a particular case of the function of imagos, which is to establish a relationship between an organism and its reality.-Jacques Lacan, Ecrits II
For example, a friend of mine, having never lived outside of a city, thought the inheritance of land in ruralia was demonstrable of immense wealth – land in cities is an immense treasure. When presented with an alternative – that some rural land inheritance is actually an inheritance of generational debt and an impotent farm – there was a particular disjunction in class identity and spatial powers. These two factors shifting drastically certainly affected an understanding of their self wherein previously there were clear anti-mirrors to show what their self was not.
The development, here, begins with the different relationships one may acquire with the reality one is primarily functioning through.
Beginnings: The Development of a Self
A trend I’ve encountered with myself, friend groups, and noticed, is that one clearly elaborates who their self is early in life (young childhood to teenage years), to then experience and encounter a period where they have the silencing of their self because of a variety of factors. After coming out of their silencing stage, the tendency is then to either return to previous state of known selfhood (nostalgia), or seek for a more contemporaneous definition of their self.
The latter is what might draw someone to a post like this. Personally, I’ve stressed and experienced no shortage of anxiety over fearing the lack of acknowledgable development of my self. In my early twenties, I wondered if I had any attributable self or if I was just the product of one push after another.
To contend with these ideas, one might perform a type of analysis on their self through a series of diary entries. What are the things that give you pleasure? What dreams do you have? Do you plan to accomplish these dreams, or do you hope that they materialize at some point? What fears do you have? What biases? Who are people you like or love or admire? Have you befriended them? If not, what keeps you from befriending them?
An honest interrogation of your machinations, processing, and feelings will help to illuminate who you consider your self to be, as well as provide you with the necessary equipage to challenge this concept of the self moving forward.
Unlearning Self-Negating Habits and Behaviors
Continuing to press forward with the development of your self is a necessary and painful step of unlearning self-negation. Importantly throughout any journey to improve yourself and your lifestyle, please ensure that you have support; whether this is as simple as an uncomplicated pleasure television show, or a network of friends, or a therapist, what have you.
Self-negation, in my experience and opinion, is a process learned through a too-heavy adherence and interaction with society without the gilded lens of critical thinking. Without questioning, it can be all-too easy to fall into self-defeating behaviors: go to work, go home, live the role you’re intended, tolerate until death…
But what would be the pleasure in fulfilling such a desireless life? Interests, hobbies, and experiences enrich the self and complicate it, coaxing the self back into a conversational environment. A good place to begin with developing your life and self beyond a place of erasure is asking, ‘Why?’ to your actions and genuinely try to answer.
Distinguishing Self from Sponge and Interacting with Environments
The further you develop and establish your self and your self’s voice, the more you’ll be able to engage with any environment you enter with an assuredness and confidence. Don’t like an environment? Trust your ability to digest why you might not like something and determine if the assumption is worthwhile.
These methods are attempts at engaging and empowering your intuitive, associative processing of both individuals and environments. By learning to trust and develop your self to a more authentic position, you are creating access to a world where you can inhabit, discern, and engage in anything meaningfully. You can make meaning from anything.
And doesn’t that sound fun?
If you’d like to take a guided self-exploration of broad themed emotional topics and expand your intuitive world, consider taking an Espial.