So what is selfhood? What’s it like to live life in such a state? Mostly it’s an awareness of what choices you have, and a willingness to take responsibility for them.
The conscious journey to selfhood begins with a deconstruction of the world you know; a total overhaul of the picture that has been presented to you as ‘normality’ since you were born.
At first, it can seem like a battle, because the values that don’t suit you tend to fill your field of vision – but gradually as you define a whole new set of healthy values that work for you, the field becomes wider; the choices more varied, and more clearly defined.
In selfhood, you’re consciously making choices in accord with your own idea of the world, rather than automatically operating through - and therefore subjecting yourself to - the values that society collectively defines.
It might seem that a life of constant assessment and evaluation would be unnecessarily complex, but it’s not. By its nature, life in selfhood is very simple. As you gradually peel away the socially prescribed aspects of your life, you also dump most of the complexities that define the social aspect of your identity. Gradually your world settles into a state of peaceful clarity.
Socially-defined choices carry a subtext that evokes fear: the benefits of acting in your own interests are always weighed against the consequences. But when you live through your own set of principles, you can consider your range of choices without fear or guilt, because they’re your principles. You make the choice instead of submitting to the scary ambiguity of someone else’s decisions.
You no longer choose to make anyone else responsible for your life. This is a crucial point. Social values have you believe that someone else makes the choices that control your life – but they don’t, unless you grant them that responsibility: Also your choice.
Often our choices are made by the way we live, rather than conscious decision, and the transformation from unconscious to conscious makes up the large part of a journey to selfhood; like the difference between sleeping and waking.
With awareness of your choices comes the ability to do what you want every day. You feel a deep sense of fulfilment, and become more and more present to the now: You can appreciate what you have and where you are standing.
It’s not an easy road to selfhood. It’s very likely that on the way you’ll become a fairly cold, isolated individual before you find your way back to a genuine desire to be social once more. Many of the aspects of social values that actually work and are important to a healthy life, get dumped along the way when you define your own set of values – like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Often they’re simple human kindnesses and issues of compassion that social values have distorted by adding a subtext of obligation. Obligation is like a snaking vine that’s tangled almost inextricably through many aspects of ‘normal’ social life, and in the drive to neutralize it, healthy aspects of human interaction are temporarily wiped out by association.
However, as you settle into selfhood, you stop blaming people for their values and begin to care about them again. When you’re truly free of obligation and duty, you come full circle back round to being a social being once more; relating through your own set of principles, from a genuine kindred feeling.