By Chitra Jha
The Great War between the parts that we love and the parts that we reject can only be won when we love and accept every part of ourselves, for all of it is divine, says Chitra Jha
When I first heard the words, “Know thyself”, I conjured up an image of some mysterious divine self inside me, who I had to ‘seek’ and know. But gradually, as I progressed on the Path, I understood that know thyself simply means – know your day-to-day self through its day-to-day expressions. Be conscious of all your aspects and understand that all the aspects are an expression of the divine Self that you are. There aren’t “certain” divine qualities within you, your entire being is divine; every expression of yours is divine.
The moment we understand this truth, we start valuing each aspect of ourselves. We also realise that ‘I am the one I was looking for.” This is the true import of the term.
I arrived at this delightful understanding after a great deal of introspection and contemplation. Allow me to share my personal understandings in a nutshell with you.
There are multiple selves in one human body
Our normal perception of ourselves (the human software) limits us into thinking that inside us there is one ‘self’ with a distinct personality. But when we look within, and encounter our thoughts and emotions, we begin to understand that our “personality” is not formed by just one “self” but a multitude of them. We actually house a ‘crowd’ within us. There may be a rebel self, a seducer self, an intellectual self, a wise self, an organiser self, a devotee self, and a victim self; each with a different story, a distinct style and a motivation of its own, often strikingly dissimilar from that of the others. No wonder they are usually not at peace with each other. In fact, they are constantly in conflict. Their individual impulses, desires, principles, obligations, and aspirations create an unceasing struggle within us.
Identify all the ‘selves’ that reside inside your body
If you wish to identify your sub-personalities, first make a list of all your ‘known and accepted’ personality traits. Imagine that each trait belongs to one ‘self’ residing inside you. Identify as many ‘selves’ inside you as you can. For example, inside me live an honest, a loving, an intelligent and a wise self. However, since we operate in a plane of duality, the polar opposite of these ‘selves’ must also be inside me – whether I am aware of them or not; which means that inside me also lives a dishonest, unloving, unintelligent, and a stupid self. (And this is just a small list, the more observant of yourself you are, the more your list grows – until you realise that you have every possible kind of person in your personality.)
Notice your feelings about your ‘selves’
When you make your own list you will notice that while you feel very good about acknowledging the presence of the first group of selves or people, it is very difficult to acknowledge the presence of the second group. The attachment to the first group and the aversion to the second group is the cause of all our inner (and outer) conflicts.
The Operative Ego
The first group of selves together form our Operative Ego – the cornerstone of our personality. Its primary purpose is to protect us from pain. It helps us satisfy our inner need to avoid the pain. This protector-controller group emerges early in our life. As a child, we look around and notice what type of behavior is rewarded, and what is punished. We figure out the rules of the world around us, and create an appropriate model of behavior for ourselves in our specific environment. Our operating ego takes birth from this acceptable code of behavior. It determines how we should operate in this world, and how others should perceive us. As we grow up, some other parts of our personality develop and contribute their flavour to the original operative ego.
We own all our primary selves with pride and consider them ‘right’ for us (and for others) – after all they bring us success and rewards. This ‘ownership’ creates our righteous behavior. The more attached we are to our primary selves, the more righteous and judgmental we become. Our ‘operating ego’ is the window through which we see our world.
Our Inner Child
The second group of ‘selves’ together forms our Inner Child – a term coined by Dr. Carl Jung, a Swiss psycho-analyst, to represent our suppressed, disowned sub-personalities, that don’t find favour in either our inner or outer environment. We consider them the ‘wrong’ kind of selves, the kind that need to be punished – after all, they bring us pain.
These ‘rejected’ selves make us feel vulnerable, sensitive, emotional and shy. We cannot expose them to others for fear of ridicule. Since we ourselves reject them, we fear that others too will reject them. We hide them behind the operating ego’s masks; which loves to ‘control’ them and keep them in their place. It does the same with such people out in the world too.
The inner struggle
The ‘operating ego’ makes us outwardly focussed. It wants us to stay engaged with people, things, food, body, shopping, TV, Internet, news, politics, pollution – in short anything and everything that doesn’t leave us with any time or inclination to focus within; because the moment we look within, we will have to face our inner child – the disowned sub-personalities, the inner demons. The operating ego’s mandate (charter of duty) is to protect us from these inner ghosts and it does its duty very efficiently – no wonder we keep promoting it.
However, the inner child is equally smart. It sends out a vibration (an SOS message) to the universe to bring us those people, situations and circumstances that will “trigger” the appearance of one or the other sub-personality. A constant barrage of such triggers and the resultant showing up of the sub-personalities – who have to show up very quickly, before the operating ego has a chance to control and suppress them (this is what happens in a stress reaction) – increases the work-load of the operating ego. So much so that it begins to feel overwhelmed, tired, stressed, and frustrated with its non-stop work. This is when it turns to some substance to dull its pain. Our addictions are our operating ego’s ways of dulling its pain – the pain that it incurs as a cost of sparing us the pain of owning up and facing our hurt and wounded sub-personalities. And why are the sub-personalities (the inner child) hurt and wounded? Well, anyone who is suppressed, disowned, unloved, unacknowledged, unrecognised, rejected, and controlled would feel hurt and wounded. Wouldn’t you feel the same?
Illness and death
When nothing else works, the inner child brings out the most potent tool from its arsenal to draw our attention to it. This is the tool of physical pain and illness. Even the smartest of the operating egos can’t deny the presence of illness and physical pain. However, it uses the blame-game (blame weather, people, bacteria, virus, mosquitoes, whoever – but DO NOT LOOK WITHIN) to divert our attention and urges us to take resort to prescription drugs. (The only difference between illicit drugs and prescription drugs is the regulation of dosage. The long-term damage to the body’s hardware is the same.)
The inner child sends an SOS for more pathogens, who in their love for our “suppressed selves”, create more pain. Now the battle becomes more intense. The lines are drawn more clearly. The operating ego uses all the means at its disposal – people, money, material, drugs. And inner child summons its forces – pain, pathogens, and immobility. A lot of energy (time, money, resources, and health) is lost in this battle. Both sides suffer immense losses. Both feel tired, helpless, hopeless, and depressed. But neither knows the way out of this mess. Finally, the body cannot take it anymore and gives way.
Operative ego and inner child get liberated from this body, and look for another “battle-field” to continue their war. And the karmic war carries on.
Lack of acknowledgement
The problem is that we not only don’t acknowledge our sub-personalities, we also do not acknowledge our operating ego or our primary selves. We refrain from praising these ‘selves’ in our false humility; in order to not sound too proud. The operating ego feels hurt and unrecognised by this dismissive behaviour – especially after all the pains it takes to “protect” us from the so-called demons within. Hence, it begins to “exert” itself more strongly and develops “show-off” tendencies. This creates our need to talk about (and hear about) our accomplishments all the time. Such talk pleases our operating ego and strengthens it. However, it also makes it work double-shift to suppress the sub-personalities.
Detachment with ego
When we first become ‘aware’ of this drama going on inside us (and also being reflected in our outer world), we begin to ‘detach’ ourselves from the ‘operating ego’. Of course, the ego resents and resists this detachment big time. It feels unloved – ‘not good enough’ – and wonders what went wrong. In order to win back that love (and attachment) it begins to do its job of controlling the sub-personalities and protecting us from pain more vigorously. (The dramas in our outer world intensify as well.) However, the moment the sub-personalities sense the change of dynamics, they start showing up more and more. This increases the operating ego’s work and tires it out.
Delusional operative ego
The stronger (or more delusional) the operative ego, the more the fear of suppressed sub-personalities showing up – hence, the greater the suppression and control (both in the inner and outer worlds). Such people can’t relax. They can’t let their hair or guard down. There is a lot at stake. The whole ‘reputation’ of the operative ego (the one we identify with most strongly) is at stake.
Have you ever wondered why simple, humble folks do not need to suppress their inner traits so much? They have nothing to lose. When we have nothing to lose, we are fearless. A person who has nothing to lose or nothing to fear cannot be controlled. Hence, the whole world operates upon the “carrot and stick’ policy. You can be controlled if you have something to lose or something to fear – even notionally. Fear of loss is the biggest fear – even if it is a notional loss.
In our mob mentality, we don’t pause to think if our fears are real or notional. It is either fight or flight for us. Who has the time to pause and think?
Awareness and compassion
When we begin to pause and think, we become aware that everyone needs love, acceptance, acknowledgement, appreciation, and recognition. So, we begin to offer these gifts not only to all the disowned selves (as and when they show up) but also to the operating ego, which is only doing its assigned job. When the disowned selves are owned and acknowledged as an integral part of the same ‘whole’, the need to control them is no longer there, and the operating ego dissolves (it has no more role to play – no more job to do).
When we appreciate our primary selves – our so-called good qualities – without guilt, we enhance our self-confidence and self-esteem. A healthy self-esteem does not feel the need to suppress the sub-personalities. It helps us take our so-called shortcomings in our stride. And we remain comfortable ‘being human’.
When the ‘operative ego’ feels appreciated, it calms down. It still does its job of keeping the sub-personalities under control, but does so more professionally, without any personal axe to grind. After all, it is getting its due.
When the inner child knows that it is allowed to express itself within a certain boundary, it loses the inner need to jump up and show itself at the first opportune moment. (Have you seen how children ‘act up’ when they are not allowed free expression within given boundaries? Our inner child does the same. It re-acts.)
When the operative ego and inner child begin to ‘understand’ each other; an inner truce is declared, which gets reflected in the outer world. When both work together for our highest good, miracles get created. We do not need to fall sick, or face adversity; because the inner Child is being heard. We do not need to act pricey or show off because the Operative Ego feels appreciated. We do not need to control or suppress anyone, because all is well in ‘Ram Rajya’.
Awareness helps us see that all small selves joined together form the Self. Compassion helps us look at both warring sides and realise that both are right in their own way. It makes both feel ‘understood’ and loved. Both awareness and compassion help us in integrating all the conflicting elements by embracing them as important aspects of duality.
When both begin to work together joyously, our life becomes joyful. When our relationship with our ‘Self’ is healed, all our outer relationships heal as well.
Back in the 15th century, Kabir Das sang, “Pothi padh padh jag mua, Pandit bhayo na koye, Dhai aakhar prem ka, Padhe so pandit hoye.” People who fill themselves up with bookish knowledge die without achieving mastery, but one who learns two-and-a-half syllables of love, becomes a Master.
How do we learn these two-and-a-half syllables? The answer lies in ‘loving the Self’. The more we learn to love and accept all aspects of self – the more we become filled with love for Self – the Master within. It all begins and ends with us. We are the Alpha and the Omega.
It is only after I truly understood my ‘Self’ that I realized the import of ‘I am……’; for whatever I write after ‘I am…..’ is an expression of the Divine. ‘I am……’ is the strongest proclamation of the Divine. If I say, “I am dark” then dark is divine; if I say, ‘I am fat’, then fat is divine. However, it is up to me if that is the expression I wish to choose and create.
By proclaiming that I am fat and dark; I am creating more of that divine aspect in my being. Dark and fat are divine aspects but the question is, ‘do I want to embody these divine aspects?’ I have ‘infinite’ choices of expression. I can choose those divine qualities (all qualities are divine) that make me feel good about myself – that I enjoy expressing. AHA! This was a big “aha” moment. I create my “Self” (all the selves within me) by my “I am” statements. It is time to become more aware of them; and create my “selves” consciously.
Through the above understanding, I found the answer to the question, “Who am I?” Whatever I write/say after, “I am ………” is who I also am. Everything I fill in this blank is an expression of my divine Self – God, if you please!
I am expanding the definition of God through my ‘being’……and so are you!
This answer is truly liberating. I feel freer than I have ever felt.
Now I KNOW my “Self”………and the journey of discovering more of me continues…
Wow! This sure is exciting!
About the Author
Chitra Jha is a healer, writer and trainer. Her first book, Achieve your highest potential has been published by Penguin India.
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