Creative Wellbeing Workshops

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Who Are and Where Are You? Locating the Self, Spirit, Essence, Etc.

Outline of Figure with colors inside

Where Are is the “You” Inside of You Body
Humor us for a moment.  Close your eyes right now (or turn your attention inward if you can’t safely close them at this moment) and, without overthinking it, see if you can locate where inside of yourself you experience “You”.  In other words, if you ask yourself “Where am ‘I’ inside of me?” what comes to mind and/or where do you feel that in your body?

In My Head and In My Heart
When Rebecca asked her sister Jenny to answer this, Jenny replied “In my head and in my heart.” Did that mean back and forth between the two?  “No, It’s both.”  Jenny then described what she saw in her mind, an outline of a head and shoulders inside of which was a gaseous mass that changed in character according to whatever she was experiencing at that moment.  She laughed because what she saw was faceless but clearly had “a blond wig” around the head—she recognized how much her hair was a part of her identify.

Jenny’s Essence the focus is in the upper part of the torso
Agnes (a pseudonym) put into an outline her sense of self carefully filling in the top but leaving the bottom untouched

Above the Waist
When we ask our clients this, the answers vary more than we’d expect but it is surprisingly consistent that, like Jenny, it’s usually either in the heart area, the chest, the throat, the solar plexus, or the head.  Rarely do we hear anything below the belt; e.g., the legs, feet, hips, or pelvic area.  Even if someone doesn’t connect with a clear feeling of self, they usually gesture to their upper body.

What Is That Part That Is “You”?
So what is this entity that we experience as “I” or “me”?  Jenny called it her essence.  Is it that for you, or is your soul, your ego, consciousness, your spirit, your mind?  In the Internal Family Systems model, an approach to therapy which suggests that we are comprised of parts that interact with each other like a family, the core of who we are is called “Self” or “True Self.”

The Self Is A Hitchhiker and The Body Is the Ride
Regardless of what word we use, most of us have a sense of self that is both connected to but also discretely distinct from our bodies.  Sure, it might reside there, but it is also its own entity.  Even Jenny, who first saw it as clearly physically embodied in her head and heart then identified it as a shifting mass that resided in her upper body.  This alludes to the transpersonal proposition that our “Self” might be something like a hitchhiker and our bodies are the vehicles from whom we’re catching a ride.

What You Look Like Right Now?
Which leads us to our suggestion for the day—if your spirit, essence, soul, self has chosen to express itself through the body that it is now occupying, what does that like at this unique moment in time?  How is it shaped by the identities through which you engage in the world—man, woman, young, old, white, brown, black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, physically functioning, physically challenged, working, resting—and does a part of you exist outside of those human attributes?

Put Yourself in the Attached Outline of Figure
To explore this, we’ve attached a couple of different outlines of figures that you can print out and play around with (note one is more generic and the other two more distinctly male or female).  You can also draw your own outline–maybe it a figure but you get to decide what “vehicle” you are riding.

We suggest make one image that captures those aspects of you that form your worldly identity and another the part of you that you think of as the essence of “You” and where that would it reside.  You can also combine the two ideas in one picture and see what happens with the two.

Use whatever medium you like (pencil, markers, pastels, paint, collage, coffee grinds, leaves, ashes, whatever feels right).  When you look at the two elements, what do they tell you about “You”?!

Feel free to contact us if you would like some help deciphering what your image reveals about you.  That’s what we love to do!

Warmly, Rebecca and Gioia

Sara Briggs, artcile by