Michelle DiNapoli submitted this reflection paper for the 1st Week of her Psychopathology Course…
(It is longer then your average blog, and SO worth reading for a look into the Southwestern College experience.)
Psychological Wholeness, Self Awareness, and My Journey Into Deep Territory…..
Reading about and pondering the nature of metaphor brought to mind what I feel is a more appropriate way of conceiving of “wholeness” and its implications. In class we discussed the concept of wholeness in connection to healing, and how this metaphor seems to imply that the person in question is fragmented, broken or somehow lacking. I myself had written something down about wholeness under the question “What does “healing” mean?” on my Question sheet. After some discussion about wholeness in class, I realized that I meant it differently than how it is probably most often intended/received. On the surface, it makes sense why if someone were seeking “wholeness,” that he or she must think of him or herself as fragmented or broken. What I mean to refer to when I speak of wholeness has nothing to do with what one is or is not but rather how much of oneself one is aware.
What I mean is that I conceive of everyone (myself included) as being whole, always and at any given time. (I don’t think it’s possible for something to exist and yet not be innately whole). But I think that mostly everyone (myself included) is usually only aware of particular parts or aspects of themselves (which leads perhaps to feeling fragmented.) So I see it as an issue of awareness, and not of being-ness. I also think that the quality of people’s self-awareness is most often exclusive. What I mean by this is that we often think, for instance: ‘I am a woman, which means I’m not a man. I am intelligent and educated, which means I’m not dim-witted and ignorant. I am gentle, which means I’m not abrasive.’
It is very possible to think in a more inclusive way. For instance: “I am me, and I am also the Cosmos. I am mortal, and I am also infinite. I am a woman, and I am also man. I am strong, and I am also weak.” In other words, I am something, not at the expense of being something else (even if that “something else” appears to be the something’s opposite.) This kind of thinking is a stepping stone toward what I see as a more accurate/appropriate way of conceiving of self. To get even closer to (what I think of as) the reality of being, it is necessary to acknowledge that my worldly identity must be exclusive, even while my sense of self is inclusive. And to represent this accurately, I feel I would need to adjust my language such that ‘I have’ or ‘I contain’ all qualities or possibilities but what expresses itself through me are the qualities that others see or are the characteristics that are a part of the role of “Michelle,” (in my case.)
So it could be expressed this way: ‘I contain both man and woman, but “woman” is what is being presented through me (as Michelle).’ This kind of thinking acknowledges that every being is innately whole but that only particular qualities or manifestations of that wholeness are visible to the rest of the world. So, to me, it seems accurate to say “I contain every possibility and am everything. And because I also happen to exist in the world as Michelle, I have to appear in that world with particular qualities and not with others; I have to have an exclusive identity to exist in a world of physical form and variety. Thus what is expressed through me are: feminine, sensitive, introverted, etc.” But I think that what appears in the physical world of form is but one of many manifestations of one’s being (and that ultimately everyone’s “being” isn’t a phenomenon that they personally own or create but that rather is one-and-the-same force. This force can “wear” an infinite number of costumes or can take any shape. Thus I want to make a distinction between what we truly are and what we “are” by virtue of how we appear or manifest in the world as individual identities.) It would be very helpful if there were two different words for “I,” one word that allowed me to refer to myself as the particular individual that I am in the world and another that allowed me to refer to myself as what I am in a more pervasive sense. The former would be an “I” that only I am, since only I am Michelle DiNapoli. And the latter “I” would refer to the exactly the same thing or force or idea that anyone else referred to when they spoke of “I” in that sense.
What is important to highlight about this way of thinking is that whatever “particulars” appear through a person do not define the totality of that person’s being. The “particulars” could be thought of as part of one’s worldly identity. What I’m trying to suggest is that whichever qualities, traits or forms characterize us as individuals are but just a few parts or aspects of what we are. I think that our language restricts our consciousness of what we are (not to suggest that language dictates or manages the parameters of consciousness in a specifically linear, cause-and-effect way; perhaps they are merely reflections of one another.) And of course it gets confusing, because on some level I am my identity, and having an identity does involve dis-identifying with a wide variety of qualities and things.
I think the trick is to keep that world-bound identity in relative perspective to the bigger picture, like so: “In the human world I am Michelle, and I exhibit particular qualities, skills, strengths and weaknesses that characterize my individuality and identity as a human being. I am also a whole lot of other things and I exist in many ways, connected to a formless existence or force that is infinite. But in the realm of the world I am indeed Michelle and I exist in very particular ways here.” To me, the idea is about holding the complexity of being a finite, particular identity in the world and of being essentially limitless in one’s being. And of course this would involve seeing all other beings and all other forms with the same perspective, knowing that the ultimate “being-ness” of anyone or anything is comprised of the same force. (And if I were to be asked what I thought would be an important next step for the evolution of the consciousness of humanity, I would say exactly that. I think that being able to exist/act with one’s worldly identity while holding an awareness of the infinite nature of consciousness is hugely important.)
So, to me, if I am working toward “wholeness,” I am working toward a larger and more complete awareness of myself (and of everything else.) I believe that I and everything/everyone else in the universe can be whole just fine without my or anyone’s being aware of that wholeness; So I’m not under the impression that working toward wholeness is about actually making something whole. To me, it just means trying to broaden or change awareness. I think that, ideally, healing work should function by making us more aware of ourselves and the world, and not by “fixing” or “mending” a brokenness of self that is illusory. (And on that note, maybe “healing” work should be called “consciousness-evolving” work instead.) That all being said, the metaphor of “wholeness” in the way it is typically used probably propagates the notion that people truly are fragmented and broken. I think it would be ideal if we had a similar but alternative metaphor to use instead that called attention to the role of awareness in one’s sense of being “whole” or “less-than-whole.”