I truly believe that self-awareness lies at the root of sustainability and happiness. One day it’ll be my doctoral thesis (note to self).
For now, there’s a lovely ‘fairy-tale’ that I’d like to share. Actually, two. The first helps us to identify what of our external influences we’ve internalised. Nothing in that is necessarily wrong, and indeed is required for us to belong. We however so often internalise things that do not sit comfortably with us – think how Cinderella believed she could never go to the ball because her step-sisters and step-mother said so. This fairy-tale game helps to sift through some of those absorbed messages, to see what we want to keep and what we’d like to change.
Choose the most ‘different’ culture and country from your one of origin that you can imagine. In my work, I often use the example of the Alaskan Inuit. Now, imagine you were born an “Alaskan Inuit” (insert your own idea here)….. Live in that life for a few moments, picture what you believe your days would be like. Ask yourself: What of me would still be the same? It takes a while but almost everybody can identify a part of themselves that they feel would still be there – perhaps subtly different, but still fundamentally a part of them. One client could come up with only one aspect: she loved animals and felt that that would still be the same. What in you would be constant, irrespective of your birthplace and social influences?
The other immersive game that I find profoundly beautiful is this: imagine that you are in a desert. The desert occupies every corner of the earth. You are the only living thing. There is no-one else. Nothing else. You play no role: you are not a mother, a father, a spouse, an employee, a boss, an accountant, someone’s child, an engineer. You own nothing – you don’t even have clothes. You have no house, no car. No TV. No mobile-phone. You have no job. Stay in that space for a little while: actually imagine yourself there. Hold the picture of yourself standing gloriously alone, arms wide ……now, answer this question: Who am I? This one can take longer, and can be quite disconcerting at first. Often, people are unable to answer at the first try.
With practice and repetition of either of these exercises, or both, the fairy-tale takes on a form through our answers, which is a direct mirror of our authentic selves.
Like all good fairy-tales, if these imaginative games are the opening pages, after tomes of possible tragedy, chapters of heartache, a whole lot of bated breath moments, lots of tears, hopeless situations and tense background music, we find that increasingly, we can all live happily ever after.