Issue #20: Conversation with the Self
Every fortnight, after we decide on the theme for the issue, we retreat into ourselves to ruminate over how we wish to approach the theme and how we’d like to present it to you.
For our 20th issue—a milestone in itself—it’s apt for its theme to be on conversations with the self. After all, what is our newsletter but a sustained effort of conversing with the self—our self—on a regular basis?
We hope you’ll enjoy peeking into these little conversations we have with ourselves.
Essay // Dialogue and Conversation // by Daryl
Essay // Let’s have coffee // by Rosslyn
Poetry // MEMO: A Fair and Balanced Meeting // by Rosslyn
May you delight in your own company.
Rosslyn & Daryl
ESSAY // by Daryl
Dialogue and Conversation
A conversation with the self is not a monologue but a dialogue. The word dialogue contains the Greek word logos as its root, which can be translated as reason, account, speech/word, or calculation; its prefix dia- implies a bridging of some sort. If we take our bearings from its etymology, a dialogue, therefore, is a speech that bridges. This is definitely a more meaningful way to understand a conversation with the self. The danger of a monologue is the ease with which we can easily slip into a solipsistic stance where we become isolated from reality around us. Often, this manifests itself in the form of artificial dilemmas or conundrums because the mind excels at playing the devil’s advocate without seeking to advance any particular line of thought, driving us in circles instead. The propensity for us to indulge in this mental and emotional casuistry exponentially increases when we are under stress or anxiety because we cannot envision possibility when our souls are cramped.
To have a dialogue with the self, then, requires us to assume the position of openness in order to arrive at some insight instead of mucking around in the circus of our thoughts. The position of openness is crucial for real dialogue to occur because it enables us to see lines of thought we might otherwise miss. And for that, we need to engage our imagination in order to contemplate the possibilities of those thoughts. This is what it means to engage in a bridging speech: you consider the possibility of an thought what’s presented to you so you might meet it somewhere in the middle to move forward together.
To achieve this state of possibility, in turn, requires us to recognize that the different personas or voices in us are living together rather than antagonistically; there is no competition to be won. It is through the awareness of the communal nature of our personas that we are able to entertain the different possibilities to be presented to us. And this aspect is evident in the literal meaning of conversation. The word conversation traces its roots back to conversari in Latin, which means to live or be with one another, and, sometimes, it even refers to sexual union. But this only attests to the intimacy and union inherent in the act of conversing with one another.* Conversation—true conversation—is a pledge by every member involved to be vulnerable to each other such that the hidden comes to light and reveals itself before the gentle holding of friendship. Conversing with the self is no exception. We have to get used to being vulnerable before ourselves and trust that we’ll be able to hold ourselves without judgment. The different personas within me must learn, ultimately, they’re all part of the larger whole that is me, and I would not abuse any of them. Only when every part of me is able to lie in union with each other will the conversation be fruitful and the ensuing insights, bountiful.
There is one more element that enables true conversation, and that is the presence of a witness to pull everything together after we’ve been open and vulnerable to ourselves. This, however, is expressed more succinctly by Rosslyn, so do read her essay to discover the importance of the witness.
Till next time, may you experience the intimate union of lying with yourself.
* Perhaps not coincidentally, the Greeks also understood what true conversation entails. A symposium—a group of people conversing—also carries the same notions of sexual union: sum-ousia literally means being together.
ESSAY // by Rosslyn
Let’s have coffee
Clueless. Cold feet. Sweaty palms. What have we picked for this issue? My pen is drooling on the paper after resting on the same spot. Smudge pool. What should I talk to myself about? Where to begin? Often, I meet myself through writing, leaving notes, experiencing and interpreting them. That is almost as immediate as it gets, but it still requires writing as a medium. If I were an actual other who sits across me, how might our direct interaction unfold?
Familiar anxiety blended with a hint of shyness arose within. This concoction is brewed whenever I enter a new situation not knowing how to be. I am usually the one stressing myself out over how to be with others, and it turns out I encounter the same issue with myself. I have known my habitual manner of interaction to be reactive, meaning I respond according to what the other posits. Friend or foe; do I armor on, smile, or disarm? I tend to wait for the other to show me her hand first, preferring to be the receiver; like in a game of tennis, I wait for the other to serve. The story I carry: it is safer to be on the receiving end.
When I am grounded and centred, I am present with open arms to respond to come what may, yet when I am asleep in my pattern, I observe vigilantly as if bracing myself for misfortune or a curveball to come to me. Why do I paint myself into such a precarious situation, giving up my personal power and letting others define me? I run along the spectrum from self-absorbed to self-forgetting. Playing the mirror, I wait for the other to act then reflect, accordingly, a behavior that seems acceptable to the other. This is the personality pattern I am addicted to.
How will it be if I were to have coffee with my Authentic Self?
Personality Self (PS): Hel-lo.
(I watch myself begin with an awkward greeting.)
Authentic Self (AS): Hello Stranger.
(This remains one of my favourite opening lines.)
AS: I don’t pretend to know you very well, so how about you tell me more about yourself?
(Wow, was I ever this smooth with my words? This confidence and charm, and this warm handshake. PS is awestruck at this shining being. I feel my defenses relaxing; I feel drawn to sit with AS who seems open, inviting and accepting.)
AS: What’s up for you today?
PS: Nothing much. Writing? I have a group writing session later and I’ll be meeting my friend over Zoom tonight.
(PS replied with apprehension.)
AS: You write? How cool is that?
PS: Yea, I enjoy writing very much.
(PS remains soft and shy.)
AS: What do you write?
(AS’s voice brightens with interest.)
PS: Well, I do poetry, sometimes prose too, mostly my reflections and learnings.
PS: How about you?
(PS really does not even attempt to impress or sell herself at all.)
AS: Oh, I write too. Similar stuff. Tough being a writer, isn’t it? Lonely path. Feels as though nobody ever fully gets you. The Arts, what modern Man reveres and under appreciates.
PS: Are you always this open? And candid?
AS: Yes, pretty much. But you are usually the one running the show.
How strange this experiment, refreshing even, to converse with myself in this manner, akin to making a new friend. Both Personality Self and Authentic Self are me, including the witness. All parts make my whole, yet I tend to over-identify and associate with the timid and guarded one. It is not an image I wish to portray yet I constantly entrap myself in the conditioned patterns coiled around me to protect me from my old wounds. An awakened but yet to be enlightened being. Homeostasis can be a real bitch, overly protective and oppressive, conserving energy to ensure my chance of survival.
A brief, opening self-conversation (I have yet to get to the meat of it) was sufficient to unearth my fears and golden shadow. What more might be unveiled if this were a daily practice? It was especially helpful too that I was fully present to witness this chat.
We each have this larger consciousness (or higher self) that can hold all the parts—voices and perspectives—within us. Usually referred to as the Witness, this impartial observer plays the role of non-judgemental noticing and allowing, and in this being with, it enables us to hold the multiple energies and parts of ourselves. It watches in a state of neutrality with discernment and acceptance. In any self-conversation, we can be easily swept by parts of our psyche (e.g. inner child, ego, superego, risk manager) as we assume each role to speak. And for some of us, the various voices within can hold far opposing views creating internal conflicts, and possibly, emotional turmoil. Developing our witness (i.e. the capacity to observe ourselves in each of these roles) allows us to put distance between our personality patterns (who we think we are) and our authentic selves (who we truly are.) The Witness affords us space to breathe and better support ourselves with compassion. It is where we find our ground.
POETRY // by Rosslyn
MEMO: A Fair and Balanced Meeting
When presented with a choice,
how do you come to a decision?
Do you hold a meeting? Who do you call upon?
Who shows up first? Who’s present?
For whom are your seats reserved?
Does each have a chance at the buzzer?
Who makes the loudest noise?
Fear, or shame, or anger, who distorts your vision?
What are they discussing? How are the lines drawn?
Who comes with the kindest voice?
Do you have seats for others—courage, gratitude, compassion—
who chime in without a sting and guide without scorn?
Don’t rush to react.
Don’t let the few regulars run the show.
for all the parts to arrive.
Some may take longer in
arriving, they aren’t used to being called upon.
But call on them often, with practice,
you’ll be having a fair and balanced meeting.
We invite you to schedule some uninterrupted time with yourself this week to be with yourself. There is nothing to do or say.
Explore: what is it like to be with yourself?
Notice: what fresh insights might you gain about yourself?
Latest essays by Rosslyn:
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