“To know yourself is to be surprised at yourself”

“To know yourself is to be surprised at yourself” KNOW YOURSELF


What does it mean to know yourself? At first, knowing yourself takes the form of knowing about yourself. Knowledge is wisdom that can be summed up in words: I am such and such a person. She tells us what we call our personality.

“Alignment” is the necessary word. Those who failed to build their “I” in childhood often suffer greatly. He is tormented by a vague fear, and he may even be on the verge of personality disintegration. But the question is to find out whether this precious “I”, this person, this person is our deepest reality, our essence.

Sophia, 37, came to me for a consultation, which takes place in the form of a Socratic dialogue. This is the method of reasoning and seeking truth in the form of “awkward”, provoking questions, which was practiced by the founder of Greek philosophy Socrates. Sofia’s work brings satisfaction, she is married, she has two children, but sometimes she suffers from a feeling of loneliness: she is not seen or heard for who she really is.

This is the Socratic paradox: just to the extent that you can say “I don’t know anything,” you come closer to understanding yourself.

“Who you are?” The search begins, Sophia defines herself: “I am this, I am this …” Character traits, professional skills, tastes, inclinations – Sophia describes her personality.

Driven by the desire to know her for real, I am not content with her answers and keep asking questions. Until there is a pause: “Who am I? I don’t know … I don’t know anymore … I’ve had enough! ” Sophia is angry: “All this will do nothing, let’s get it over with! I am … I am what I experience and … “I interrupt:” Excuse me, what did you just say? ” Sofia brushes aside the question, her phrase seems to her absurd: “It just burst out.”

Escaped? Sure. For Sophia, her truth, it was her, was able to break through to the surface: she is what she experiences. She could say: “My feelings, my emotions, my simplest bodily sensations – I have always excluded all this from the definition of myself that I took for my“ I ”. But I am nothing but what I experience! Everything else – roles, masks, visibility … “

Gradually, Sofia was able to part with the image of herself that she had always tried to maintain, and began to live closer to her feelings, to her real self.

Socrates, the first philosopher of the West, said: “Know thyself.” But he also said: “I only know that I know nothing.” This is the Socratic paradox: just to the extent that you can say “I don’t know anything,” you come closer to understanding yourself.

Constantly create yourself

Everyone is familiar with these “moments of grace” when an exact gesture, the right word, the right deed is born. When we act naturally, without thinking, and at the same time with an unusual mindfulness. A date in love – and suddenly, with an immediacy that confuses us, we allow ourselves to utter some new words, revealing in them not only for our beloved, but also for ourselves …

A friend is in despair – and the truth flies from our lips, which is revealed to us at the moment when we say it … And in extreme circumstances, when you need to be either a hero or a coward and when we, acting, discover strength and abilities, oh who were not suspected?

It’s a kind of inspiration: because I’ve managed to free myself from what I thought I knew about myself, I gave the opportunity to express – spontaneously and creatively – my deepest essence. Self-knowledge is not knowledge given to us. It is always a creative act.

Safely hiding within the boundaries of our “I”, we know who we are and how we should behave in standard, previously known situations

Real knowing yourself is not about repeating yourself, but about creating. At this moment, through me, but at the same time the unexpected is born from somewhere from afar – an unpredictable gesture, step, word that cannot be deduced from the situation or circumstances, but at the same time ideally correspond to them.

Knowing ourselves means that we no longer know anything about ourselves and suddenly allow ourselves to be surprised. It means not being the same. It means being truly yourself.

Why are they so rare, these moments when we can get to know ourselves? Because they have to pay with security. Safely hiding within the boundaries of our “I”, we know who we are and how we should behave in standard, predetermined situations. We give a sense of security to other people, and they answer us in the same way: isn’t all social life based on subtle, but very powerful constraints that keep people within the boundaries of their predictable self?

Socrates was sentenced simply because he dared to question this construct, which we call our “I”. But let us not be deceived: the philosopher talks to us about our life. Every event, every meeting, every surprise that unbalances, prompts us to leave the well-worn roads of our life, to realize the futility and terrible insufficiency of everything that we supposedly know – about others, about the world and about ourselves – and finally let that free and inspired element that lives in everyone.

Be born into paternity

In The Father, Denis Marquet describes fatherhood as a tool for self-discovery. He shares this unique experience with us.

“… Knowledge of oneself is a birth for oneself. But in order to be reborn, you must first die to your former self. When my first child was born, I died to all that I was – or thought I was. From the first days of his life, the son undertook to make a clean sheet of me, because he needed a father who did not exist before: free from knowledge and principles, given at the full disposal of that new, unique and inimitable creature that the child is and that he wants to show with all their existence. Being a father is an experience of the paradoxical, it is a refutation of all knowledge, it is an endless need to allow yourself to be inspired … The deepest philosophical experience! That’s why I wanted to talk about it. A philosopher is not a book-eating brain. We are all philosophers when we agree to let life destroy our lulling know-it-allness and cozy complacency about ourselves. To philosophize is to learn from life. And for those who want to learn the lesson of this world, there is no better teacher than a child … “

About the expert

Denis Marquet – French philosopher, writer, psychotherapist.

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