Layers of self

Relationships are tricky things. Add in a family, and then grow those little things into teenagers. Then take a moment to look at what holds you together — and what you have become. This is a personal exploration, seeking my own reflection, trying to understand the different versions of myself, and how they impact those close to me.

My conceptual self

I tend to live in an “imaginary” version of myself. I take on roles, work out what they require of me, and then attempt to be the best I can be at each. Becoming a parent meant that I took on the role of parent, and then tried to be a really good one. Running a business meant that I took on the business role and sought to be that. As a programmer, I seek to be the best programmer. I do my best to integrate these roles and then assume that combination of roles as my personality.

It’s not me though. I only find myself when I’m on my own. Out walking, wandering through space without any role to play. It’s only then that I can process emotions and make deeper decisions.

When it comes to relationships, I try to be a perfect partner. Unfortunately, this role might just pretend to be warm and connected. It’s still just a concept. It’s difficult for someone else to feel emotionally connected to an idea of a personality.

My emotional self

I set myself a task of staying in my emotions. Of seeking myself, and staying present with it. I have been working on sensing and processing emotions for years, I thought I was good at it. But, I ended up creating a conceptual personality that was good at it — or could pretend to be.

This time I tried something different. An emotional storm hit, life at home became uneasy, lots of repressed frustration emerged. Perhaps for the first time, I forced myself to stay in my emotional self. To not solve, to not resist, to not come up with a new ideal, just to feel and accept what I felt.

The experience has been profound. As I went through successive waves of anger, sadness, regret, anger, sadness and more, I found my experience of myself changed. My body felt different from the inside. I found tension I’d never been able to sense before. I had dreams that felt meaningful. I started to wake up feeling like I’d slept deeper than I had in years. And gradually I found a different sense of happiness.

Nothing outside of me had changed, but my inner experience feels so different. I started to have a different, more human interaction with the people around me. I stopped seeing other people as their roles. I started to feel a bit more human.

My will

As I began to spend more time in my emotional self, I found myself connected with something else. I’ve always been confident of my roles. I’ve always had a sense of purpose. But, what I’ve started to feel is an energy to push my purpose into the world. I have found a fire in my heart.

This is something I’ve struggled to find since my “Father” role took hold. I’m looking forward to exploring it more.



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Peter Brownell

Peter Brownell

It’s time to change the world. It’s time to create the future that we need. I seek the inflection points that can make tomorrow a better place.