A refrain that one can often hear a set of soccer fans direct at whomever happen to be their rivals on match day is, 'Who Are You?' However, this question need not be only a sarcastic taunt with which to mock others; indeed, it may prove to be one of the most simple yet effective tools that we have for finding a way into personal and social upliftment …

One of the primary ways that human beings have, over the course of many centuries, brought, and continue to bring, coherence, a semblance of order, and understanding to the vast complexity and multiple possibilities that they each faced and face in their daily lives is through narrative or story. In the face of a potentially bewildering reality that threatens emotional overwhelm, each person creates or inherits - whether from culture, the circumstances and events of their ancestral and/or personal past, religion, society and/or spirituality - a narrative by which they can hopefully claim both a sense of the world and of their place in it.

Out of this story can emerge an identity, which may bestow an even greater certainty and conviction of one's position in, and relationship to, the world at large. However, while a person or their descendants may adhere to such an identity come what may, slowly but surely the world evolves. For those, however, whose inner consciousness does not evolve in tandem with these exterior shifts, the consequence may be that they find themselves in a curious position. The identities through which they and their ancestors assembled previous realities may now be unable to provide them with either an understanding of the contemporary society which they inhabit or with guidance on how they might interact with it in a fulfilling and meaningful way. They are back to square one.

Except this time around the person facing an uncertain reality is confronted with two more challenges. Firstly, their pre-existing identities may have deeply infiltrated and informed their psyche, so that while those identities that no longer serve may be easily recognised, they are not so easily shed. Furthermore, the individual, while wishing to relinquish an unhelpful identity, may have no clue or sense as to what narrative could be adopted in lieu of the one that has become increasingly defunct. The emotional consequences of this can be feelings of being lost and adrift in the world, which may comprise and undermine a person's ability and willingness to participate in it.

Fortunately, solutions exist for overcoming both of these obstacles to fulfilment. As to the first, it is a case of making a firm commitment to meticulously and unflinchingly unstitch all the ways in which an outdated identity has weaved its way into the fabric of our psyche. Such a mammoth task may seem incredibly daunting or challenging to undertake completely on one's own, so it might be suggested, then, that an effective and satisfying way to pursue this goal is through dialogue and interaction with another person. The methodology for such transcendence might be conversation, or the couch, or the massage table, or the therapist's chair, or … Whatever one's preferred approach might be matters little, as long as it prompts one to ask and be asked, 'Who Are You?', thereby increasingly expanding their awareness and consciousness of who they are, and who they are not.

As to the dilemma of what grander, more functional narrative might be adopted by a person dissatisfied with their current identity, again the question of 'Who Are You?' might prove to be a tool of critical importance and value. If that query is asked, and answered, frequently and with radical honesty, the revelations that gradually emerge might provide the perplexed individual with an understanding of reality and a feeling of fulfilment that surpasses anything that they have previously imagined, let alone experienced. Yet, such an intense and focussed self-inquiry, while potentially yielding a great return, may be difficult to sustain, or even commence, on our own … so I ask you now, 'Who Are You?'

Author's Bio: 

A graduate of Oxford University, James Powell now works as a Shamanic Practitioner in the UK, and at a distance with clients all over the world. More information about him and his work can be found at www.soul-response-ability.eu