The Real Self

When I began dreamwork in May of 2009, my teacher Marc Bregman called my soul, my ‘real self’.

He probably used the term soul at first, and I said, what do you mean, soul?

That term had no meaning to me at all in my waking life. ‘Real self’ was a stretch. You have a real self  Marc told me. I remember clearly the excitement I felt when he told me this with such confidence. I had no idea what that could possibly feel like, or mean, but wow! What a concept. There is an aspect to my existence that is the real, true me! 

I understand that there are many people who don’t make this distinction in themselves. What do I mean when I say there is a ‘real me’? Isn’t everything we do the real us?

Well, it depends on your definition of real. In one sense, yes, whatever we do can be considered our ‘real’ selves. But what about the split we so often experience, between what we feel and what we do? Between doing something we ‘know’ we shouldn’t? What part of us wants us to do the thing, and what part of us ‘knows’ that it is bad? Where does our ‘conscience’ come from? Why is it so hard for us to make decisions?

These are what the split between the ‘real’ self and the ‘pathological’ self can look like on a day to day basis. This isn’t an absolute, because sometimes even if there is a two sided conversation going on in your head, both sides could be the illusion of pathology. But sometimes, this split is between your real self and your illusionary self, between the part of you that wants to paint pictures instead of coordinate a coat drive, the part of you that wants to write instead of watch reality television.

Why don’t we just call it the ‘good’ self and the ‘bad’ self, a split that we are all familiar with? Because we do not know what is good and what is bad. If we are identified mostly with our pathological selves, which most of us are, we may have decided that a whole host of pathological, illusory things are actually ‘good’ for us. In fact, pathology uses humanity’s desire to be ‘good’ to paralyze our souls, imprisoning us with guilt and shame and blame whenever we come to the decision that something is ‘good’ and thus something else is ‘bad’. Making judgments like this are often damaging to the soul.

Plus, it is really powerful and important to consider the pathological aspects of yourself as ‘not real’ rather than ‘bad’, since anytime we judge some part of ourselves to be bad, or bad in other people, we are just creating another place for pathology to make us feel guilty, shameful, or project those feelings onto others.

The soul has no idea what is good and what is bad for others, it can only feel what it feels for itself. As humans we possess consciousness, but we cannot be conscious about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We can just learn to notice when we are not in our feelings, in our ‘real selves’. This is what it means to fall from grace when we eat from the knowledge of good and evil.

It has taken just over three years for me to start to understand the distinction between this real self and the other in me. One of the hardest parts is accepting that this is not an understanding, but a feeling. In this sense it is not a distinction I can rationalize, but is actually a leap of faith.

The idea that there is a real you is not something that I can convince you of through argument. It is something you have to feel, over and over, until you can learn to feel the pain when it is gone, the rush when it is there, the ways that it escapes from you, the utterly personal ways it meanders through your veins. This is one of the primary gifts of the dream, every night, giving you all the experiences you need to remind you of who you are meant to be, who you have always been.