What is your relationship with your self?

Bear­lamp | Less­wrong | Greaterwrong

I had a very deep and in­tense con­ver­sa­tion with a friend. We talked about “that feel­ing of be­ing alone” and that re­la­tion­ships will come and go and re­ally, “I am all that I can guaran­tee that I have” at the end of the day. My con­ver­sa­tion part­ner asked me, “How do I be a friend to my­self?”

And I clicked into a re­al­i­sa­tion.


Tighten your seat-belt and set­tle down for an epic dojo ex­er­cises that you weren’t expecting


Non-du­al­ity. Differ­en­ti­a­tion and in­te­gra­tion.

One con­cept that med­i­ta­tion books (like: Point­ing Out The Great Way, The At­ten­tion Revolu­tion, The Mind Illu­mi­nated, Mas­ter­ing The Core Teach­ings of the Bud­dha (FREE) ) talk about is the con­cept of non-du­al­ity (be­tween many things, but this time speci­fi­cally) be­tween the ob­server of the thoughts and the one hav­ing thoughts. There’s a med­i­ta­tion path where the in­struc­tions are to point at­ten­tion on at­ten­tion it­self. When I try to watch my­self putting at­ten­tion on some­where else I can, but I lose a bit of at­ten­tion when I “watch” my­self. So I can watch my­self hav­ing a thought, and feel the con­fus­ing feel­ing where I try to find who is hav­ing the thought, es­pe­cially if I am busy watch­ing then *oh wait now I’m watch­ing not thought-ing*. The in­struc­tions are to re­peat un­til [spoiler alert] you burn a hole through the idea of du­al­ity and you con­clude on a sen­sa­tion level of re­al­i­sa­tion there is a non-du­al­ity of self here.

(Strange and weird so far, that’s fine)


Story Time

I am my own guide.
(this story is hard to trans­mit and I’m scared to share it here so I’m leav­ing it out but it’s sig­nifi­cant and one day I might write it up)

I have always had my own back.

I par­ti­ci­pated in a holotropic breath­work work­shop. In short, the in­struc­tions are to breathe fast, deep and with­out breaks un­til you start see­ing things. Then breathe into the ex­pe­rience. Without get­ting tech­ni­cal, there’s some­thing about oxy­gena­tion, lack of car­bon diox­ide, heart rate, and lower brain ac­cess that causes in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­riences, some­thing about oxy­gena­tion that feels heal­ing and some­thing about ex­tended du­ra­tion and the right the­matic mu­sic to give ex­cit­ing re­al­i­sa­tions.

I fol­lowed the in­struc­tions and I found my­self a lit­tle too good at breath­ing. I breathed so fast that I missed it. Then I worked out what had hap­pened and de­cided to slow down, breathe lightly and see if I could find the right bal­ance of where ex­pe­riences hap­pened. As I floated down from “too far” search­ing for my own trippy vi­su­al­i­sa­tion “spirit jour­ney”. My aware­ness was on what was hap­pen­ing, the float­ing down ex­pe­rience. Sud­denly I got an image of my­self, not ly­ing on a bed, but on a leaf. Float­ing down in gen­tle wind, but also a viscer­ally strong sen­sa­tion, feel­ing that I am hold­ing my­self. I am pro­tect­ing my­self, “I have always had my own back”.

This ca­su­ally profound feel­ing is not one that trans­mits via words. It’s a pow­er­ful and won­der­ful ex­pe­rience to have and any doubt of my­self was washed away by the feel­ing that I now can re­turn back to any time to the feel­ing that I pro­tect my­self. I have my own back.

There are a few clas­sic pre­cepts that might ring true and com­mon:

  • I am my own hero

  • I put pres­sure on myself

  • I crack the whip

  • I take care of my­self.

  • I am my own god. I am one with the uni­verse. I wor­ship my­self. I am in con­nec­tion to god (peo­ple some­times say these)

  • younger lev­els: I like my­self, I am con­fi­dent.

  • Very young: I want ice-cream for my­self.

  • (mon­key in a cage) (rat on a wheel)

Each of these has a non-du­al­ity of self in it:

  1. I am the self that does the lik­ing; and

  2. I am the self that is be­ing liked.

But when I say that I like my­self I usu­ally imag­ine I am the one do­ing the lik­ing, not the one be­ing liked. To think I am the other one, and to oc­cupy that ex­pe­rience for a mo­ment is a lit­tle jar­ring, a lit­tle dis­so­ci­at­ing and a lit­tle un­com­fortable.


Ex­er­cise – Dojo.

Our do­jos are run as a group with ~10 peo­ple in the room, once a month.

  1. blank pa­per, pen.

  2. Set a 4 minute timer.

  3. Gen­er­ate a list of an­swers to the ques­tion “What is my re­la­tion­ship to my­self?” Look into var­i­ous facets of my life, what is the re­la­tion­ship I have to my­self?

For ex­am­ple: I am the one who earns the pay-cheque for my­self.

Have a brief dis­cus­sion of what we found. This is an op­por­tu­nity to learn from one an­other and steal each other’s ideas for our­selves if they are rele­vant. Peo­ple don’t have to share, peo­ple don’t have to par­ti­ci­pate.


Now take those state­ments and for each of them di­vide them into the two sides. (2mins)

Ex: I am the one earn­ing the pay­cheque. I am the one be­ing earnt for.

As you do that, ask your­self which one you are, mark them off.

Have a brief dis­cus­sion about what we found, was any­one sur­prised?

Note: some state­ments break into more than two. Ex­am­ple:

  1. I am the one push­ing my­self to go to work, to earn the paycheque

  2. I am the one be­ing pushed to go to work, to earn the paycheque

  3. I am the one do­ing the earning

  4. I am the one be­ing earnt for.

Dis­cus­sion: Any­one hav­ing trou­ble di­vid­ing the state­ments? How does it feel to you? If you don’t di­vide, that’s fine too. And a learn­ing point.


How does it feel to be the other one?

4 mins. For each of the re­la­tion­ships, imag­ine you are the other half of the du­al­ity. How does it feel to be the other half?

What are the rights of the other half? What were the rights of the first half? Are you treat­ing your­self fairly? Can you strike a new bar­gain?

Is this a bal­anced re­la­tion­ship? Do you want to change the re­la­tion­ship to be more bal­anced?

WaitButWhy de­scribed his re­la­tion­ship with his pro­cras­ti­na­tor mon­key. A friend of mine once drew up a con­tract be­tween the parts. The rights and re­spon­si­bil­ities of the two (or more) In­ter­nal Fam­ily ac­tors in their in­ter­nal world.

Dis­cus­sion here about what we found.


How does it feel to be the other one?

Imag­ine there are two of you walk­ing down a path. An older you and a younger you. Which one do you as­so­ci­ate with?

What is each one do­ing?

(most peo­ple pick one over the other)

Now imag­ine there is a third one of you so that you are the mid­dle one.

Now take away the first of the pair that you started with that you weren’t. (for in­stance if you were the older one, you are now the younger of the two on the path)

How does it feel to be the other one?

What are the two do­ing now?

Dis­cus­sion. How did it feel, what did we find?


2 mins – try to be kind to the other you. Or try to be harsher. What do you want?

This ap­plies to the re­la­tion­ship to ex­te­rior world too. Are you the one putting the pres­sure on or the one be­ing pres­sured? Are you the one giv­ing or the one re­ceiv­ing?


Stand one foot on the other foot.

How does it feel to be the foot be­ing stood on?
How does it feel to be the foot do­ing the stand­ing on?
How do you feel about your abil­ity to bal­ance while stand­ing on your­self in this po­si­tion.

Vary the pres­sure be­tween how much you are lean­ing on your­self, ask the above ques­tions again.

This is an ex­plo­ra­tion of your in­ter­ac­tions with the rest of the world.

Feel around for the happy medium where both feet are happy with this re­la­tion­ship. How does this de­scribe your de­sire to sup­port oth­ers and be sup­ported by oth­ers.

(This ex­er­cise has an anony­mous feed­back form where you can see other peo­ple de­scribe their ex­pe­riences)


Balance on one foot. Kick the other food wildly to throw your­self off bal­ance.

How does it feel to bal­ance while be­ing at­tached to some­thing chaotic?

How does it feel to be a chaotic force at­tached to some­thing sta­ble and bal­anced?

How does this re­late to the way you in­ter­act with chaotic forces in the rest of your life? How does this re­late to the way that you carry out the un­known or chaotic in your own ac­tions?

Does this sug­gest that you might want more chaos in your life, or less chaos.


Note: Th­ese ex­er­cises can seems hard and might not work for ev­ery­one. As a gen­eral pre­req­ui­site, if you in­tend to find some­thing here, you will need 3 el­e­ments:

  1. Willing­ness to try

  2. The feel­ing of be­ing in your body and con­nec­tion to the body, breath or other strong aware­ness of pre­sent mo­men­tary ex­pe­rience.

  3. some sort of in­struc­tion which give you the method to fol­low. (kindly writ­ten down above)

Once you find some­thing, it’s go­ing to be up to you to work out what to do next, and de­cide how/​if you let it shape your world and the way that you work.


Meta: I ex­pect this ex­er­cise to re­ceive 45% “Yeah duh, also this is amaz­ing” and 45% “I’ve never seen any­thing so dumb” in feed­back, and 10% “I don’t get it”. If you want to talk about why, I’m happy to try to en­gage with these 3 or other opinions at length.

In my ex­pe­rience I have seen peo­ple get huge things from this ex­er­cise and seen peo­ple ac­tively an­gry about how stupid it is.