Psychotherapy, therapy, analysis, all of these and other types of professional supports serve a function. Some focus on behaviors and stopping you from doing certain things. Some are looking to explore and understand as to create long term changes in your life. In their differences, they are all, at very different depths, are helping you know about yourself. What does knowing yourself mean?
Philosophers such as Socrates and Plato explained that knowing oneself is to understand yourself rationally, objectively, without the subjectivity of the senses. “And as Judeo-Christian religiosity entered Western consciousness, self-knowledge entailed the sorting out of the sacred from the profane within one’s own experience (pp. 108).” Both were heavily against self-love aka narcissism. Heinz Kohut, founder of self-psychology, came up with the term “healthy narcissism” which expresses an understanding that we are to be curious about ourselves and have a balanced idealization of ourselves so our life and creativity can come forth and produce our desires.
When practicing healthy narcissism, you discover yourself in the duality of objectivity and through your fantasies, and there is this discovery that there is more than just one of you in you. What? We’re all suffering from having multiple personalities? No. Our humanity is very fluid where we learn to adjust and adapt to many ways and places. One easy way of seeing this is understanding how you function at work and with your closest friends. You’re still the same person, but in your flexibility, you adapt to each situation and place. When knowing ourselves, only taking a rational and objective stance is self-defeating. We then lose the curiosity about ourselves and our fantasies that we know drive our lives regardless of how much we try to control them.
If we learn about ourselves through healthy narcissism, will we end up bloating ourselves out of proportion in our relationships and lives? No. A healthy way of understanding yourself is knowing the multiple versions of your fluid self and how they work and don’t work in each situation. You have to know where you fall on your face personality wise so you can have genuine contacts with people around you and you also can’t become obsessed with what is wrong with yourself because that’s just a defense against being curious about yourself and knowing yourself which will defeat your whole purpose of exploring yourself, making satisfying contacts and love with others. Let yourself be surprised by the different versions of yourself, because when you know and understand them, you can love and be loved in that fullness.
I talk about this discovery of the fuller version of yourself in my story about Mary and her Husband.
Can Love Last by Stephen Mitchell