We each have an authentic, true self, however attuned we may or may not each be to exactly what that is. Our true self knows deeply — somewhere — what it is that fulfills us, and feels “true”; and conversely, what deadens other parts of ourselves, or feels “false”. When we align ourselves with truth, we begin to “become”.
Let’s start with what becoming is not. It is not is a rejection of who one is today, even while it focuses on something beyond our current paradigm. That is, becoming does not imply that there is a deficiency in us to overcome. This is important, because rejecting any part of who we are right this minute — emotional, social or circumstantial — is part of the problem. Doing so seeds what Dr. Theodore Rubin, M.D. would call self-hate. And self-hate is a grave impediment to thriving, including our own development toward authentic and resonant self-realization.
Rather, becoming is a multi-stage process. Its first milestone is the full acceptance of oneself. From that place of strength, we can engage in the natural process of discovery, aimed inward. The positive outcomes that are nearly guaranteed to flow from this kind of harmonious synthesis are a kind of byproduct, and arise from our ability to focus and align a large share of our energies, skills and faculties toward where our natural proclivities, talents and heart’s desires naturally gravitate.
From this place, we can, and do, act powerfully.
Said another way, when we do things that align with our authentic selves — in which our psychological-emotional process of self-discovery is aligned with our physiological-intellectual process of acting — then our becoming is both energetic and constructive.
How We Become
As I implied above, for becoming to serve us well, we must first get to know ourselves extremely well — not as we wish to be, but as we are, today. Castles can’t be built on soft ground, and our ground is our grounding: our ability to be honest with ourselves about our strengths, our weaknesses, the way we treat ourselves and our deepest yearnings. We cannot hope to build strength atop frailty. First, we have to discover who we are; and then, we need to make peace with ourselves, however aligned or off-side we may be with that authentic self.
The universe and its laws require that everything exist in balance. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Along the same lines, “We must give to receive.” We cannot heal until we acknowledge the sometimes-ugly truth about our own behaviors, abilities, fears and emotional pain.
Understanding that we are not alone is a good start. Every human is in the throes of inner turmoil to a degree, both per se, and as social creatures. No one likes to admit aloud what pains them, but it’s only through expressing pain in a vulnerable way that we can enlist others in our bid to overcome it, and that we can address it ourselves, without subterfuge or self-delusion.
There’s no shortage of books, coursework, practices, professional and lay human resources aimed at returning us to a place of unvarnished self-acceptance. We were all born into it. It is life and those in it that have conspired to remove us from our initial state of purity. What’s important to note is that without doing this first critical step of “inner work”, there is no hope of “becoming” anything apart from that which the world will make you, without your permission or even influence.
So to become, we must first be; and to be, we must have a deep well of both intimacy and acceptance, of the self. From this place, authenticity is revealed, understood, and able to therefore guide our actions constructively.
Once we have laid this groundwork — a gift not just to ourselves, but to others who stand to benefit as well from this “natural byproduct” of our own self-knowing — we can then choose how to act in the world, toward becoming.
Abraham Maslow, whose famous “Hierarchy of Needs” is illustrated as a five-tiered pyramid — from foundation to crown, directionally — describes categories of developmental human psychology. At its base are two categories of basic needs, such as physiological needs for food, water, warmth and rest, followed by security and safety needs for employment, health and access to resources. The point is, until we meet those needs, the rest is esoteric — a relative luxury. Once our basic needs are met, he posits, we can attend to our psychological needs, such as belonging and love, and higher up the pyramid, aspirational esteem, respect and success. According to Maslow, it is only when our physiological and psychological needs have been adequately met that we can finally focus on the highest order of needs — or aspirations — which have to do with self-actualization. Self-actualization begins with self-discovery, acceptance of what we find, lack of prejudice or fear, and such “north stars” as morality, creativity and spontaneity.
Or, as I would say, becoming.
In fact, Maslow believes that as our needs are met within the first four tiers, our related motivation decreases; whereas when we dive into the top tier of self-actualization, greater achievement spurs greater hunger, or motivation.
That is, becoming is a self-feeding, ever-growing and limitless endeavor.
That’s because self-actualization is about becoming “the most that one can be”. It is unabashedly aspirational — the highest order form of human reach.
When we stand on the threshold of becoming, our choices — our acts — are limitless, in both capacity and variability. That’s because each of us is different, in nature and direction. The connective tissue to all of our undertakings is the notion of trajectory — that is, that becoming is a process, wherever it may take us; not a place we arrive.
Where we are on our respective paths varies greatly. But. As long as our efforts to know the self are rendered in service of aiming us toward flourishing, in our goals and our acts, we are contributing to our own health, that of our communities, and the planet’s.
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist-psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, developed a list of twelve archetypal personalities. These are important to know, because they give some degree of insight into who we may be, and thus how we may focus our becoming.
The twelve personalities are subdivided evenly into four cardinal orientations: Ego (leaving a mark on the world), Order (providing structure to the world), Social (connecting with others), and freedom (yearning for understanding). If we stop to think about it, while we each comprise some measure of most or all categories, we are primarily driven in life by one, more than the others. To use Jung’s terminology, these are “imprints that are buried in our unconscious” and reflective of “innate tendencies” of “relational primacy” for human life.
You can look into these yourself. Here is a good resource.
They include The Sage (a free thinker, propelled by hunger for knowledge); The Innocent (an unabashed optimist who seeks to align with others); The Explorer (buoyed by discovery, of self, others and places); The Ruler (the “classic” leader, driven to bring order to things); The Creator (the transformer, non-conformist and path-setter); The Caregiver (protector of everyman, to the degree of martyrdom); The Magician (or shaman, healer, inventor, who also leads, by weaving stories and “what ifs”); The Hero (brimming with vitality, resistance, power and honor; but sometimes too ambitious, and controlling); The Rebel (a provocateur who thrives on friction and resists authority, pressure and expectations); The Lover (all heart and hyper-sensitivity, they live to give and receive love); The Jester (breaking down theirs and others’ walls through laughter, they live for fun); and The Orphan (having felt wounded deeply, they seek others like them, and for others to take control of their lives).
Why are the archetypes important?
Remember: the first act of becoming is self-knowledge, followed by acceptance. The archetypes are helpful tools for achieving this. In fact, Jung believed we first need to connect with our own daemon — our supernatural power, or internal genius. To Jung, everyone has a primary gift to bestow on the world, and when we discover what that is, we can aim it toward the top of Maslow’s pyramid.
To connect with our own daemon is to unlock it toward achieving eudaemonia, the Ancient Greek word for flourishing, of which “daemon” is the major component, linguistically and in fact.
Or, as I’d say, becoming.
Why Becoming Is Necessary
Once again, the common thread to our lives is that we are all, without exception, works in progress. Even the most resistant curmudgeons must eventually adapt, or else perish. Another Abraham, the French philosopher whose last name is de Moivre, and who invented the Bell Curve (about which I wrote at length, for Curious Magazine), understood the graph’s power to chart not just distribution, but trajectory. That is, even the so-called laggards — the last to uproot themselves, and adapt — eventually move up the curve, toward where everyone else is, already.
Just look at what it means to live, today. Running water and infrastructure; employment and taxation; government; television and the internet; even the idea of leisure time, or purchasing food or clothing from someone else… we all participate in things that didn’t even used to exist, not that long ago. If we tried to opt out of any of it, we could no longer live, or be part of a functional community. This is all to say that eventually, everyone changes, in more or less a similar arc.
Our lives are utterly unrecognizable from those of prior generations.
Beyond the notion of laggards and progress at large, we each have an authentic, true self, however attuned we may or may not each be to exactly what it is. That true self knows deeply — somewhere — what it is that fulfills us, and feels “true”; and conversely, what deadens other parts of ourselves, or feels “false”.
So the trick is to uncover what these things are, so that we can act in alignment with them, toward our own eudaemonia.
The act of becoming is the most noble of acts. That’s because while we can live in the world without becoming, and still enjoy a good, polite, reasonable and even virtuous life, these are all baselines, a la Maslow, as far as I’m concerned, that every human should share. It is what makes us each special and different that begins to give us wings and trajectory, to aim our greatest contributions to our — and by extension others’ — lives.
A world full of self-actualized humans is one I cannot even begin to fathom. It would be a limitless world of possibility and flourishing.
All it takes is to have the courage, and the perseverance, to become.