Does the Self Have a Future?

The concept of self has become fundamental to our thinking about the human psyche. Drawn from the work of Carl Jung, I use the word constantly in my posts as I discuss writing, creativity, self-realization, will, genius, solitude, spirituality, and philosophy. I see the self as a core cluster of emotionally-important ideas that define who and what we are. It is the origin of will and a compass by which to steer through life. Others, including Jung himself, define it more broadly. My definition is tight because I believe that vague concepts can do nothing for you. As the creativity researchers have shown: concretization is power. When reading what follows, keep in mind this broad flexibility in the use of the word “self.”

Flowchart Depicting the Self's Problematic Future

Self-awareness makes life more worthwhile, but it can also be surprisingly destructive. Can we afford to indulge today’s luxurious sense of self? (Image: Thomas Cotterill)

The cultivation of various aspects of self has become immensely popular. We have self-discovery, self-realization, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, self-improvement, and so on. Clearly, some of these concepts deal with consciousness while other focus on the unconscious. Yet they all use the word “self.” Central to all of these concepts is the sense of self itself. There are numerous theories about how that sense emerged, what (if anything) it does, and why we even need it. For the religious, the sense of self is the human soul, the thing that survives physical death and sets us apart from the animals.

Continue reading “Does the Self Have a Future?”