Do you feel like you don’t know who you are? Or, do you feel like your growth is stagnating? Or even, do you have an inner pain that you just can’t seem to heal from? The kicker is, all these problems have the same root cause. Sometimes, we make progress on our goals, only to feel a distinct slump that drowns out our achievements. Or, perhaps we haven’t achieved anything, but we have difficulty breaking a rut that just won’t seem to let us go. This can cause a deep run of inner panic, or an apathy that seems suffocating. Finally, the pain we can’t surrender is like a weight that, trudge up the hill as we might, we can’t seem to take one step forward without two steps back. If any of this is true for you, this article will show you a method to break out, or rather, push in, and free yourself. And, even if you’re not having these problems, this exercise is good to do pro-actively, because it has a lot of side-benefits.

Keep in mind, this is distinctly different from not knowing the purpose you are currently resonating with, in all these cases, your purpose can seem fine. Fit. Glorious. But, the lingering problem remains. Like a cancer in your heart. No, the problem isn’t with purpose, it goes deeper. It is a problem with Identity. Think of it like the Matrix, and this whole notion of “residual self image” — if you close your eyes and picture yourself, who do you see? Do you see a manifestation of your goals? Someone sexy? Proud? Do you see a survivor? A wolf? What?

If you’re having the above problems, odds are you have over-identified with some aspect of your Identity.

Now, I have told you that you should love yourself, that you are breath-taking and awe-inspiring. Without even having met you, I know this to be true, because I follow a simple chain of reasoning that has one, and only one, ultimate conclusion. But, let me give you the flip-side of that ego-boost:

There is no single, one thing, that is special about you. There is no feeling, memory, experience, or quality about you that is a beautiful and unique snowflake. In the words of Tyler Durden, “you are the same decaying, organic matter as everything else”.

A contradiction? Nope, and I’ll prove it.

Take a quick moment to list out the top three things about yourself that you think make you special, unique, differentiated from everyone else. I have no idea what yours would be, but at least take the time to lay them out in your head. I’ll stand-in and share three of mine, for the purpose of example:

  • I was raped as a child.
  • I can sing Blue’s Traveller’s, “The Hook”, without stopping in the middle of any of the lyrics to take a breath
  • I have a crass sense of humor, but I loathe people that are directly, face-to-face rude to others for no good reason. Not morality, but my code of honor demands civility.

Now, lets examine these, one by one, seeing if we can find it to be truly unique:

  • I am not the first person in history to be raped. I’m certainly not the first child to be raped, nor the first male child to be raped. Hell, I’m probably not even the first person to be raped in a camper, with someone else holding me down. In fact, no matter how hard I try to find the unique attributes of this experience, it comes up short, so strike one.
  • This is actually kinda rare. But, I saw another guy do it one night in Indianapolis during Karaoke. No dice. Strike two.
  • I’m definitely not the first person to have a crass sense of humor — I think most people do, when they are all alone and not being monitored. If we take this subset of the population through all of history, I’m sure we’ll find one who doesn’t like rudeness in some fashion. Easy elimination. Strike three, and that notion is out.

Do the same thing, apply that same, harsh, direct razor to yours and see if anything is left standing. I can guarantee you that if you’ve done this properly, none are left. Make a list as big as you want. Eliminate them all. What you’re going to find, though, is that some of these won’t sit quite right with you — you’re going to feel angry, frustrated, sad, or just generally negative about eliminating some of these. Those are really important, because that’s where the proof is in the pudding — those are the places where you are Over-Identifying. Its what’s chinking you up and holding you back.

To understand why, lets think about those picture games where they zoom in really close to an object, then try to have you guess what it is — like an orange or a piece of paper or something. Can you? Sometimes. But, mostly, you’re clueless. Lost. Floating. Because, at that level of detail, you have no context, no frame of reference to Identify the thing and determine what it is in fact. At that level of detail, it could be anything. More importantly, at that level of detail, you could be anyone. Focusing on just a hand-full of experiences gives you no frame of reference to define yourself. And, all zoomed in like that, you have nowhere to really go, you’ve put your divinity in too small of a bottle, so you’re stuck and held back in limbo, because your energies don’t have anywhere to flow. Its like your eyes are open to your true nature, but your hands are tied.

To fix this, we’re going to put on our Indiana Jones’ hats and do some Self-Archaeology. This is one of my favorite exercises, and it can be a lot of fun. We’re going to make our Tabula Rasa, or to name it another way, our Identity Collage. There is another, more efficient way to do this, and it works with purpose too. You saw something similar to it in the movie Wanted, but it’s not exactly something I can do over the internet, and more importantly, its pretty likely to get me in esposas, with the average joe. The exercise:

  1. First, make a list of all your experiences which you think have defined you and formed your uniqueness, this includes memories of things that have happened, inner experiences, likes, dislikes, etc.
  2. Now, re-arrange them in list of importance — don’t get too hung up arranging them, you’ll do them all eventually anyway.
  3. From this new list, get your top ten. Odds are, the ones you resisted saying “not unique” with are on this list. If not, rearrange the list so they’re in the top-ten.
  4. For each one, get a sheet of paper. On this paper, summarize the “piece”, in terms of what it is. Take some time and bond with this experience or quality, explore it, how it makes you feel, what you remember, etc. Also describe how it is relevant or defining for you, how it fits in, how it defines you. Lastly, make a razor statement — close it out by stating in your own thinking, how this could not ultimately be unique among all the people who have walked the planet earth. Even if it stings a little, just trust me, we’ll get back to it.
  5. One last thing before the fun part: Put the paper in some kind of record, like a binder, this is your Self-Journal. If you’re into the Craft, it will be the beginning of your “Libris Divinitus” (something we will explore later on). But, even if you’re not a Darkworker, do keep it in a book, just call it your Self-Journal, or something else. I have a complex lock on mine (and I actually went a bit overboard with a leather-bound tome) for my peace of mind, I suggest you do the same. You can do this on the computer if you’d like, but I’m too tactile, and unless you have a laptop, you’re going to have a hard time integrating this into a “Self-Station”, classically called an “Altar” that I’ll talk about in the future.
  6. Now, the fun part: We’re going to make Idols. Get yourself a piece of cardboard, as big as you want. For each piece of paper, figure out a way to represent this “piece” of you. Be creative! Go nuts! It could be anything, capturing a certain smell, some poem you wrote, a drawing, a picture, anything. The only limit is that you must find a way to represent it that stirs some kind of emotional connection in you. If you haven’t found a way to feel as your represent it, you have to keep digging. Lastly, attach the Idol to your board.

Now, anyone looking at this collage will have no idea what this is, and that’s the reason for the book. Also, I write my book in a script I devised a long time ago — so that even if the book is opened, it is likely to not be understood. Don’t throw your pearls before swine, people.

And, now that you have your top ten, you should repeat this process for the rest of the items on your list. You should also add new Idols as you have new moments/experiences/qualities that form you, and add any Idols that you remember from the past as you do this process (very common). Watching this board grow is like watching yourself bloom like a flower right before your eyes. I’m only 30, and mine is HUGE. I’ll probably donate it when I die. I imagine they will need a truck to haul it off.

Of course, I will share a few of mine:

  • My First Kiss: She smelled like bubble gum, and had all these plastic, neon bracelets. So I picked up a glow in the dark bracelet at a rave, soaked it in a mixture of diluted glue and bubble-gum scented body-wash, and hung it on the board with a butterfly push-pin.
  • My Father’s Death: I printed out a strip with the quotation, “Old soldiers never die, they just, fade away” and stuck it to the board using his Vietnam Service Ribbon.
  • I Love Blueberries: So, I found this picture of a kid sitting in this pool filled with blueberries, and I cut it out and glued it to the board.

Now, this process is fun, and part of the value comes just from the exploration of the events and all that. But when you have this process “done”, you get the real payoff. You can stand there, and survey the collage. Each of these things you have added is conclusively NOT unique, but the entirety, the whole collage, most assuredly is. Each of these items is like a single instrument playing a single note or chord. YOU are NOT any single one of those experiences, you are the symphony that arises when all those notes are played together. They give rise to choices, a perspective, a…a, this is a struggle here — an expression in the present moment that never has been and never will be again. This is your divinity manifest and visible before your eyes. Sometimes, as I do this, as I take it all in, I cry. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that this finished work is art in its purest, most glorious form. As are you.

Further, at this point, you get the release mechanism from the “stuckness” of over-identification. If there is some pain that holds you — you can now give it a frame of reference. You can see how it fits into the entire collage, how its notes, while maybe screeching when played alone, integrate with the symphony to produce something breathtaking. You see its purpose. In that vision, you find release. Likewise, you also can take any part that you had a hard time saying “well, that’s not unique”, and physically do what you were doing before — zoom in on it. Get real close and look at only that one part of the board. Can you see who you are? The real, unique you? Of course not, you loose perspective and reference — the beauty is stripped out and gone. Step back again, now you see the real you. Isn’t zooming in and limiting yourself silly?

As a side-note, I learned this process accidentally. There was a woman I loved very much, and I pursued her because, when I walked into her apartment, she had just done this process on her living room wall, as a sort of purely artistic exercise. I asked her about it, and she told me each “thing” represented her in some way, but would not discuss what the pieces were. I was entranced. In the end, I allowed (needed) to be hurt very deeply by this relationship. I did the Darkworker thing, settled the score and all that, but in the end, carried that pain as fuel for, well, a long time in “Darkworker days”. I had a hard time dumping it. I over-identified with the hurt, as part of my identity, using it to define myself, until I hit a point where my advancement ceased. Eventually, I worked out this pain by, ironically, replicating her artistic experiment, but with Darkworker eyes and purpose. The result was more than I could have ever guessed.

Some of you may dismiss this exercise, especially if you don’t feel crafty, or are overly macho. But, in all honesty, its your loss. There is real self-knowledge to be had here, and in that knowledge, real power. As you complete the board the first time, you will have many insights, and if there are patterns in your life, good or bad, you will see them more clearly. As you add more Idols from the past, you will see that your memory is more fluid than you realize — and you will have a frame of reference to transmute experiences positively. As you add new Idols as they happen, you will see that individual moments don’t have as much power as you think, and you will further shift your locus of control to internal-mode, and have more leverage as you go through life.