The Center of Your Self

Discovering the unexplored, unknown edges of ourselves at our very center.

While doing some research on Joseph Campbell today, I stumbled across a paper I had previously saved that talks about The Hermeneutic Loop as the foundation for The Hero’s Journey. The reason I’m bringing it up is because there’s a diagram within the paper (shown below) that reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to talk about for sometime and how it relates to the paradox of visualizing our inner selves.

For most people, this is how they visualize vertical psychological growth. It’s a spiralling upwards at an ever greater breadth. For the longest time though, this has always intuitively felt wrong to me because the inner journey within ourselves has a paradox to it. The space that is created within us emerges from our very deepest core which is our edge.

Pemba Chödrön describes this similar to climbing a mountain to the center of the earth.

In the process of discovering bodhichitta, the journey goes down, not up. It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky.

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

I believe Joseph Campbell touches upon this as well when he talks about mandalas and how they’re used to figure out your own cosmic order within yourself.

In working out a mandala for yourself, you draw a circle and then think if the different impulse systems and value systems in your life. Then you compose them and try to find out where your center is. Making a mandala is a discipline for pulling all of those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a center and ordering yourself to it. You try to coordinate your circle with the universal circle.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

For myself, this is similar to how I’ve spoken about understanding yourself like a constellation or solar system, with a core sun and planets orbiting it. In other ways, it’s similar to how I’ve described it like being within a tornado, whereby at times you’re spinning around chaotically, not making sense of things. But then you have moments where you’re in the center eye of the tornado and everything around you that encompasses your life is calm and makes perfect sense…in that moment.

So unlike ancient maps where the outer edges would say “Here be dragons” to warn travellers of the unknowns dangers there because it’s unexplored, maps of our inner selves have “Here be dragons” at their very center core because that’s where the unexplored and unknown lies within us. In effect, our fears are our dragons standing in the way of exploring and discovering the depth and breadth of our very selves as a whole.

The pain, their loss… it’s all I have left of them. You think the grief will make you smaller inside, like your heart will collapse in on itself, but it doesn’t. I feel spaces opening up inside of me like a building with rooms I’ve never explored.

Dolores Abernathy, Westworld

What’s interesting about this all is that as you journey through your life, your center will change and shift. Early on your life, you will think you’ve found the center of your life that stabilizes and grounds you. But then something comes along, shakes your world, and you’ll realize that center was just an aspect of your life, not the center of it. Then you’ll find another center, thinking the same thing, and then it will shift again.

After repeating this heroic process of rediscovering the center of your Self at least a few times by “shedding the skin” of your old self, you will eventually come to your true center, the essence of who you truly are. For myself, what I’m finding interesting is that the center of my life at the start has become the same center again as I progress into the latter stages of my life but in a completely different and larger context than I could have possibly ever imagined.

It reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, whereby the heroic journey ends where one began but the journey itself has given us the recognition and awareness to see the treasure that has been lying dormant within us the entire time.


Mentoring My Younger Self

Understanding how I can stealthily help people level up in a practical heroic way.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and something dawned on my recently that was effectively in front of me for the past decade or more but I was so close to it that I couldn’t see it and make sense of it as a whole. Only by slowing down and stepping back recently, did I finally see the entirety of what was right in front of me.

For a while now, I’ve been marvelling at Tiago Forte’s Trojan Horse approach to levelling people up psychologically hidden within the wrappings of productivity. In effect, he entices people with something very practical that they need right now in their lives but the side benefit is that it has the power to change the way they perceive their world and themselves at the same time. Thinking about this, I questioned how I could take this same approach myself.

My problem is that I’m an explorer at heart and so I always want to be crossing the next horizon after I think I’ve explored an area enough. If you look at the trajectory and journey of my life, you can see this. Initially I was fascinated with The Future of Work but then over time I wanted to explore how Social Innovation and Social Creativity related to it. Then after that, I took the next leap to exploring Vertical Growth (aka psychological development) to see and understand the progressive arc of ongoing Social Creativity and Social Innovation (of which The Future of Work is just the next step).

So from my perspective, currently on Vertical Growth, I’m thinking how can I get people interested in it. Now I realize this is the completely wrong approach because it’s focused on where I’m at. Instead I need to help people where they are at. And interestingly enough, it’s really about helping someone like my younger self in 2001, who was out of a job and frustrated at the way work worked. In effect, I need to be the person now that my younger self wanted to meet back then, to help mentor them to make sense of what was happening to them and how to move forward.

Hilariously enough, all I really need to do is map out and package what I know in the progressive order I learnt it myself and share it with people in that same order because that’s how they’ll progress to being interested in the same things on their own journey. So right now, many people are losing their jobs and they’re just looking for a way to adapt to the times. That’s the practical need and starting point where I can meet people where they are at right now.

Again this is hilarious from my perspective and knowledge that I know now because it perfectly fits in with Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I’m the mentor I was looking for when I heroically had to “level up” back in 2001 to adapt to the times then. I wasn’t lucky enough to have someone to show me the way in person though, so I had to do my own questing and questioning to find my own way, gaining most of what I know from what I read.

As an introvert though, this worked out for me because I loved spending my time reading and exploring new things anyways. If I was an extrovert though, it would have been brutal though because to make sense of things I would have wanted to talk it out with people. Yet there was really nobody I knew who was seeing, experiencing, and making sense of the same things I was at the time. So I couldn’t really talk to anyone back then. But as an introvert, I could talk to myself, which is what really begins the transformation, as you begin to relate to yourself and identify with yourself in a completely different way.