(Image source: http://rickhaigh.deviantart.com/art/Identity-crisis-258071410)
If you were to ask the question “how can I be happy?” My question for you would be “who’s asking?” We all have different roles that make up our ego identity. We might be a daughter, mother, father, student, doctor, actor, boyfriend, wife, soldier, etc. Each role has a vastly different idea of how it would like to spend its time. The mother wants to spend time with her child, the doctor wants to help their patients, and the soldier wants to deter threats. The soldier would see spending time with a child as a waste of time, just as the mother would see going to war as a missed opportunity to be with her child. But what happens if you are both a mother and a soldier? If you are going to war, explain to the mother in you how it will help protect your child. If you are with your child, explain to the soldier how this peaceful time is what you were fighting for in the first place. If you can recognize the different roles you have, and teach them to cooperate, you will feel more whole.
An easy way to start learning who you are identifying as in a moment is to run an internal loop asking yourself “who am I right now?” If you find yourself using the words “I” or “me” in conversations, take that opportunity to internally question who you are in that context. You might realize the whole point of the conversation is different than what you thought it was initially.
The amount we want to play with this is up to our own comfort levels and interests. If we practice enough, we might start to notice that our ego’s roles are not who we are, but more like songs we play that fit well in certain moments. They are tools we use to interact with our world. Just as a beginner craftsperson might use the wrong tool for a job; as they get better, they begin to know what the most appropriate tool is for each job, and how best to use it.
One reason to look at ourselves this way is simply to open up our minds to sense the expansiveness of who we are. This can help us relax from the restrictions of our preconceived assumptions, and give us more useful and enjoyable options. If you are a clumsy craftsperson right now, imagine what life could be like when you have mastered your tools. You could go from just scraping by to flourishing, and creatively building whatever you want. What would that mastery look like if it were instead with your identity?
A bigger question is who are we beyond our ego? Who are we beyond our tools? Don’t worry too much about answering those questions, there may be more value in keeping them open. In some ways answers are limiting as they are an end to the learning provided by the opportunity created in a question. This article is about experiencing happiness through dropping our assumptions, and opening up possibilities. It wouldn’t make sense to give you different answers that could be equally limiting to you. Instead, why not play with, and explore these ideas like an excited child? The goal is happiness, so have fun! The only real framework I am suggesting is to play with flexibility, harmony, and enjoyment.