Now and not-now, Real Self and mask

There is “Being in the Now”. I am aware of sensory input now. I listen to what people say. I see their body language. I am aware of what I feel now, and it flows without overflowing. I speak what I need to say, now. And there is “Being in past and future”, thinking of what I will say rather than hearing the other, being with worries and ruminations, walking and barely seeing where I am because I am treading the old cognitive paths.

There are schemas and models which do not fit reality, oppositions- head and heart, real me and ego, frontal lobe and amygdala conceived as holding particular parts of the psyche rather than working together in harmony. There is nondual, operating as one single human and there is the moment of resistance as I slip into the-

real me

a pause before I say it as an apology. “Real me” is my best name for it, not fully accurate- No, Real Me is what it is. This is who I Am.

Or a pause before I go there, a moment of fear and resistance which I must overcome, before plunging in.

What do I feel? Fascination, intent, enjoyment of the chase.

There is “What will people think?” “How will people react?” This is just about the most important thing in a primate’s life. And I have two ways of assessing that, which might be called “Judging” and “perceiving”. In “perceiving” I am in the now, deciding how I may present myself and observing how people are. In “judging” I am in my old model, calculating according to rules which are outdated, in which imaginary “other people” judge harshly, and expect a fantasy I have created rather than what real people in the world expect. And it has excuses and defences cobbled in, hacks by which I say “It’s alright really”, where I am the judge in my own cause and forgive myself, also bearing no relationship to what others really think.

This is not necessarily how Myers-Briggs defines judging and perceiving.

There is a feminine “Real me” and masculine “ego” or “protector”, slamming the door on the real me if The Monster is about. Two years ago I identified solely with that ego, sensing that there was Intensity beneath, which is the intensity of being in the now. (That is nondual, rather than an opposition: when I am in the Now, all the stuff of being in past and future falls away like a used chrysalis.)

I am good at thinking things through analytically, rationally, and I identify that with Masculine, with ego, with a separate part of me, and I need to get to “He leaves behind the master’s role/ She welcomes him, and I am whole.” All of this, the calculations of the ego, even the anger of the Monster, belongs to the Real Me in the Now. Allowing emotion to flow may be the most important thing, whether that means kayaking those rapids without hitting the rocks, or taking down the blockages in the pipes which cause the leaks to burst under pressure, though the pipes themselves are wide enough to hold the flow if the blockages were removed. My habit is to suppress emotion. It is good to be able to bracket it, to deal with it later, but not to suppress it all the time.

My transference is Linda as my mother, so that I am scared going into Real Me, though the real Linda finds her attractive and pleasing. Here I practise being, analysing what is going on.


There is the Real me, which is that part in myself which I want to speak from and inhabit, all the time. And there are other parts of myself. What might those other parts be? What is the Real me?

I am reading Dorothee Sölle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, which is mindblowing. She quotes Mansur al-Hallaj, 858-922 CE, who said “I am God”. To say I am the slave of God, as Moses did, is the height of arrogance: it implies there is a “me” separate from God. Al-Hallaj was executed for blasphemy. But this “Real me” is the Inner Light of the Quakers, “the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars”.

Consciously I identified as what is called “ego” and now do not. H said, she wants to talk from that true self, but finds herself in situations where she just can’t. Well, I am not working at the moment, I am in Quaker and other zoom groups where authenticity is highly prized, and here is a chance to practise talking from the Real me. I can consider whether I have faced a situation where “ego” takes over and Real me has vanished into unconsciousness, if that happens.

The word “Ego” fitted that part two years ago. Now I hope my “I” is that Real me, but as the word “ego” is used for something else I will drop it. What is called “Ego” is, I think, a self-defence mechanism mainly revolving around “What will people think? What do people expect of me? How will I fit in and be safe?” But that self-defence mechanism was created when I was a child. I am never safe, I can never know that I will fit in, and what it considers people think or expect does not relate to real people now.

That could be cast aside, in the mystic’s metaphors like filthy rags which do not cover me or keep me warm, or like selling all that I have to get the pearl of great price. It is outdated. Psychologically I feel normally people would create their model of “what others think” in childhood from those our own age, but my mother was so dominant in my life that mine comes from her, that it was decades out of date when I took it on, but it still has tremendous power over me because of the Monster. “Ego” is misleading, far too big a name for it. I like Neil Peart’s distinction:

Living in the Limelight
the universal dream
of those who wish to seem

Those who wish to be
must put aside the alienation
get on with the fascination
the real relation
the underlying theme

Where he writes “alienation” I heard “emanation” which might fit Gnosticism. There is the Real me and the outdated self-protection- call it the Mask- which is an emanation from that. In the Real me, I Am. In the mask, I attempt to seem (though often would not get away with it). I would like to call Real me “ego” but the word is too besmirched by others for that. “Ego” should be the real self, but instead it is the false self that we inhabit until it becomes too constricting.

What other dichotomies? I don’t know about slow and fast thinking. There is instant or deferred gratification. The question “Where will you be in five years’ time?” has never meant much to me, and if I were offered £10 now or £15 in a month I might just take the £10: I can do an Aldi shop with it, but it’s not the wait, and the mental energy, to get the extra £5. I feel if I am in Real me and not devoting energy to holding that down, or expressing from the Mask I might make such judgments better.

Real me feels strongly feminine. Eighteen years after transition the mask could be masculine, but insofar as masculinity is not an act in me it is in the Real me. I can be analytical from the Mask, and analytical feels masculine too- I am so entrapped in gender stereotypes!- but analysis is Mine, accessible from the Real me.

Ministry at Pendle Hill today was around the Pearl of great price, and not wanting to be tolerated but “accepted, respected and loved”. In worship sharing I declared “These hands are God’s”. It’s not as clear as “I am God” but I get there.

9 thoughts on “Now and not-now, Real Self and mask

  1. What would it feel like to live without labels? To let go of the past and the present and just be? Here, now in this single precious moment; lived and tasted but once and, but for an echo, lost forever. How much room is there in this moment and how do we fill it?


    • Taking a devil’s advocate position, it might feel like stasis. You know when you learn a new skill you are thinking about it constantly: mirror, signal, manoeuvre; position, speed, look… then you get to a stage of conscious competence, doing it more or less OK, and then it becomes unconscious, and turning into a side street no longer requires thought. But you can pull it into consciousness, and work on getting better, at any time- which requires labels, anticipation, and analysis afterwards. And-

      He who kisses the joy as it flies
      lives in Eternity’s sunrise.


  2. How nice of you to, as the late James Brown often shouted, “Give the drummer some!” I was never a big Rush fan, but I did appreciate Neil Peart’s drumming. I’ve attempted to copy some of his drum licks, but I haven’t really paid much attention to his writing.

    In my twisted mind, I thought of inserting “masturbation” – in the figurative sense, of course.


      • For “alienation.” In my experience, it is usually the lead guitar player who may “get off” on his own solo – extending it for nothing more than self-.satisfaction. I used to joke (OK, maybe I was being sarcastic) when a player would waste valuable rehearsal time in doing so. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d say something like “If you want to satisfy yourself like that, please do it in your bedroom.” It can be alienating, anyway. At, best, it would be preaching to the choir.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. So true Clare 👏👏👏. A great thought provoking essay.
    Finding and knowing who the “real me” is such a dynamic, ever changing state of mind. It certainly changes with age.
    I struggle with deciphering what I imagine and long to be the “real me” from the confused state that is the “real me”.


    • Thank you.

      Carl Rogers said there was the self-concept, an idea of self which was consistent, but did not fit the person, and an organismic self, the organism responding in the moment to circumstances. To me that organism carries a desired self-concept as an extra burden, attempting to appear to conform to that concept, to itself if it can’t manage it to others. We are all the real organism. It’s a matter of laying down burdens.


    • Thank you.

      I have been rereading the Gospel of John, and find Jesus’ prayer for himself, then for the disciples, then for the Church in chapter 17 mindblowing: 20″I ask not only on behalf of [the disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

      We can be fully integrated personalities, walking and speaking from the Light.


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