Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Surrendering False Identities
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
excerpt from his forthcoming book
there is no individual doer, then "who" does it is irrelevant.
When there is no attention or importance given to the individual "doer," all Being and living is seen as impersonal. Nothing is to be taken personally by any "person" because there is no "person" as separate entity. When someone makes a comment about another, who is making the comment? That one is! How could it be about this one? It isn't! By helping get the ego out of the way, Presence, silence and peace remain. Nothing is about "you" since there is no separate "you"-never was, is not now, nor ever will be. What a burden released; what a relief experienced! Poet e. e. cummings writes, "The spirit demands soaring. It doesn't matter who does it."
Who one is not is another way of describing false identifications. Two examples: men so strongly identify with thoughts, jobs, and doing they often believe they are thoughts, jobs, and doing. Author Wayne Dyer speaks to the identity of the doer by noting, "If you are what you do, then when you don't, you aren't." So it is with women who believe females are the body, feelings and relationships.
All generalizations related to who one is, such as demographics like male-female gender, ethnic background and age, are highly questionable. Of course, no one is strictly the sum of one's thoughts or feelings, actions or relationships. Therefore, no one happens to be what one thinks or feels, behaves or relates to. Who humans are is not the human condition. All false identities and organizations are only ego states.
The single most popular false identity is thinking "I" am this self, ego, mind, body, thoughts, beliefs, roles, feelings and experiences! Hindu sage Nisargadatta Maharaj was adamant that the core misidentification is with the body itself. Look at how commonplace it is to take how the body feels for how someone is. For example, if your body feels painful and anxious, it is very easy to assume that who you are is painful and anxious. And, how can who you are be painful and anxious?
Many people hold the common belief that "I" actually is the creator of thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Yet, if you examine, inquire and look for yourself, can it be true? Even some idea, urge, or agenda to live life in some fashion, whether psychologically healthy, wealthy or joyous, is no less the ego in disguise. What is outside of all wanting? The Buddha pointed to Awareness itself: "You are what observes, not what you observe."
Anyone can only BE Original Nature or True Nature. It can be pointed to and recognized in Presence and in experience as Being, without any "one" experiencing or thinking about experience. The identification of who one is with "you" or "self", "mind" or "ego", only obscures Pure Awareness, Original Nature. Only when "you" are not here, are you in touch with who you truly are! Angelus Silesius notes: "God whose love and joy are everywhere can't come to visit unless you aren't there." Mystic Jean Klein in the book I AM wrote, "Only in the complete absence of you is there total presence."
The false identity of "me" is expressed by incessantly taking mental positions that occur in one's experience. No one is responsible for the "I" or "me", or the creating of how one thinks, believes or feels, since no one has any direct control of any of these. One is not even the life condition, the thinking mind, the mind's mental stream or contents. One is not the body, doer, experiencer, the experience, or any content of the body.
False identities commonly are constructed from one's occupation, point-of-view, roles, degrees, and philosophies. Whether assigned by oneself, others or in combination, each is purely a description or historical fiction, and nothing more. People are no more past history than one is a history book. One is no more future expectations than one is a fantasy novel or a futuristic movie. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: "When we know what we are, it no longer matters who we have thought we were." In fact, thoughts of who one is are but momentary slices into the ego's mental stream of ideas, nothing else.
So many of us define ourselves by what we have, what we wear, what kind of house we live in and what kind of car we drive. . . If you think of yourself as the woman in the Carrier watch and the Hermes scarf, a house fire will destroy not only your possessions but your self.
How could anyone be one's name, sex, age or self-presentation? Could anyone be opinions or beliefs? Be one's marital state as single, married, divorced or re-married? Be one's fidelity or infidelity? Be one's possessions? Be one's accomplishments? Be one's plans? Be one's attitude, intention or personality? How could one be limited to any identity, even a "spiritual self"? The human ego invests meaning in each of these, none of which is who one is. While one can invest each with meaning, none represent True Nature. All are the ego's trickery, subsidized by our acting as its misdirected accomplice.
One key root of all conflict, division and animosity is to be attached and falsely identify who you are with your ethnicity, nationality, gender, emotional affiliation, ideology or cultural preference. The mind says we are these identifications and, when seen as threatened or with loss, it's worth fighting and dying for-dying for what isn't even real!
Each false identity is a "story" or object identification the ego makes up and claims as true to stay in control and survive. Can any artificially constructed "box", whether in the form of a concept, belief, label, judgment, accomplishment, role or story, encompass a thousandth of the multifaceted depth, breadth and vastness of who you are? Of course, all ego stories and false identities are fundamentally fictions and lies. All these "things," accomplishments, roles, opinions and identities are purely props on the stage of life, as poetically described by William Shakespeare. All are tools Consciousness uses in the play of life to express itself to itself, Awareness being aware of itself in human form.
In order to fathom the depth of this misidentification, one can start letting go of attachment to all false identifications. This process of "buying out" or disidentifying with false identities, roles, stories, thoughts and beliefs is not the unskillful human defense of dissociating when faced with severe trauma. With the sole exception of Original Nature, all identities are illusory. Who one thinks oneself to be simply isn't who one is. This is often unsettling and exciting all at once. There is less because there is so much more now.
Every genuine encounter with the Self is experienced as a defeat for the ego. There is a point at which the ego turns and bows to the Self.
Carl G. Jung
Jung's concept of individuation, the mature development of True Nature without any "individual" getting in the way, occurs in a process of incorporating the shadow self -all that is projected onto others-back into ego. Although individuation has been misunderstood as egotism, it is actually the humble surrender and submission to the inner calling of the Self. One takes back all one has resisted and rejected while ingesting everything one had found unacceptable.
Profound acceptance coupled with complete non-resistance and unceasing surrender of ego desires are keys for accepting, befriending and largely transcending the ego. Thereafter, one finds there was nothing to project in the first place, and no "one" or "person" to do this. Ingesting the shadow creates a beautiful synthesis. As one outgrows the normal healthy developmental stage of ego identity, all that remains is the healthiest expression of Self shining through.
At some point, all defenses break down and no longer work. This difficult moment is often called an identity crisis, breakdown, or mid-life crisis or turning point. Mythologist Joseph Campbell once noted that, "The problem of mid-life is seeing that you've climbed the ladder, only to discover it was up against the wrong wall."
Turning points and watershed opportunities for transformation can break through the "dark night of the soul", as St. John of the Cross describes it. One is on the cusp of a rebirth. The ancient myth of the phoenix tells of a great bird dying and slowly being reborn anew and stronger out of its own ashes. This is the crossroads-will one hold on or let go? Will one cling to status quo existing or be willing to die to who one thought one was to be who one truly is? Nowhere to go and no going back; nothing to do, nothing not to do; no "one" to do anything for no "one" else. From here on out, all happens, flows and moves by itself on its own energy and momentum.
C. G. Jung understood that " the experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego." [Italics in original] At some point the ego must bow down to transcendent Being, the Self. When the soul moves, the ego has to follow. Jean Klein said, "The desire to be comes directly from the Desired-in other words the Self is searching for itself." Bowing of the ego to Original Nature is recognition of Being prior to thought, of Awareness that precedes any idea stream. Sage Ramana Maharshi spoke of the mind merging with the Self. When all concepts are seen through as not who anyone is, when the ego is seen through as having served its purpose, when all longing is seen through as disguised grasping of the non-existent ego, then in an instant the imposter self collapses before the sheer aware Presence of Original Nature. It is inconceivably and inevitably Life's way.
True identity, that is, True Nature, at this stage of human evolution can only be approached in terms of possibility. Certainly, our True Identity is Consciousness and Awareness itself and is ever available to fully unveil as well as elaborate and completely embody moment-to-moment. True Identity-intangible, ineffable and beyond all experience-is freely and joyfully embracing God's loving Presence, thereby being what one loves of Divinity. To live who one is remains solely a possibility until one awakens and matures to a level that allows one to hold Consciousness and Being.
As spiritual teacher Adyashanti suggests, in terms of recognizing our true identity, isn't it time for "a change in occupancy?" There are many true responses to asking "Who is one?" or "What is one?", that is, what is Original Nature? Here are a few candidates that may resonate throughout all time:
Humans are points of pure life force, the awareness of the Self with unlimited possibility for attunement with the Divine. In a way, our True Self is a field of infinite possibilities, only apparently limited by imagination itself. True Nature is "Buddha-nature". All are Buddha ("the enlightened one"). Zen master Hakuin said, "At this moment, is there anything lacking? Nirvana is right here now before our eyes. This place is the lotus land. This body now is the Buddha."
One is egoless courage and ever-evolving universal bliss consciousness. One is the unconditioned without beginning or end, here to take a chosen place in the Divine spectrum. One is nothingness that is the space of everythingness, ever aware of itself. Adyashanti describes this as " the emptiness prior to the oneness, forever awake to itself." 1 Ultimately everything is Love, Oneness and Divinity itself, as is all in Truth. The Divine is right here, right now, precisely where one is. Spiritual teacher Timothy Conway recognizes, "There is not a spot where God is not."
One is Spirit, fully knowledgeable, wise-hearted and engaged in living the Good. One is Being in loving correspondence to the Divine's wish-that is delusion-less, illusion-less, causeless, timeless, birthless, deathless Love expressing Consciousness in human form. One is Consciousness in true, passionate service and wholehearted contribution to this earth, humankind and life. One is what doesn't change and is beyond all change. We are not our sensory experiences, but that in which these occurs. Who you are is not an event in time and space, but rather that in which time and space happens.
Spiritual teacher A. H. Almaas notes, "When people say they want love, it's like the fish saying it's thirsty. You are swimming in love." Love, Truth and True Nature pervade every moment. Natural Being is unique, transparent Being in holy Light and sacred Love. It is a leap in development to recognize the mirages of false identities past and future, and see the ordinary oasis of True Nature that is purely here-and-now.
The question, "What religion do you belong to?" and an answer, "The one God belongs to," provokes revealing responses from people. That religion must be the true one! How can one know what is unknowable? One is beyond all words, concepts, beliefs and every "thing" else in this phenomenal world. How does one name the nameless? Describe the indescribable? What use is time and space for the timeless and spaceless? What use are words for the wordless? What use are metaphors, symbols, parables, and stories for what transcends all of them? At best one uses what one can as stepping-stones, signposts and pointers to Truth and Original Nature.
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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