What Is The Self?

by Jasbinder Garnermann

Chairwoman, C.G. Jung Centre, Ireland


The Self is the most familiar, beloved part of ourselves. It is the part that contains our most secret history, the story of our coming into being. It also contains the seed of what we will become, the blueprint for our destiny. It is our dearest friend, companion and Teacher, witness to the countless dramas of our existence, itself remaining whole and changeless.

 We can experience the Self through our bodies, our minds and our souls. This is a very different experience from that of the ego. The ego is a limited instrument  – a necessary survival mechanism - but one that needs to know its place. If we let the ego rule us, we become trapped in its fears, narcissism and greed, and end up sacrificing our authentic needs to its false prizes.

As our consciousness evolves, we begin to look for meaning beyond mere self-interest.  Then we become aware of the Self, something bigger and better than the “I” with which we habitually identify ourselves.

The Self is the archetype of wholeness, order and intelligence. Its purpose is to ensure that we develop to our fullest potential on every level – physical, mental and spiritual – and that we attain balance between our inner and outer needs. To this end, the Self passes a golden thread through our lives, ensuring that we make precisely those choices which will compel us to learn our life’s lessons, never mind the pain and agony this entails!

The Self manifests in the minutest of molecular processes to the vastest of cosmic events.  That is why it has been described as the “smallest of the small and the greatest of the great”. It can be experienced in all its glory equally by a child, a genius or a saint, because it is a part of the Ultimate Reality in which we all share. Unfortunately, because of the clamour of the ego, the Self for most of us remains a still, small voice. We can learn to recognize this voice in our lives – by training ourselves to listen. Through all of life, the Self is speaking: through our bodies and feelings, through animals, through our love for our families and friends, through our dreams, through nature, art, science and religion.

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