What would you say if someone were to tell you that your sense of self is constructed, and is just a story? Many of us tend to assume that who we are–our sense of self–is something stable and reliably secure, so there is naturally a good deal of resistance to the notion that who we think we are might be nothing more than some kind of fabricated narrative. Yet some reputable psychologists, including Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol, insist this is exactly the case. Interviewed recently by a reporter for Wired magazine to talk about his new book, The Self Illusion, Hood states,
“My hypothesis is the subject as multiplicity.”
Multiplicity is becoming one of the big ideas of our times, as the notion that our reality is a holographic multiverse has recently gained significant support from a number of different scientific findings. The idea that we exist in an interconnected multitude of parallel realities is one I describe in detail in my new book, Quantum Jumps, which explains how to move from one reality to another. The more open we are to seeing our lives as being the stories we tell ourselves and one another about who we are, the easier it can be to become kinder, stronger, smarter, more resilient, more confident, and healthier. There are lots of ways we can take some baby jumps in these directions, and lots more ways to enjoy life when we do!
We sometimes witness how self can be based on constructed narrative when observing public reinventions of celebrities such as: rapper and fashion model-turned-actor, Marky Mark Wahlberg, Madonna, David Bowie, and Neil Patrick Harris. Some performers make changes in order to catch and hold the public interest, yet some of these transformations have a lot to do with making a conscious transition from one way of being in service to another, such as what Levar Burton did when moving on from playing young Kunta Kinte in Roots to Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation to the host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow. A good part of personal transformation comes from how we perceive ourselves to be based on social interaction. When Bill Moyers asked mythology expert Joseph Campbell in an interview in The Power of Myth how he had personally benefited from his study of mythology, Joseph Campbell replied that one of the ways the study of myth and tradition has helped him in his personal life was based on,
“The tradition in India, for instance, of actually changing your whole way of dress, even changing your name, as you pass from one stage to another.”
An ancient technique of name healing which has been practiced in China for thousands of years, and is still being practiced today is described in Quantum Jumps. A description of this practice is based on the wonderful research of authors Gary Lee and Nicholoas Tapp in their study of the Hmong. The concept of name healing is based in the idea that when an infant or young child becomes dangerously sick or ill, there is a chance that by renaming the child, he or she can become well again. From a quantum jumping point of view, you might say that the entire family and village join in re-envisioning the young person as someone fresh and new–as someone who is perfectly healthy and well.
In my life so far, I have made big transitions that included name and appearance changes. The first was in the 1980s when I got married, cut my hair short and wore business suits that consisted of jacket, skirt, blouse and silk bow tie. This was the perfect look for business, and with this combination of my new married name and a whole new business wardrobe, I felt like the Fortune 500 MBA project manager I considered myself to be.
Something I learned when moving to Lausanne, Switzerland when I was a new mother in the 1990s was that one of the best things about new beginnings is the opportunity to reinvent myself and enjoy a completely fresh start. I had been employed in the corporate world for the past seven years before making this big move, and I was overjoyed to discover that in a whole new city, canton, and country it really is possible to reinvent oneself. I had so much fun dressing like a European, shopping and traveling without a car, and thinking differently in ways both large and small. Wearing a minidress was considered perfectly respectable, and enjoyed a sense of freedom to show the world a whole new side of me that I had never previously been able to feel comfortable sharing before.
I made my third big name and appearance change in the 2000s, after my daughters were born and after I got divorced, when my literary agent encouraged me to change my name from “Cindy Sue.” My literary agent pointed out my name had just a bit too much of a hillbilly sound to it, as she asked imploringly, “Are you known by any other name?” She was relieved to hear that my name is “Cynthia Sue,” and that is the name accompanying this up-and-coming author, as I grew my hair out and started wearing long batik dresses when not wearing jeans.
Yet another name and appearance transformation I’ve enjoyed over the past fifteen years is involved with practicing martial arts, which comes with rank, title and a uniform. Engaging in martial arts provides me with benefits from yet another facet of my total self.
Much of the joy I feel when making transformative changes at times of life transition comes from the fun of getting to be and do something different that I truly wish to experience. I wanted to be a business manager, a stay-at-home mom, an author, a martial artist, and I became all these things. I have come to realize that each of us is capable of doing a great deal more than we typically realize, and sometimes all we need to get started is taking the first few steps. As a spiritual life coach, I especially enjoy helping people treasure these kinds of transformative changes in their lives!
Love always, Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org