Delving deep-ish.

playing with my inner selfness graphic

My favorite holiday movie got ruined during the most public phase of the #MeToo movement. I mean, yes, I understand that saying this proves how dreadful and petty I am as a person. And I do understand that lots of other, more important things were ruined (like lives or careers), but this stuff hits home where it hits home.

It had been my long-standing tradition to watch this movie at least once every year, and usually more than once. I wore out two videotapes and was on a battered DVD copy when it became no longer palatable. Despite everything, I think there’s one important thing I will always remember from the nameless film: The phrase “playing with your inner-selfness.”

It’s just a throwaway line in a movie filled with fantastic throwaway lines, but it has always stuck with me. Despite (or perhaps because of) its nonsensical neologism, you know what that character means. We’ve all met someone so obsessed with playing with their own “inner-selfness” that they never really accomplish anything else. It sums up the very worst of mainstream self-help, pop psychology, and the new age movement – all in a single pithy phrase! That’s a keeper, even if the movie makes me uncomfortable now.

I embraced cognitive behavioral therapy with such fervor because it is the therapeutic opposite of “playing with your inner-selfness.” It’s measured and results-oriented. You don’t have to bemoan your wretched childhood forever; you simply have to do your exposure exercises. It was the exact type of therapy that I personally needed to succeed. I’d had lots of the other sort, and it never did much for me.

However, we’re living through an unprecedented time of upheaval and weirdness. We could probably all benefit from a better understanding of our emotional states. Because many of us are socially isolated in a way we’ve never been before, I think we can use this as an opportunity to go deeper inside ourselves — before the outside world rushes in to obligate us with our usual outer pursuits once again.

What does this mean for me? I intend to use the next few months, from now until Halloween, to (you guessed it) play with my own inner-selfness. My approach will be haphazard – more of an exploration than a step-by-step journey. I plan to revisit a few practices from my younger days and try some new things — all to develop greater inner coherence. (I’ll likely also expound upon the criticism I posted in this newsletter.)

Personal development seems ideal for this strange, socially-distant era. Many outward ambitions are simply unavailable for the time being, so I think it’s okay to get a little self-involved. You could argue that I’m always a little self-involved (you’d probably win that argument), but I’m going to genuinely embrace it for a few months and see how I feel at the end.

I plan to post an occasional update here (as time and health limitations permit). Here’s to a weird, slightly ego-centric season, my friends!