Selfhood: The Third Step on the Spiritual Journey
This is the fourth article of the Spiritual Journey to Awakening series. In this series, Melody is addressing each step of the journey, to help you discern where you are on the path to spiritual realization. To get an overview of what this journey is about read the first introductory article and then the previous steps at The 12 Steps of the Spiritual Journey: A Map for the Seeker Going in Circles.
STEP ON THE JOURNEY - 3. Selfhood
LEVEL - Ego
KEYWORD - Independence
ACTIONS - Rebelling and/or making changes
BELIEFS - I need to be me, I need to be free
CHAKRA - Solar Plexus
JUNGIAN ARCHETYPE - The Orphan
SIGN - Gemini
Selfhood and the ego
At the second step, Belonging, the ego sought to resolve the dilemma of its own separation by bonding with others. Now in step three, the ego begins to feel constrained by the very "tribe" (family, partner, group, culture, etc.) that it once felt so safe with. The core need of the ego at this point is to gain healthier boundaries by seeking independence from the tribe.
Step three of Selfhood is about pulling away from group thought/group belief and seeking one's own value system. At the core of step three is the need to develop self-esteem. In this step, we create healthier boundaries and find personal empowerment. We discover our own likes and dislikes, needs and desires, values and beliefs—and we learn to embrace them even if they do not conform to our tribe. This is usually accomplished through action rather than through inner contemplation, since we are still at ego level rather than soul level, so this step creates a lot of change and movement in our lives.
Selfhood often takes the form of rebellion, be it mild or extreme. There is a "leaving of the nest" that may be literal or figurative. Divorce and career changes may occur at this stage, though usually the changes we make are milder. We suddenly change our personal appearance and style, for example, adapting clothing that "reflects the new me." We explore new hobbies, new foods, new music. If we are overweight, we may go on a diet or begin an exercise program. We find new peers to hang out with. All manner of changes such as these can occur in the Selfhood stage.
How do you know if you are in this stage? Watch for reactions from those who know you well. They will notice the changes you're making and comment on them for sure, perhaps with criticism or with teasing humor. Then notice your own reaction—do you tend to overreact or become upset when they don't honor the changes you're making or take them seriously? Do you even decide at some point to break away from these people completely when they won't honor what you're doing? Welcome to step three!
There are many positive aspects to Selfhood: We develop independence, learn to handle risk and change, bolster our self-esteem, empower ourselves to stand strong in our own beliefs, and learn that we have the power to "go it on our own." Yet step three of Selfhood is still at the ego level. What this means is that we are not quite able to discern the difference between emotional and spiritual empowerment. (That begins to happen in some of the later steps when we move to the soul level.) Here, we are still making changes to our life circumstances in order to feel better about ourselves inside, rather than the other way around. For some, step three can lead to a conscious spiritual quest for greater truth and meaning, but for most this step is all about self-improvement and self-empowerment rather than self-transcendence.
Selfhood & spirituality
Chakras: Step three of Selfhood is associated with the third chakra, the Solar Plexus chakra. This chakra is responsible for many functions, but core among them is personal power and self-esteem. The Solar Plexus is where we experience our "gut reaction" to our minds. It's like a spiritual lie detector. When we have empowering thoughts, beliefs, opinions or judgments, this chakra holds tight. When we have disempowering or fearful thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and judgments, it drains energy and we experience this as butterflies in the stomach, nausea, and other related sensations of powerlessness. The Solar Plexus chakra has often been called the "true mind", "body mind" or "Intuition seat" for this reason. I like to think of this chakra as the seat of discernment and right judgment. Our thought forms come from here, not from our heads. This is actually a very mental chakra, even though we experience it emotionally and physiologically.
Step three of Selfhood is all about activating this chakra. It is in the Solar Plexus chakra that our soul's ability to impact the world is stored, because without a healthy ego the soul does not have adequate partnership to carry out its reason for being here. This is why I say over and over that the ego is not a 'bad' thing. We need it, but we need it to be healthy. Learning Selfhood and activating the third chakra are synonymous.
Archetypes: Archetypically, Selfhood relates to the energy of Jung's Orphan. The Orphan can manifest positively and negatively. On the positive side, the Orphan helps us master self-reliance, inner trust, inner strength, and self-empowerment. As the Innocent before taught us how to rely on others, now the Orphan teaches us to rely on ourselves. In the case of Selfhood, we choose to take on the energy of the Orphan by willingly leaving the tribe and striking out on our own. In doing so, we learn who we really are and we learn to trust in that being.
The traps for our Orphan are rebelling or exiling ourselves to such a degree that we are never able to reintegrate back into any tribe. In other words, we move into Selfhood but do so while blaming the tribe for all the things they taught us/did to us/forced us to believe. The point of balance comes when our Orphan can practice discernment and right judgment. We master holding true to our own sense of Self even while in a group or partnership. We are not afraid to express our own beliefs, ideas, and feelings. We explore our personal interests regardless of what the group thinks about them. This is the jumping off point to step four of the spiritual journey, where the Caregiver teaches us how to honor, and show compassion for, the differing beliefs and actions of others.
Astrology: Astrologically, step three correlates to the sign of Gemini, an air sign and third on the wheel. This mental sign symbolizes learning and discovery, perception and observation, movement and exploration. The whole goal of Gemini is to learn how the world communicates with us and vice versa. To do this, we must leave the nest and strike out into that world, and this is how Gemini relates to the third step of the spiritual journey. Gemini asks, "Who am I in relation to this or that?" Gemini provides us with the curiosity needed to find out what might be out there beyond what our own tribe has taught us and told us.
The trick with step three of Selfhood is to learn who you are, what you believe, and what you love—as separate from what was handed down to you from your tribe. Some of these things may still agree with your tribe's values just fine, and some may not. To feel good about those things that aren't a "match up," and to honor yourself fully regardless, is the secret to a healthy ego and solid self-esteem. We will see next week how step three takes us into step four of Communion, the final ego level and gateway to the 4 levels of Soul.
Melody Larson is an intuitive teacher. She is dedicated to helping others discover their spiritual purpose, remember their multidimensional nature, and awaken into wholeness. She also offers private consultations, to help you navigate the spiritual journey and fulfill your true purpose for this lifetime.