The belief that the self has an untouchable core plays a crucial part in modern psychology, particularly in the setting of psychotherapy.
In therapy, a patient will at best undergo superficial change as long as he confronts only the superficial layers of himself. To break through and accomplish major change, he has to unveil the “central nucleus – that whorl of the self which possesses absolute wisdom and self-knowledge.”
At first, only the therapist realizes that a core of wisdom and self-knowledge exists. The patient himself, under the influence of his mental distress, is alienated from this part of his psyche. Therefore the therapist’s role (I am speaking here of classic “couch therapy”) is to give the patient the courage and freedom to bring his deepest self to light.
In almost every case, the first step is to convince him that the deeper self is real. The patient must be shown and then made to experience that part of his mind which transcends crises, which registers life with crystal clarity even when the conscious mind is reeling in bewilderment and panic. It is not an easy exploration.
Ever since Freud, depth psychology has proceeded on the notion that the knower is buried under layer upon layer of painful experiences. It cannot be confronted directly; therefore it must be tricked out. The patient is thus presented with dreams, slips of the tongue, and free associations that betray what is actually happening under all the layers of disguise.
One of the great cultural differences between East and West is that the quest for the knower, which we undertake as a cure for the disorders like neurosis or depression, is a normal goal of life in the East. In India, finding the knower is considered life’s great adventure.
Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).