The question of human existence is one that has baffled many since our very existence. Do we have a special purpose here on earth? Self realization is one of the concepts that has been advanced by spiritual leaders and psychoanalysts in an attempt to answer part of this question. The concept features prominently in many eastern religions and has also been addressed by some of the most famous psychoanalysts.
Under normal circumstances, many (if not all) of us are involved in a constant pursuit of happiness. We get the happiness from time to time but unfortunately it is in many cases only temporary. Once the happiness phase is over we fall back into dissatisfaction and start to work towards happiness once again. This goes on indefinitely forming a vicious cycle. Individual realization is meant to help one achieve constant happiness that is devoid of the dissatisfaction episodes.
The journey to constant happiness begins by our understanding of who we are. We are more than our names and our bodies. This is why our names can be changed several times yet we remain the same persons inside. We can change the appearance of our bodies as to completely alter our physical appearance but we are still the same. By stripping ourselves off all the qualities we are known for (names, professions, physical attributes, characters and so) we encounter our real identities.
Differences in interpretation exist when one compares the western and eastern world definitions. In the western world, the concept has mainly been studied and interpreted by psychologists and psychodynamic analysts. It is understood as the process of one learning to fully understand their personality or character. In the eastern world, it features prominently among the major religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.
Buddhists do not believe in the existence of a separate self. Persons exist as undivided whole individuals. It is possible, however, to undergo awakening so as to realize this whole. In Sikhism, it is defined as the act of purifying self from a false ego. After this purification process, one enters a higher state of mind. They learn to detach themselves from materialism in favor of pursuing oneness with the creator.
In psychoanalysis, the concept was first suggested by Sigmund Freud. More contributions came from his students including Erik Erikson, Carl Jung and Winnicott. Over the years different views have been developed by various other psychoanalysts. Carl Jung claimed that individuation is a lifelong process through which a shift from the ego to the self occurs. Erikson developed the well-known psychosocial development theory that attempts to explain human growth and development.
The most widely recognized names in humanistic psychology as far as this concept is concerned are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. The two proposed a concept known as self-actualization. Self-realization, according to them, is achieved through psychological growth. Human beings can successfully unlock latent potentialities as they achieve this growth. Such potentials may exist in aesthetic, ethical and religious spheres among others.
Self-realization has been with us for centuries. It is mostly recognized in the western and eastern worlds but the understanding of the concept has somewhat been different. With increased integration coming with globalization, widespread acceptance has been seen. Western esotericism is one of the practices that have been greatly influenced by this concept.
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