Our Many Selves

Psychotherapy can be a precious space to lay all of your selves around you and look compassionately at who you have been and where you have come from. To listen to your past and its cycles and its patterns. To grieve, to celebrate, to understand and to move deeper into the mystery of your life.

In the novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Claire North explores this using the the idea of reincarnation, ‘each time Harry August dies, he is reborn in exactly the same time and exactly the same place, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has lived a dozen times before.’

In this post I wanted to take this theme and use it to explore how the idea of reincarnation could be used as a metaphor for the births and deaths we experience in our one life.

Maybe, it is this life that is made up of many lives. Childhood, school, adolescence, your early twenties, illness, marriages, travelling, grief, houses, lovers, children, divorce, this job or that, old age. Maybe they are each a fulfillment of a self. Each fully you. Each a complete turn.

With each cycle you are less innocent, less naïve and more aware. Although you are beginning again in some form the world and its people have been a bit more revealed to you. You realise you know more and understand less.

Perhaps you are haunted by choices of past selves, choices they made that you are living with, unable to forget, unable to go back. Sometimes this reincarnating lets you grow in love for life and sometimes bitterness.

There are people you meet who are meant for only one of these lives. One turn. One cycle. They will join you and then you will part. They are meant for that incarnation of you only and you them. Others, they have known you through so many cycles that time ceases to really mean much. They offer you a vision of yourself as fallible, contradictory and loveable. A cohesive self of sorts.

Others you meet carry with them their past incarnations too. Selves you will never know. You cannot go back and experience life with them. This was a time when you did not exist to one another. So you must tell each other stories. You must respect each other’s closed doors.

And all these lives layer upon one another making you both more and less distinct. You are always you and yet you change. Somehow you expand beyond the edges you thought you had. You know your place in it all and your place is here and now, your place is always here and now. But sometimes you feel weary of the cycles, the beginnings and the endings, the love and the bitterness, and you wish to forget or to be born anew.



This post was previously titled ‘Life-cycle’