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I am going to draw on a passage from A Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde to explore the question of what is our true authentic self.

“There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral – immoral from the scientific point of view.”


“Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sin, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realise one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

This passage asks the question as to how many of our thoughts are really ours? How many of our thoughts have been imposed on us as children, by adults, or acquired through education and training? Are we acting out a role, of what we think we should be? It is fascinating to consider – how much of me is really me?

“I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream – I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal – to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself.”

Here Wilde contemplates how our true self can be truncated by fear. To what extent are we able to express ourselves and feel free to be creative? Are we imprisoned within our own identity? What would happen if we deconstructed our self? Who would emerge out of the silent, open, empty spaces?

The starting point, may be to be aware of the influences we still carry with us. Can we find them in a turn of phrase, our values, or the way we judge people? Do we still have responses inherited from our parents? Does our thinking run along predictable tracks, defined by years of repetition?

One way to be freer from past influences is to live in the moment. Here we can open ourselves to sensorial experiences and explore new relationships with our world. We may carry old habits forward, but even these can evaporate over time. For me meditation, awareness and being creative help.

Any creative activity helps draw on our, in the moment, experience. Activities like writing, poetry, painting, playing music, flower arranging, sculpture, decoration, photography, knitting, sowing, singing, cooking or gardening can provide the potential to develop our self from within.

We might explore living out of our own questions rather than other people's answers, brief periods of nothingness, and taking on new challenges to see what new responses emerge from within us.

Ultimately, we can explore how to free ourselves of the thinking and emotions that can stop us from creating a beautiful life, in every moment.

Copyright Simon Brown, London, 2012