If we were to run into each other on the street and I were to ask, “Who are you?” Your immediate reply would likely be your name.
Consider for a moment: is your name you? Does it define you, in all your complexity, the depth of your desires, the range of your emotions and the strength of your convictions?
Does your name explain all the subtleties of who you are, where you have been, what you have done, and what you are about? Not likely.
Introductions are usually by name and sometimes by relationship. The next question most likely asked upon meeting is, “What do you do?” The reply normally offered is the person’s most dominant or most important role, “I’m an accountant, a truck driver, a teacher, I work at a factory, I sell real estate, I’m a doctor, a lawyer, a chimney sweep, a mom.”
Are people really the roles they play? Who are you? What do you do? Do the roles you play define you completely and accurately? How about the labels ascribed to you? Not likely.
Now consider this: Are you your thoughts? Two plus two equals---, is the mathematical thought that crossed your brain, you?
When you are sitting comfortably in your car, you can clearly distinguish between yourself and the sounds blaring from the radio. You would not say you are the music. Similarly, you can distinguish in your mind a you, from the sounds, images and ideas that clutter and flit across your gray matter.Your thoughts, though intimately close, are separate from you.
Then, are you your emotions or feelings? Those waves of energy that influence your body: fear, anger, sorrow, pain, joy, amazement, bewilderment and desire, are these you?
The feelings and sensations that dominate, energize, and animate your body, are they you? No. Emotions and feelings are an aspect of your experience, they may influence actions and perceptions, but they are not you.
What about the features of reality experienced through your senses; sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell? As surely as we can define things that are not us, that are outside ourselves, we can come to discover what is us, what is self.
Obviously, we are our bodies. Your body is a means to experience the physical reality of a time and place, but is it you? Where does your body start and stop? At your skin?
The ends of your hair? Your tongue? Your digestive tract? What if you lose an arm, or an eye, or an organ for that matter? What happens to you?
The body is your means to experience the environment, but the body is not you. Through your senses you capture energy and bring it into awareness.
Through the body you play out the drama of a time and place, but your essence is more profound than body.
You are not what you think. You are not a label, a role, an emotion or a feeling. You are not your body. You are simply you.
Emmanuel Nyagapfizi is a Management Information Systems manager