In a great movie “Anger Management” there is a very instructive dialogue between Dr. Buddy Rydell played by Jack Nicholson and his patient Dave:
– Who are you?
– I am an executive assistant…
– I don’t want to know what you do, I’m asking who you are.
– I am a pretty good guy, I play tennis…
– I am not asking about your hobbies. Who are you?
– I am a nice, easy-going man…
– You’re describing your personality. I want to know who you are…
While this may seem like a joke, the question “Who are you” is profound in it essence. A lot of people identify themselves with social roles, like in the quote above. “I am a teacher, I am a father, I am a nice person.” Being a nice person is also a role and, like any other role, its has its limitations to freedom.
Yet who are we in real?
I like two metaphors in this regard. One comes from the Middle East, with a man being compared to a wanderer crossing a dessert on a camel. Your camel is your physical body that carries you across the hardships of life (the dessert).
The other metaphor is even more full, in my view, and comes from ancient India. Imagine yourself in a horse cab. The cab is your body. The horses are your emotions that carry the cab. The coachman controlling the horses are your thoughts. However, you are none of these – you sit inside.
My whole vision of this can be summarized as follows.
You are not a human being with a soul. You are a soul that temporarily inhabits a physical body.
There is a very useful mediation to feel this.
I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.
I have feelings and emotions, but I am not my feelings or emotions.