The Time of the Quest: Discovering Who You Are Not

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As we negotiate, respond, and become more conscious of the various layers of defense and resistant parts of ourselves, the power and influence of our defenses diminishes in our lives.

This is the time in our personal growth when we may actively seek out opportunities to learn about ourselves.

It is the time of the quest…

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I notice, in working with people on an on-going basis, that there is often a stage in the personal growth process where clients, having worked through a good portion of their defenses, begin to ask deep, significant questions about themselves, their family history, how they were brought up, and what was happening around and perhaps to them at that time.

I have been witness in this period to such declarations as, “I bought a ticket to visit my family in New Zealand. It will be the first time I have been to see them in ten years.”

Or, “I visited my dad last week and I asked him the questions I always feared asking him.”

The quest is born from realizations. Perhaps the realization that behaviours once thought to be normal were in fact abusive, or the realization that you have been angry at a parent or some family member for years but never allowed yourself to admit it and now you feel justified in your anger. Perhaps the suspicion that your uncle never came to visit the family because your mother once had a secret affair with him. Maybe this suspicion is off-the-wall, but it is something you need to clear up because you always held the belief your uncle didn’t come around because he never actually liked you.

The quest is a time of self-contemplation. It is the time when we ask questions of ourselves and of the people who played a part in our development and upbringing. It is a time when we may write or journal for clarity, when we may seek quiet places of lesser distraction, when we may dream lucidly about stories and themes that bring more questions about ourselves, or some answers that reveal why we are who we are.

My quest occurred in the late eighties. It was a special period for me, one that I look back on now with pride. Nobody actually named it as such nor offered me guidance in my quest, but I am content in how I listened to myself and allowed for this important stage of my growth.

My quest led me to monasteries, usually staying as a guest in Christian monastic communities for short periods of time, where I could be left to my own devices and allowed to wander in or around the community property. It was a time when I sought out council from therapeutic councilors, from tarot readers, face-readers, teachers, and people of wisdom, who had trod their own path and who provided insight about my own and could answer questions around who I intrinsically was, and more importantly, who I was not.

In my own vernacular, I called this time, “The Discovery of Who I Am Not,” in the belief that as I discovered and exposed who I thought myself not to be, based on the conclusions I had drawn about myself from my own traumas, inevitably I would find the truth of who I truly was.

I too traveled to distant shores to ask my questions. I flew to England. I needed to ask questions of my family residing there to make sense of this distorted perspective of myself I had held onto for all these years, perspectives that caused me to feel powerless, ineffectual, scared and terribly unconfident.

Not all my family were able to relate to my questions, some weren’t far enough on their own personal journey to tolerate them, others avoided me presumably because my questions touched on their own shame, guilt, and hurt, and the time was not yet right for them to confront it within themselves. However, everybody did the best they could. And what I could not find out from my family I sought to find from teachers, therapists, and the books I read.

Everyone’s quest is different. It is a time to honour your own self-exploration and discover the road to your own answers, whether in contemplative time, or in the books or magazines you choose to read. Each road on the journey of our personal growth is unique, and each is to be honoured in its design to take every one of us down the journey of our personal quest.

Realistically, we may never give ourselves the opportunity to quest. You may have the inner desire to give yourself quiet time, but then alongside that comes the excuse to have to work in the garden over the weekend and, “If I don’t do it this time then there will be far more weeds to content with next weekend.” Or, “I am finding myself wanting to turn on the radio and listen to good music rather than give myself the time I promised myself for journaling my thoughts and feelings every morning.” Or, “I know I promised myself the retreat this weekend, but I also want to be with my partner or boyfriend too.”

All of these might be relevant. It may be true that the garden should be attended to on this weekend, or the needs of your partner or boyfriend are important, and it ends up that you stay at home and garden, or you spend a wonderfully fulfilling, loving time with your partner. But, in the process of your decision-making, consider them also as possible defense distractions.

Challenge them. Ask yourself:

“Is there a part of me invested in distracting me away from my time of quest? Do I really need to be doing what I (or this part) wishes to do, or can it wait, or can someone else do it in the meantime?”

“Do I feel anxiety within me when I consider setting out on my quest, or not doing what I am considering doing instead?”

Our defenses dislike, distrust, and discourage change. If they know you are creating the space and conditions for a deeper inner relationship, they will do what it takes to sabotage it.

This is the realistic nature of the human emotional system. Alongside the desire to fulfill ambitions will sit the forces within that attempt to thwart that ambition.

Contemplation Questions:

Are you on a quest?

How did you discover (or are discovering) who you are not?

Has your quest provided answers about yourself?

Did the environment you grew up in distort perceptions about yourself?

Has your quest succeeded – or is it in the process of succeeding  – to eleviate your shame?

To learn more about some of the themes and ideas presented in this excerpt from A Return to Consciousness, please click onto any of the titles below:

I will be taking a break over the holidays. My next blog excerpt will appear on Friday, January 2, 2015.

Join me on Friday, January 2, 2015, for a series which discusses the differences between anger and rage and shows you how anger can become your best friend.

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3 thoughts on “The Time of the Quest: Discovering Who You Are Not

  1. Interesting synchroncity. I read a writing this morning that inspired me to think about a safe journey/quest to self discovery. It is wonderful to to have the gift of time to dig and sort through family or origin dynamics/influences that have left me wondering who I am. I definitely had “black sheep” status in my family and probably still do. But, for the most part I believe that my quest inward has enabled me to ….let go and let God/dess! The history of extreme emotional chaos revolving around blame and inappropriate anger between myself and two of my four siblings is disappointing. Things are slowly shifting and there does seem to be less blame. I do agree with the “capacity” guideline. And, for now I see myself as someone who continues to learn how to manage anger in a respectful way. I now know that I am a person who wants to be peaceful and while I have much to learn. I know my heart is good and while I still experience periods of sadness over unhealthy relationships I like myself a lot more. And, I enjoy come celebration around this! I give myself permission to be patient with my inner growth and I coach myself to believe that I have in fact much more genuine “Judy” to offer to others I especially in helping relationships.

  2. Robin Maynard-Dobbs

    I appreciate your note about the quest. The quest was an wise way of initiation that was sanctified in ancient cultures but missing in our own. To me its about living into the questions without grabbing onto the answers. I am reminded of the hero’s journey to the underworld to be tested and to eventually emerge with a new sense of self. First for me there has been confusion as the old beliefs are brought to light to be questioned. I finally realize that I have swallowed energy that is not mine…. and next is to sort out what is not mine from what is my authentic self … no small task! I see why I get distracted. Discerning what is true from inherited takes a scrambling into the unknown as I depart from a safety of the familiar. Interesting I just noticed that the word “familiar” has family imbedded inside it.

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