Embracing Otherness, Managing Our Selves

In Thandie Newton’s recent Ted Talk, she discusses her experience of Otherness and her exploration of Self. She comments on her rejected, unruly, dysfunctional Self and ways in which her pursuit of Awareness and Oneness helps her control her Self and find fulfillment. Some of the ideas she discusses I find provocative and some informative, some inspirational and some disturbing. I am working to formulate some thoughts and questions, pursuing answers as I won’t pretend to have any. I welcome your feedback and reactions.

Oneness of the universe outside of our isolating Selves. She mentions that obtaining Oneness with the universe and our fellow humans is powerful and beneficial. She does not follow through by revealing what she sees as the benefits, positive attributes and rewards in doing so. It’s left with the same ambiguity as in the traditional pursuit of heaven. I would like to hear her talk about the Oneness of Community in the present. In this, she also discredits the positive values of Self and seems to limit her representation of Self in a negative, problematic schema. I find this troubling as a psychotherapist. I’m not sure that Self has to be seen as positive or negative when it can be both and always in flux as Self is shaped by our ongoing experiences in the world.

“Bountiful Nothingness.” One of the more problematic lines I hear in this is about her call to destroy our Selves in blind pursuit of Oneness and connection with the Universe. She says, “Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor the inevitable death of Self, appreciate the privilege of life, and marvel at what comes next. Simple Awareness is where it begins.”

I agree. Life becomes richer, more fulfilling and conducive to thriving when we are Aware and practice Mindfulness. At the same time, I have yet to find anything simple about building Awareness.

How does she propose we honor the death of our Selves? I am uncomfortable hearing her discuss and promote the ‘death’ of our Selves, both for its provocative language and the idea that this dismisses our control, management, manipulation and relationship with our Selves. Identity development is an ongoing struggle and pursuit for most people. I’m not sure I can fully agree with the idea that Self must be disbanded for Awareness and Connection, Nirvana, Enlightenment. I imagine there can be a positive, interactive relationship through identity development with our Selves in pursuit of these higher goals.

How does she propose we marvel at what comes next? Especially if our existence is through the lens of our Selves, which she only credits as a projection, and not an enriched, engaging experiential dynamic. What does she imagine comes next? Ultimate universal connectedness, it seems. And what are we to cherish so much in that idea that makes it more appealing than the height of beautiful ‘Here and Now’ inter-connectivity with the humans we encounter every day?

This idea, coupled with my mother’s lesson of ‘Heaven is the legacy you leave behind,’ is what enables me to smile, engage, help, reach out to and reciprocate with the clients, family, friends and strangers I encounter every day. This is what leads me to the heights of fulfillment, the flow (losing oneself in activity) and the sense of thriving I feel most days in my current life, with my developed and developing Self.

I encourage and welcome your responses.