close up of a water drop impacting a body of water and splashing

Redesigning our Identity, Creating our Collective Self


Discovering the Complexities of ‘Me’: Discovering the Patterns that Create Your Identity

Michael Shaun Conaway
Publishing Editor
April 13, 2023

Who am I? Why am I here?

This is the most fundamental of all inquiries. It has initiated all kinds of quests and journeys. We want to know, with some certainty, what life, our life, is really about. It is a journey we must make within ourselves, often ill-prepared for the challenges along the way. Yes there are guides and guide posts, but which ones do we trust? In the influencer era, there are likely tens of thousands of people who will tell you what this life is about. While their opinions and experience may help, it is likely at some point that you will have to discover the answers to these questions for yourself.

One of the headwinds of the spiritual journey is what I call the Myth of the Singular Self. We are inclined to believe that we are a single, mostly unchanging self. Our experience of life is that while things change we mostly stay the same. But if you examine yourself over time, it is pretty clear that we are very different at 6 than 16. And even more different between 20 and 40. Still our memories connect us to our past selves and any experiences that would point to significant differences in identity are smoothed over, or made to fit our continuous model of identity. It turns out that this smoothing function of the self is one of the functions of the default network in the brain. This is a good thing, as we don’t want to be continually in a state of identity crisis. And yet if we want to truly know who we are, we have to overcome this continuous identity or single self.

In western spiritual circles this is referred to as taming or killing the ego. I think that’s a terrible mis-interpretation of Eastern philosophical tradition where we awaken to the non-dual nature of the universe. That is that we are not separate from everything else, not self and other. Realizing this does not require self negation, or ego death. Rather the awakened master has self experiences while clearly seeing the truth of oneness or unity. It’s a self experience because that is part of what we are, and a unity experience because that is the truth of what we are.

What I propose is that we examine the self experience to see what is really there. When doing that, the illusion of the single self becomes transparent. We are fundamentally different selves given different circumstances. When we are at work, we are our working self; boss, team member, director, news anchor, engineer, builder, teacher, priest, doctor, ect. When we are with our life partners we are; lover, family, friend etc. And when we are alone with our thoughts we are; critic, parent, child, indulger, punisher, lover, coach, etc. Given any circumstance a different aspect of yourself will unconsciously emerge. Think of all of the times you have thought to yourself, “Why did I do that?”

So what’s really going on with our identity?

Consider that at the quantum level everything in the universe can be thought of as mass, energy and information, which are patterns. At the physical level, patterns manifest in our cell biology, DNA, and life cycle, which includes being born, growing, reproducing, aging, and dying. At the cultural level, patterns exist in our language, customs, values, and beliefs. We also have family patterns that involve traditions and emotions, referred to as ‘family dynamics.’ Additionally, we have personal patterns that include our preferences, habits, and narrative.

All of these patterns overlay one another. Like the ripples made by dropping a stone in the water. One stone makes perfect circles. Two make overlapping circles. Many turn into unique interference patterns. You might say that we are from moment to moment a beautiful symphony of complex patterns.

Most of us don’t don’t experience life like that. Our experience is often dominated by a terrible kind of pattern called a limiting belief. These are patterns with negative attachments that are fixed. They can sound like; “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not attractive enough.” “Rich enough.” “I don’t have the willpower to change.” We’re all familiar with these.

In your quest for self knowledge there is a particularly strong limiting belief that you will have to overcome and that is the belief that you are the voice you hear in your head. Our cultural patterns force this voice into a terrible position of either being the hero and commander of life or the failure and the victim. And often we swing back and forth in our judgment from hero to victim and back again depending on if we are able to have life go the way we want it to go. If we manage the circumstances so that we win, we are the hero. If we lose we are a failure and a victim. This is a terrible pitfall of the singular self identity.

A lot of personal development is guilty of perpetrating this stereotype. We are told to have positive thoughts, and then when we don’t succeed we feel like a failure. We are told that if we clearly “call in” something then we can manifest that thing. If we fail to manifest that thing we feel like a failure. “I must not be good enough to have the amazing life that the teachers say is possible. Maybe if I just tried harder.”

And we forget to ask ourselves if the problem might actually be with the teachings not the student.

The internal master and commander is no more likely to create widespread happiness than the external dictator is to create a utopia. And we wonder why so many of us feel resigned about our ability to change, and have a happy, fulfilling life. The alternative is that we begin to see ourselves as a collective of personalities, of patterns that arise and steer us in one direction or another.

If “I” am not the one leading voice in this identity, then how do I change?

Now we are getting closer to the real truth. Force is not a very good leadership style internally or externally, rather we are going to need to become a good influencer of our collective patterns. I like to call it being a “Me Whisperer”.

This allows us to loosen the grip of the ego and open the door to spiritual growth. To make lasting and profound changes we have to influence our collective patterns, through vision, alignment and practice. This process gets you unstuck and moving. Active evolution means that once you are unstuck and moving your destination evolves and changes.

Motion, change, evolution, impermanence. That is the nature of the universe, from the big bang forward.

Examined from this viewpoint, your quest to know who you are and why you’re here takes on a very different nature. You are no longer looking for a static, fixed version of yourself like a table; rather, you are looking for the version of yourself that arises from moment to moment. You are looking for a purpose that emerges in each moment. While these can be similar in nature, the difference is that by doing so, you become free to experience yourself and the world anew in every moment.

When we release our experience of the singular self, we are free to dance with the arising world in joy. Visualize this, a dance of the patterns of the universe of which you are a pattern of the universe — you are in a dance with yourself. A unique momentary is-ness at a unique moment in time. Experience this in unity and you are close to the answers you are seeking.

In the meantime, we’ll be looking for PROOF of a thriving future for humanity.

The Generative Futurist
Editor PROOF

P.S.  I would love you to follow our Podcast, subscribe to us on Youtube, sign up for the PROOF email and subscribe if you love reading PROOF

Proof 43 – Redesigning our Identity, Creating our Collective Self

PROOF in ACTION – The Power of the Collective SelfGuide

An Exercise in Transitioning to a Collective Self Identity

Once you are open to moving beyond the myth of the singular self, you are ready to start identifying the key patterns that make you who you-together are. Note the second you is plural. It might help to connect with being a plurality of selves, a “we” rather than an “I”. This is not meant to be an identity pronoun change but rather a recognition that the you who shows up in any given moment may be different and unique.

Here are some exercises you can do to explore this new way of thinking about yourself.

  • Write down the different personalities you use in your life. These could be oriented around work, family, romantic partner(s), language, location, etc. Name each of these. In my case I have, philosopher, mystic, spiritual friend and coach, storyteller, filmmaker, father, husband, nomad, expat, leader.
  • Now take a selfie video of yourself playing each of these personalities. Imagine a situation where you are speaking to someone you would speak with from the voice of the personality. For example, I would imagine speaking with my daughter as my father’s personality. Do a brief, 10–20 second video for each. Try to fully inhabit each of the personalities.
  • Watch the videos and pick out which ones seem to be unique. These are likely your dominant patterns.
  • Take your dominant personalities and write down the patterns that make up each personality. When I am ”the filmmaker” I have patterns of creativity, decisiveness, leadership, light heartedness, contemplation, deep seeing and sensing. I can also have negative patterns of stress and impatience.
  • Look at your combined list of patterns and gently allow your mind to suggest to you where those patterns come from. Write down any insights you have.
  • Look at negative patterns or limiting beliefs and ask the question, What is being protected by these patterns? If you can identify what is being protected, name the pattern Protector of… For example, I have a Being Seen Protector. It’s fear is that my loved ones will not see me for who I really am and that they will hurt me if they can’t see me. Being protected from this is not a bad thing, but if I am always on the hunt for being looked over or not listened to, I can become very intense and angry in situations where that pattern feels a threat.
  • Now see if you can think of another, more healthy way to help these sensitive patterns to feel assured that they are safe. In the above case when my Being Seen Protector get’s a little triggered, rather than letting it start searching for evidence that there is danger, I say to the person I am speaking with, “I’d like to check in with you and see if you understand where I’m coming from?” That starts a conversation that almost inevitably leads to me being seen. And when it doesn’t, then it’s possible that I am ready for some protection.
  • Finally, consider gathering a council of your dominant patterns/personalities (including your main protectors) and using them to collectively consider life plans, goals, futures and upsets. You might find that you are more able to fully consider your life and choices when you do this.

These are some steps you can take to start considering yourself to be a collective identity.

May this information inspire you to generate a thriving future for humanity and a thriving life for yourself. For more resources please check out our Podcast and Youtube channel.

-The Now Team

BOLD.LY NOW is a movement of co-creative up-levelers who have a burning desire to step free of our collapsing world & take the most daring leap forward to a thriving world.

Follow us

PROOF is a Generative Futures Initiative Project

The Generative Futures Initiative
Generating a Thriving Future for All

PROOF is a digital magazine published by NOW and the Generative Futures Initiative.  The mission of the magazine is to shine a light on people, organisations and ideas that stand as Proof of a Thriving Future.