Are you one person? One self? A singular personality? Or, as the poet said, do you “contain multitudes”? In the new book Your Symphony of Selves, authors Jordan Gruber and James Fadiman argue that each one of us is composed of many distinct selves that make up the totality of who and what we are. They attempt to rescue this notion from the realm of mental illness and schizophrenia, and show how the concept of healthy multiple selves has a rich history in psychology, art, spirituality, philosophy, and even science. They suggest that the goal of mental health should not be to find your one true self, but to find ways to “be in the right mind and the right time.” It’s a compelling idea, especially in contrast to the prevailing view, so I was delighted to welcome Jordan, a longtime friend, to join me on this episode of Thinking Ahead. To my mind, the modern world has been, at least in part, defined by the assertion of the individual self, the universal self, the modern ego. In earlier eras of human history, the self was seen as a repository for all kinds of Gods, instincts, and archetypes—it was the playground of muses; the battleground of angelic impulses and demonic forces. Many of those predilections were tamed in the effort to become a more unified, individual sense of self that is the hallmark of the modern world, and I certainly think that was a good thing. But has something been lost as well? Are we making room for all of the dimensions of who we are? In the postmodern era, there has been a movement to reclaim and more fully appreciate a sense of the diversity, difference, divergence, and multiplicity, in culture—and perhaps within the individual as well. I find it fascinating to trace the evolution of the human sense of self—or selves—as it interacts with the evolution of culture. And whether we are ultimately one, or many, there’s no doubt in my mind that our psychological health will benefit from making more room for our inner diversity.
More about Jordan Gruber
Jordan Gruber, J.D., is coauthor, with James Fadiman, of Your Symphony of Selves: Discover and Understand More of Who We Are. He is also coauthor, with Joy Daniels, of The Bounce, and is a leading advocate of rebound exercise. A graduate of Binghamton University and the University of Virginia School of Law, he founded the Enlightenment.Com website, and has worked for many years as a collaborative writer, ghost writer, editor, and coach, forging and sculpting authoritative volumes in forensic law, financial services, psychology, and health and wellness. He lives in Menlo Park, California, with his wife and family as well as several feline friends.
Learn more about Jordan and his work at www.JordanGruber.com.