I have referenced previously Donald Winnicot, in relation to the Good-Enough Job, but he also wrote about the distinction between the “true self” and “false self” which we develop in infancy, and often carry with us into adulthood.
In this short article, Make Peace with your Unlived Life, Dutch management scholar and psychoanalyst Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries offers advice as to how to explore our true selves, particularly when many reach a crossroads (or even impasse) in their midlife and midcareer and experience an identity crisis:
“Romancing your shadow—accepting these unlived parts of yourself and learning to read the messages that are contained in it—can lead to a deeper level of consciousness, as well as spark your imagination. When a person is ready to accept these parts—and not try to push them aside — she or he may discover all sorts of creative, positive ideas begging for fulfillment. These buried desires will help them to reflect not only on the question of “Who am I?” but also “Who do I want to be?” This can turn a negative spiral of self-pity turned into the opposite.”
To address this he concludes as the importance of: “Questioning, reflecting, and having meaningful conversations with important people in our lives.” Advice worth following.