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Excerpted from Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. Copyright 2001 by Martha Beck. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"Most of my clients are like Melvin: responsible citizens who have muzzled their essential selves in order to do what they believe is the 'right thing.'"

  Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star, Part 5

And so it goes, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. After mediating this constant struggle for decades, Melvin's inner life is hollow and numb. If you ask him what he's feeling, he won't have an answer; his social self doesn't know, and it is the only part of Melvin that is allowed to speak to others. Melvin's social self has kept him in his job, his marriage, and his life--but only by sending him off his true path. Now everything is falling apart. His sacrifices seem to have been for nothing. The problem isn't that Melvin's social self is a bad person--in fact, it's a very good person. It has the horsepower to get Melvin all the way to his North Star. But only his essential self can tell him where that is.

The Disconnected Self

Most of my clients are like Melvin: responsible citizens who have muzzled their essential selves in order to do what they believe is the "right thing." There are, of course, people who fail--or refuse--to develop a social self. They live completely in essential-self world, never accommodating society in any way that runs contrary to their desires. But I very rarely see anyone like this in my practice. You, for example, are not one of them.

How do I know? Because if you were totally dominated by your essential self, you wouldn't be reading this. You'd avoid taking advice from any book, even if it happened to be the only thing available in the prison library. That's where you'd probably have to read it, because people without social selves generally end up in cages. If we all ignored our social selves, every neck of the human woods would be another variation on Lord of the Flies; people would be stabbing each other with forks, looting rest homes, having sexual relations with twenty-one-year-old interns in the Oval Office, and God knows what else.

So I'd lay heavy odds that you, personally, are heavily identified with your social self. You're reading this because you're the kind of person who seeks input from other people, people like life-design counselors and book authors. You're trying to make yourself a better person, and you're pretty darn good at it. Congratulations. Having a strong social self is a terrific asset. It's allowed you to sustain relationships, finish school, hold down jobs, and meet a lot of other goals. But if, in spite of all these achievements, you're feeling like Melvin--discontented and unfulfilled--I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that your internal wiring is disconnected. You need to re-establish contact with your essential self.

Paradoxically, if you want to do a really good job at this, you're going to have to stop thinking about doing a really good job. To find your North Star, you must teach your social self to relax and back off.

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