What Actually Is A "Higher Self" & How Do I Connect To Mine?
In contemporary spiritual talk, the "highest self" is referenced a lot. Most of us have read or heard advice along the lines of "Connect to your highest self to become abundant, grounded, calmer, etc.," at some point. But what does a higher self really look like, and how can we recognize it when we see it? Here's a psychological perspective on how to connect with your highest self—the part of us that is wise, aware, and connected to all that is.
A psychologist's integrative perspective on the higher self.
In depth psychology—the form of therapy that examines all facets of the mind including the unconscious and subconscious—the highest self, or just the Self, can be defined as our inner guidance that is separate from our personality (Ego Self).
It is the connector of the material and the mystical; the Universe within that dictates our experience as embodied beings. (The word embodied reminds us that we are more than just our physicality—we are our spiritual essence, too.)
In other words: Your highest self has nothing to do with your ego, although it can comment on the state of your personality and well-being through the use of symbols and symbolic imagery.
We all experience our inner worlds—and highest selves—through symbols. Your highest self communicates with you (that is internally/ passively/ receptively) though your imagination, meditations, and dreams via the medium of personal symbols. You can also connect with your higher self (externally/ actively) through collective symbols: stories, tarot, myth, ritual, and prayer.
How to connect to it using silence and symbol.
The year 2020 has been a wakeup call. It has reminded us of the inevitability of death and loss and forced us to recognize our humanness for all it's worth, right now, in this very moment.
Reconnecting to our highest self is one of the greatest journeys we can embark on, especially during uncertain and uncomfortable times like these.
The simplest way to activate your innate connection to your highest self is by sitting still. No meditation or breathwork required (although both can act to get you into a more receptive state of being). Simply allow yourself to move past the discomfort that arises from not being continuously distracted and then come home to your Self.
If you're looking for a more active medium, tarot allows your personality and your higher self to interact with each other. It joins the earthly and the metaphysical using symbolic imagery. The ego reacts to the imagery on the cards first, and then the higher self is activated to guide us through the internal meaning of the symbols. It's a dance between the seen and unseen.
For example, let's say you pull a ten of swords card in a tarot deck: This card depicts a man lying, presumably dead, on the floor with 10 swords firmly placed in his back. A red cape covers the lower portion of his body, which flows onto the ground connecting with the blood pools on the floor. The backdrop of the scene is a black horizon with a sunrise over a calm, pale blue sea.
The first thought you have in response to this evocative image is psychologically telling.
What came up for you as you imagined this card or read my imagery description? Discomfort, fear, absolute inner knowing, or something else entirely? Did you focus on the man, the swords, or the sea?
The symbols/images that you gravitate toward speak to your inner world. For example, you may see the ten of swords and then randomly think of your ex whom you haven't spoken to for years. Your highest self knows that all of life is transient and that there is a larger picture and force at play.
Is emotional baggage worth holding on to? Perhaps it's time for forgiveness, for yourself and others? You may have been metaphorically stabbed in the back, but how are you being offered a rebirth and rising—just like the sun in the image—at the same time?
With repetition, pulling tarot cards can help you analyze your immediate reactions, and excavate the inner knowing that feeds into them.
The bottom line.
Ultimately, there is no split between you and your highest self. You are one and the same, always connected. Recognizing this can lead to many external benefits, but it's the internal journey that rewards us the most.
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Athena Laz is a leading voice on modern spirituality, specializing in the intersection of psychology and mysticism. She is the author of The Alchemy of Your Dreams: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Lucid Dreaming and The Deliberate Dreamer’s Journal.
Originally hailing from South Africa, Laz has degrees through the University of Witwatersrand and is a licensed psychologist through HPCSA. Her work has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine and the South African Journal of Psychology.