As we enter the quiet and reflecting days towards the end of the year and just in time for making some New Year resolutions in a week, I wanted to write about ways how we can get to know ourselves (and with it, each other) better.
The subtle art of self-analysis is en vogue latest since the practice of mindfulness became a popular movement a few years ago. However, whether you’re venturing into deep meditation or simply want to look inwards before making certain decisions, many people struggle when it comes to the reality of self-knowledge.
No wonder. Much of our modern society is built upon reacting first and reflecting later. That’s why before asking a question of the Gods, the Oracle of Delphi kind of forced its travelers to investigate themselves to “Know Thyself”1.
As simple as the demand sounds, as hard it is to fulfill. Those interested in a more holistic form of self-inquiry therefore may also need to question the factors that contribute towards such. Indeed, the times we live in would do well with a few more of us challenging our collective and individual self-integrity by trying to better understand each other’s context of truth.
“Whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth, when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc, and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts, and passions of all other men”. — Thomas Hobbes
Knowing who you are doesn’t only help you, it helps to understand others as well. Also, the strength of one’s individual integrity stems not only from our habits, behaviors and attitudes (collectively called as “character”), but also from those not yet discovered features and abilities we all carry within, that we are seldom aware of, and which can only be unveiled by a so-called “potential analysis" or coincidentally be triggered by a pivotal, often unique and unexpected event in life that we have little or no control of.
Personality Tests and (Indirect) Self-Learning
Maybe you have come across various personality tests already, e.g. during school or study times, while trying to pass the odd recruitment interview, or perhaps you have taken one online simply out of curiosity.
Some of them include:
These tests are great to serve specific purposes at times. However, there are many ways to learn about yourself indirectly, thereby uncovering aspects about your personality you may not yet have had on your radar.
One such approach is by learning about the factors that influence your individual health and wellbeing and that determine your “constitution”, e.g. by understanding the ancient art and science of Pulse Diagnosis (and with it the Tridoshas “Vata, Pitta and Kapha”):
Less accurate (and certainly not scientifically valid) but nevertheless interesting dosha tests as per Ayurveda can be found online as well, e.g.
If you’re more of a mind-based person, you might find the study of psychosomatics rewarding and could start researching flower remedies and thereby acquire a deeper understanding of positive and negative qualities associated with the 7 major moods we’re both victims to and masters of during our lives.
Now what are the ways that can inspire us to explore parts of our being that yet have to reveal themselves?
Over the course of my life, I was lucky to come across many interesting ways and techniques to identify and find unknown (or underappreciated) and unrealized potential. How do they work?
As listed above, there are various (and often indirect) paths to consider in trying to find out about your potential. Some are linked to astrology, others apply psychology and psychosomatics and of course there are many popular and well known approaches such as aura-soma, selection of gems and minerals, etc.
However, one of the deepest forms of analyzing your potential comes from the depths of your own voice:
“Our voice starts with our first breathing — after birth the „first cry“ shows that the baby is capable of living. We communicate by our voice. We recognize each other by our voices. Voice is as individual as a fingerprint! Voice always is an individual expression of our personal sound which comes out of us („personal“ comes from Latin = personare = to sound through something).
This very personal sound is confirmed by an interesting discovery of Dr. Vemu Mukunda3. Since ancient Indian tradition it is known that there is a special individual note (sound) in the speaking voice which was even heard in earlier times during deep meditation. Searching for this single tone, Dr. Mukunda was surprised to find a group of notes in the speaking voice! Nowadays this can easily be proven by a digital tuner – if a person speaks, you will see several different notes quickly changing on this tuner.
After 15 years of statistical research, Dr. Mukunda had found out that:
the individual group of notes shows the potential of a person, the single notes reflect predispositions, talents and behavior;
when the tested person speaks for a while in a relaxed manner, the special note — called „individual groundnote“ — naturally comes up in the voice. This note is always linked to inner calmness and its meaning represents the individual core potential (e.g. creativity).
All notes of the group should be lived — the ground note as well as the other notes, which are nowadays called as „influencing notes“, but the ground note is the center and the base for the music-therapeutic use of the system Dr. Vemu Mukunda has developed.
The first step for its use is always the „groundnote test“, consisting of three parts:
Test of the speaking voice to find the individual group of notes by a tuner;
Talk about the group of notes and their reflecting potential;
Determination of the ground note.”
Another way to identify potentialities is by leveraging light and color, e.g. by utilizing the well-known Lüscher4 test.
“Max Lüscher started from the principle that the appearance of color is objective for human perception. Starting from this fact, he directed his interest to the individual experience of a certain color appearance. With the help of categorical psycho-logic, he developed a method with which the objective meaning of the color quality can be determined. Once the objective meaning is established, conclusions can be drawn about individual inclinations and needs based on the reactive behavior of the individual. All test colors were categorically determined in this way.
If it can be determined in general and independent of culture that, for example, the test color orange-red is perceived as stimulating and thus as active, in contrast to the calming effect of dark blue, which is perceived as passive, it can be used as an instrument in its objective psychological meaning. If the individual now experiences the actively perceived effect as more sympathetic than the passive one in the course of the test, statements can be made about the preferred behavior patterns due to the similarity of the experiences, i.e., experiences of the same category. Put simply, the clear preference for active experiences allows statements to be made about the possible behaviors in specific life situations. In addition, the test also shows the degree of intensity of the preference, so that statements can also be made about the characteristics of the behavior, such as the gradation from “engaged” to “aggressive, provocative” to “hysterical”.
The colors required for the test procedure were conceptually developed within the framework of structural functional psychology in clinical studies lasting several years. The advantage of non-verbal color diagnostics lies in the spontaneous reaction of the test individuals to a sufficiently known and familiar phenomenon — the appearance quality of the color. Since the categories of psycho-logic are derived from the subject-object relation as a logical basic function, they capture all possible attitudes to the environment and fellow human beings, as well as to oneself — and thus all modes of experience and behavior.”
“Every psychological theory that wants to understand man without his striving for meaning, without harmony, sees only partial aspects. It lacks the necessary order of meaning that belongs a priori to the essence of man.” — Max Lüscher
Whether you’re using the ancient practices of sound and light, or whether you’re drawn towards new age forms of manifesting self-knowledge by taking to tools such as the HumanDesignApp, making an effort makes all the difference in a world full of intellectual self bubbles.
Perhaps you can even enliven others, e.g. by sharing a mystic and more light-hearted way of discovering an aspect or a potential about themselves. Originating from an ancient visualization technique that was perfected by the Sufis and is told in the form of a story called the “Magic Cube”, it also makes for a great conversation during the holidays.
Whilst I plan to cover the above techniques in greater detail in future posts, I hope that in the meantime the good old Delphi Oracle request to “Know Thyself” could inspire you if forming possible New Year resolutions in line with not only what makes you you, but also with what your Self could potentially be.
Dr. Vemu Mukunda was born in Bangalore 1929 and died in the year 2000 in London. Grown up in a family of musicians and playing the Veena from childhood he first of all studied „Engineering“ at the Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He aquired his PHD and worked as a nuclear scientist.
After some years he stopped this career by private reasons and came back to his music. As „Master of the Veena“, playing the Northern but specially the South-Indian Karnatic style of music he gave concerts in India, Europe and in the USA.
Classical Indian music is well known by its high art of improvisation on Ragas. Ragas are musical scales based on many different structures and they are known in India to have a very strong effect on the emotions. Improvising on 3 very specific Ragas, Dr. Mukunda tested the reactions of the international listeners during a concert in Avignon. The corresponding result was amazing and so he understood, that the emotional effect of Ragas is crosscultural. After this experience he was very interested in the effect of sound in general. Working on this he became more and more familiar with the immense importance and impact of the human voice.
Max Lüscher, who was known to the public due to his colour test as the “Swiss colour psychologist” or "colour guru" died on 2 February 2017 in Lucerne at the age of 93. With tireless devotion, he examined the connection between inner experience and objective reality, and the emergent subjective expression in all spheres of life. He developed a conceptual model which included six categories: directive - receptive, constant - variable, integrative - separative; with which emotion, motivation, and the resulting behaviour can be described.