This is the last time I promise...but seriously...who am I, really...and how much of me is merely a conditioned or manufactured self?
From our first moment out of the womb, all sorts of processes and activities start happening to us and around us that begin to shape the person we become. The experts say that what happens in our youngest years affects us most deeply and significantly.
When I consider the question "Who am I?"...along with all the influences that shaped me...I picture myself in a circle, which is in turn surrounded by a series of concentric circles...
Each circle around me represents the influence or conditioning imposed upon my mind or psyche.
Outer layers represent the broadest influences of society and culture...the popular ways and beliefs of the larger population as a whole.
Layers closer inward represent more specific influences that affect us, including beliefs and values established by religions and other traditions. Many of these have been passed from generation to generation for hundreds or even thousand so years.
Layers closest to me represent the most specific, immediate and impactful influences of all...parents and other caregivers since birth are the most influential in shaping behavior and belief...then siblings and relatives and friends...then the wider more commonly shared institutions of schools, church and government.
Right away we can see how the various layers affect each other and are tied together...the outer broader influences of society and culture (along with their institutions) will shape individuals...while individuals and their more immediate groups and beliefs will shape the larger society and culture...so that through various ways of communication and interaction these "layers of influence" will change and co-evolve over time.
Consider all the various layers of influence which have shaped your thinking (your psyche) over the years and into the present...then imagine peeling these layers away...
What do you find underneath?
With that challenge in mind...and it's not as easy one, as seekers have pursued it for ages and continue to do so...let's continue...