The self is not a thing but an unfolding process. We are energized when we are learning and progressing, and we begin psychologically to die when we allow ourselves to stagnate. That is where we encounter the process of slow death.
Relationships often play a key role. We have our greatest sense of joy and meaning when we connect with others in mutually enhancing ways. When we are disempowered, when we choose “peace and pay,” we do not create or attract mutually enhancing relationships. We are left to ourselves, depleted, tired, and disempowered.
If decay begins when we choose to stop growing, why do we ever stop? The answer is that there are times when we cannot “unify the flow of experience into a coherent narrative.” These are the times when we lose our sense of self and our inaction causes us to stagnate. Like the resistant boy on the playground, we are tightly gripping our swing and cannot let go. Our internal voice tells us to do something, to move on, to engage the unknown, but our courage fails. We remind ourselves how much we value the pleasure we derive from the swing, and we tighten our grip.
The swing might represent any pattern of old and comfortable behavior – a job, a habit, a relationship, or any other pattern. The present self is very tied to this established pattern. We sense that without the pattern, the self would no longer exist.
The truth, is that the self will exist no matter what we do, but our unfolding best self will only exist when we let go of the established pattern and learn our way forward.