The Hermeneutics of the Very Ordinary Life

The Importance of Our Mental Images

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave by Jan Saenredam

We all have pictures of the reality in our mind. The reality we perceive through our experiences, learnings, family and cultural environments, etc. The lights and scents and touches are all transformed into images, and quite artistic ones sometimes, that surprisingly shape our behavior, our attitudes to life and our feelings of hope, sadness, gratitude. Through those subtle mental images we interpret success or failure. Yes, they are very subtle and very difficult to notice their existence because they are so harmonically infused with “us”.

In my experience it is essential to notice those images and have a critical view of them and change them intentionally.

One of the most important images in my experience was the image of “me in the process of life!” The basic existential image that we all have. To find it, think about the question “how old are you?”, the image usually pops up right then, i.e. when you think about the answer.

Another image is the image you got of your life plans. They can be very subtly and blurry or very clear. try to track them in your mind.

Images of your partners, your house, your lonely times, your bed time, etc. Believe it or not there is an image in the back of your head that forms your “emotional package” and most of the time your decisions. Images can be really central to your life and destiny. Yes! your destiny, those parts of your life you cannot say how they happened, why you did what you did, and how you decided to take one road to the other, are usually destined to happen by your Mental Images.

Track them and try to draw them. Use the exact colors, motions, even blurry parts. They tell a lot about the problems. They tell a lot about what you need to learn, what facts are there that you know but you haven’t implemented in those images?  If these all sound very abstract to you, just give it a try:

If you are a little bit artistic, an afternoon of calm and quiet, a cup of your favorite beverage, a nice sketch book, a pencil, an eraser, color pencils(preferably and artist box type). Otherwise just a piece of paper and a pen!

Take the journey into your mind.

If that’s not me then who am I?

– What am I gonna do?

– It’s not the end. It’s a fresh start.

– If I don’t go to that office everyday, who am I?

If you have watched “Mad Men” you may have recognized these lines. After an embarrassing moment of urinating in his pants, Freddy Rumsen spends a night out with his two colleagues only to find out that he has to take a leave of absence from work. And those are his “words of confusion”. If that’s not me, then who am I?

Many people never face such a question in their lifetime. They always know or appear to know who they are. And they are lucky enough that no accident or unfortunate “Act of God” shakes the foundation of their built-up identity.

On the other side, there are others that go through an “intentional de-familiarization process”. They mess around with the conventional and at some point do the same with their own “IDENTITY”, most of the times, totally unaware of the risks! Playing with the fire!


This is the moment that you are on the edge of your life: If you choose “to be”, what to be? And do I have the power or even credibility to say who I am? What is that ultimate element that I can easily and with no fear replace the “me” I had right yesterday, right a moment ago?

Inertia, the Mirage of Harmony!

The existential paradigm every individual lives in is shaped by thousands of conventions, values, habits, and meanings. Every one of us is “addicted to the who we are”. In a way, we have to! That’s what gives us the social stand, the peer acceptance, and the majesty of being “one of the normal” or “being definable” after all.

The society (the others) at all stages of life plays its roll like the “news anchor.” There is an apparent reality that should be reported and most definitely judged. It can be funny, ridiculous, dangerous, disastrous, sad, and so on and so forth. Doesn’t really matter. The anchor just reports and presents the view to the “apparent” story, and the audience simply takes it as the input.

We love harmony. But it seems that the harmony in our lives is only attainable by adapting to an inertia defined by the anchor, which can sometimes be so deep inside our own selves.

How “bad” is this when considering the mental health of our ever liberalizing, ever-individualizing, ever self-centered societies?

It seems different opposing forces are working all at the same time without any supervision of our conscious minds. There is a scene in the movie “The Awakening”, where doctor Sayer expresses his confusion in this way:

Dr. Sayer: How kind is it to give life, only to take it away? 

Eleanor: It’s given to and taken away from all of us. 

Dr. Sayer: Why does that not comfort me?”

It doesn’t comfort us because we feel the value of our “selves” with no doubt, with no need to any intermediary. We know very well how sacred, how comforting it feels to be a “being” so capable of understanding, and thinking, crying, laughing!

We should officially give credit to periods of individual changes, identity confusions and existential dilemmas. Our societies should understand that it is only fair to adapt the social structures to these inner conflicts given the massive opportunities we have to think and reflect on our unequivocally empowered selves and frequent dethroning we experience in our lives.

There is however a cost to be paid: the cost of the need to understand the life itself.

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