A Question of Identity: TorahCycle Shemot

ShemotThis is the beginning of Exodous, the transition, the shift from enslavement to freedom. Shemot means names. This is the perfect time to think about who you are, what you identify as, and how other people see you. Sometimes those are in perfect congruence, and others there are big gaps between whom we aspire to be and how we act, or how we hope to be seen and how others perceive us.

There’s lots of plot highlights: Moses put into the bullrushes to avoid genocide; rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as a prince of Egypt; killing an overseer whom he sees abusing the now enslaved Isrealites; being banished to the desert where he sees the burning bush; and instructed by HaShem to plead with Pharaoh to “let my people go.”

No one who’s ever seen the 1950’s classic The Ten Commandments can extirpate Cecil B DeMille’s imagery from their mind. But few of us conduct our own lives in Technicolor. It may occasionally seem that vivid when we’re falling in love, or engaged in major life events either wonderful or terrifying. But mostly it’s one foot in front of the other, aiming towards what we want and enduring what we don’t. Not as bad as slavery, making bricks under the hot Egyptian sun. But rarely as dramatic as becoming the spokesperson for an entire people.

In the more personal cosmology of integration, your inner Moses is the part that can see past wherever you’re stuck. The one who to help guide you towards the next phase of development. The part that’ll help you take on internalized resistance (your inner Pharaoh). We’ve all got harsh taskmasters to keep us chained to whatever reality we want to outgrow. Denial, inertia, shame, blame, habit, and fear of change, to name a popular array. You may have others. But their rule is about to end: your inner leader’s come to help rescue you. Get ready to start channeling freedom.

Before you can become the new you, however, you’ll have to acknowledge not only what’s kept you in the narrow places, but what aspects of self you are ready to shift. Killing your inner overseer is more than just one act of righteous anger. It’s gonna take a period of conscious shedding and transformation, a lot more awareness than living in slavery.

So get clear about what you want to change, and why, and who you want to be on the other side.

Exercise: The turn of a calendar year is the perfect time to redefine your identity. To re-envision, re-interpret, and re-brand yourself. Embrace the luxury of deciding anew who you are and how you want to live. List “names” that describe your life now, and another of those you aspire to. Identify aspects of self you’re proud of, your allies, and those you’re ready to molt out of. Visualize where you want to be this time next year, and what new names will describe you then, so you can grow towards them.