The war & harmony between the relational & conceptual worlds

Concepts transform our identity by reshaping our relationship with ourself

Much of our self-concept – or identity – is shaped by others through mimetic desire. We're not who we think we are and who we are has little to do with us. Yet, that’s not the whole story.

We change inwardly when we repattern our identity from powerful concepts.

Transformation from within is rare, and it's no wonder: it starts with some amount of suffering and then requires deep, careful, and extended introspection.

What is introspection? I think of it as taking a hard look at the relationship I have with myself. I'll ask questions like, are my beliefs and actions in harmony? And what am I afraid of (and why)?

An introspective journey into the hidden relationship we have to ourselves requires tools that we find in religious, symbolic, and philosophical concepts, as well as artfully crafted physical objects and environments.

But concepts alone aren't enough; Knowledge of systems, moral beliefs, and life-giving environments won't transform us until we form a felt — not rational — connection with them.

We can't study or reason our way to personal transformation.

“Objects that are most profound are the ones that create the most feeling from us.”
- Christopher Alexander

Think about an idea or conviction that's transformed how you feel about yourself in a meaningful, lasting way: the first time — perhaps first thousand times — you encountered it, you may have found it interesting, useful, and may have even aced a test on it. You may have used the concept to guide your life helpfully or unhelpfully. But, when left alone with your thoughts and apart from your group, it's hard to feel much for the idea at all.

There's a substantive, startling difference between using a concept as a means to connect with others and connecting directly with it ourselves.

Perhaps one day, when your guard was down, something embedded in a well-trodden concept connected to you as if it had a life of its own. It expanded your way of seeing yourself and gifted a measure of joy, relief, and optimism that stuck around. What happened?

Our relationship to ourselves – the pattern that shapes our identity – can be transformed by profound concepts accessed through introspection.

Concepts come alive in us when they connect to and reshape the relationship we have to our identity. Positive deep connections can reverse the negative, unconscious emotions we hold about ourselves: feelings of shame, temporariness, and worthlessness. They reshape these into feelings of love, purpose, and worth.


As we're repatterned by deep concepts, we become less defined or bound by our invisible mimetic connections. We're freer to generate new, powerful relational connection points that can mimetically spread from us to our community.

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
- Plutarch

We can't use concepts to transform our friends, family, or community until we've been changed by them ourselves. Introspection isn't just for us, but everyone around us.

Use the Click Down Technique along with these prompts to practice reflecting introspectively:

  • Is what you do in private consistent with what you say you believe in public? Why or why not?
  • What are you afraid of? Why?
  • What do you feel anxious about if the future you imagine at work, in your family, or with a friendship doesn't work out how you hope it will?
  • How do you like to be thought of (intelligent, attractive, unique, etc.)?
  • Are you pretending to be anything that you don't live up to?

Each month, I write a short essay about the Chaos Map:

Thank you. Stay tuned for an introduction email.
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