We all possess and carry within us a mystery that for some remains forever unknown. What do we look like on the inside?At times our bodies produce blood, excrement, mucous, tears, genital fluids, and saliva. We can leave any of this “stuff” on a surface and, if we have been up to some type of misdeed, be convicted of a crime by the DNA contained in this material. Yet what do we look like on the inside?  A physician orders X-rays when there is reason to believe that something is wrong or, as in the case of a routine physical, to make sure nothing is wrong. When we view our X-rays, we are often amazed that the image before us is of us—while the physician makes statements about the image in language that can be difficult to decipher.

The mystery, of who human beings are, on the inside and the outside, has always been of interest to me. As a practicing psychotherapist, I experience daily the private internal and external worlds of individuals as they tell me about their thoughts, feelings and behavior. They are in search of themselves: Who am I, where am I going (and for what reasons)?

The hidden world of the internal is very much a part of identity. A statement like, “I have degenerative disk disease at L4/L5, L5/S1,” signals that one’s body has changed and is not as it was. Recognition of the familiar has been lost; the idealized self-image has been destroyed. This kind of change leads one to integrate new facts into the constant flow of information that defines identity and self. Popeye is credited with making the clearest statement about identity that has been ever made, “I am what I am, and I am Popeye the Sailor Man.” The concept of a psychological self is made up of many constructs that include internal and external verities. I suspect an X-ray, MRI, or CAT Scan of Popeye’s internal systems would mirror what we see on the outside. There would be no dissonance. He is Popeye the Sailor Man.

©Glenn Scarboro