When people feel strong emotions, they may describe themselves as being beside themselves. People can be beside themselves in love or in hate. Strong emotions do that. The heat of the feeling can be so intense that your psyche has to step away from the flame and you may find yourself beside yourself.
There are other circumstances, sometimes in near death or traumatic experiences, sometimes in deep meditation, where people have out of body experiences. People report that they are able to observe themselves from a vantage point, which may include a view of the back of their own head.
Even more common, is the feeling of hating yourself, or not being able to live with yourself. The antidote to this situation, or to feelings of low self esteem in general, is often thought to be to learn to love yourself. Whether you are loving yourself, hating yourself, or floating above or beside yourself, you are having a unique experience of yourself. Becoming two selves, subject and object self, raises the question of what the heck are you?
If you think that you hate yourself, what is it that hates? What is hated? What is hate? That subjective self that hates the objective self can’t really be paying attention. People naturally love themselves, that is why we gravitate toward pleasure and try to avoid pain. We are always looking for ways to be happy. Hating ourselves is a sign of frustration that we are not able to provide adequate happiness for ourselves, or those around us are not helping us to find the happiness we deserve. Loving ourselves is what we are doing beneath hating ourselves, but either way we are beside ourselves.
Loving yourself is not necessarily the antidote to hating yourself, it is what’s left when you stop hating yourself. Recognizing that you are hating yourself and examining what it is that you are thinking of as yourself is the beginning of coming to terms with the hate.
If you notice yourself hating yourself, then you can recognize that you are beside yourself and in a perfect position to help. Is that part that hates any better than the hated? Which part is suffering more? What is your deepest wish? Is it to increase your suffering or increase your happiness? If you struggle with these questions long enough, you may find yourself as one, two, ten thousand, or no self at all. As you look into a compassionate friend’s eye, or catch your reflection in a shop window, you will find yourself beside yourself, loving and lovable, capable of creating any change you need.