The false idea of who you are

In his short lecture, The false idea of who you are , British philosopher Alan Watts reminds us all how “fantastically complex” we are, and how amazing it is to belong so fundamentally in the world.

Activity Time: 20 min - 45 min
Activity steps
  1. Ask the group to consider what it might mean to have a ‘false idea of who you are.’ Discuss for a few minutes.
  2. Watch the video The false idea of who you are.
  3. Walk through The false idea of who you are handout. 
  4. In pairs or small groups, discuss the questions below.
Reflect and discuss
  • Watts says identifying only with our “trouble-shooting” conscious mind means living in “perpetual anxiety.” 
    • Do you agree or disagree? Why?
    • How would you describe what living in perpetual anxiety looks like? Give examples.
  • “You can feel yourself, not as a stranger in this world, not as something here on probation, not as something arrived here by fluke, but you begin to experience your own existence as absolutely fundamental.”
    • Watts uses metaphors to describe different ways of feeling disconnected. What are other metaphors or ways to describe that feeling?
    • Have you (or someone you know) ever felt like a “stranger in this world”? If so, what did you do to remember you belong?
    • Indigenous teachings emphasize our ultimate belonging to the land. To what degree is Watts suggesting the same idea?
  • Describe what went through your mind when Watts said, ”You’re all that, only you’re pretending you’re not.”