What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? The origin story of Know ThySelf Counseling

Choosing a Name

For me, coming up with a name for my private practice has been somewhat like naming another child. In picking a name for our offspring we think of our values, our connections to family or tradition, our hopes for the future of the one who bares the name, and our feelings about the name. And sometimes we just like the sound of the name. I wanted to choose a name that reflects my values and of course describes the business. So, what’s up with this name?

Defining the Word

Let’s start with what we mean by “to know.” Oxford Languages defines “to know” as follows:

1. be aware of through observation, inquiry or information

2. have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them, be familiar or friendly with

 

On a basic level, therapy is about looking inside and considering our thoughts, emotions, and actions. It’s about peeling back the layers of our self and better understanding our life experience. It’s about knowing ourselves.

Self Knowledge is a Journey

Let’s be honest, how many of us are making the time to have a relationship with ourselves? It can feel indulgent or too “woo woo.” And yet, really knowing ourselves, in the deep, meaningful, felt way the word can imply, is our birthright and our superpower. It is also not a static or one time effort. Knowing ourselves is a journey not a destination.

An Ancient Oracle 

Know ThySelf Counseling is inspired by the Delphic Maxims inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. What? Well, most of us know stories of Greek mythology about figures such as Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Hermes, Ares, etc. These and others were gods and goddesses to the ancient Greeks. To worship their deities, the Greeks built temples and one of the most famous one is the Temple of Apollo. 

Apollo was the god of music, harmony, light, healing and oracles. One of the most famous oracles of their times operated inside his temple, Pythia. According to ancient writers, there were three inscriptions on the temple known as the Delphic Maxims. As with all languages, translations are tricky, but the maxims are commonly referred to as:

  • Know Thyself
  • Nothing in Excess
  • Surety Brings Ruin
 
The Wisdom of Socrates

Socrates, the founder of Western Philosophy and the teacher of Plato, was very interested in these maxims and referred to them. And so “know thyself” as an important approach to life is often credited to Socrates. Socrates is also famously quoted for having said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The Delphic Maxims

Scholars of ancient Greece debate what these maxims meant at the time, over two thousand four hundred years ago.  For Socrates knowing your self seemed to mean knowing your powers/abilities, and knowing what you know including the limits of your knowledge to be able to act with reason. Self-knowledge can lead to self-mastery. For Socrates and Plato it may have been that self-knowledge was in the pursuit of moderation or self control. 

I want to take a more expansive view. For me, it is essential to turn inside and get to know all the different parts of me. For then, I can sustain a relationship with my full self that leads to an intentional life. I can be less reactive, live less on autopilot. This is how I understand the importance of “know thyself.” And I also really appreciate the notion of “nothing in excess.” I wish to seek balance, to not take it all too seriously or too personally. Is is important to avoid polarities and extremes. “Surety brings ruin” teaches that rigidity can be our downfall. Curiosity is an essential human trait and one that has led us to adventure and invention. Without curiosity we are doomed to repetition and smallness. This teaches us to remain humble and open to other perspectives. 

Value Based Life

For me, both personally and professionally, understanding our values and living in alignment with them is paramount to a contented and meaningful life. Frequently, the root of mental health challenges can be seen as a conflict between our values and our perceived reality. To know our values and live them we must know our self.

Developing Self Knowledge

In one sense, each individual human is an infinite mystery, an ever changing miracle. And it is also true that we can greatly benefit by knowing ourselves more fully. This comes through the courage and curiosity of self reflection and self compassion. We can consider what we think of ourselves, our self image, as different from who we are. We are a mix of who we want to be, who others experience us as being, and who we can be. How do we know ourselves? Well, buckle up and go on an adventure! Embrace the mystery and the flux and turn inward and ask. 

 

Work with me and I will teach you how. I promise you, you’re worth knowing even better.