This page is about being free of the bondage of self, or the ego, to which the totality of bondage is tied. It assumes that those interested will have some background in Self-Inquiry, Non Dual Teachings and maybe a 12 Step Program.
In this context, the bondage of self can be couched as an addiction to an illusory self-concept or self-image. It is this "self-centered" condition that is the cause and effect of all limiting conditions.
This premise being accepted, we can use the 12 Step model as a way to address and deconstruct any notion that we hold of/as our self. A self-identity is actually just an unexamined existential assumption. Such an assumption is manufactured as a panic induced interpretation, based in the stunning fear and ignorance of not knowing what we are, and frozen stiff or solid in memory as reality. This is a double bind. First we make something up because we're fearful that we don't know what we are, and then we make believe this notion is real because we don't want to know that we don't know! Yet, within our own thinking, we cannot seem to stop believing that we are what we think because all 'our' thoughts, our wole world, revolve around our initial self notion as an adjustment to the threat of what we conceive (from the isolation of limited self-identity) as oblivion.
Most of us have become habituated to assume who we are through the collective drone of our culture, conditioning and education. There's safety in numbers! Others have exchanged this self-notion for a more spiritual self-image through study of teachings and teachers. It's the same thing, another kind of culture, another contrived self-image.
This repetitive pattern of self-defining 'me' as my own thought of self, Self or not self, is an inebriating, mind-boggling, compulsive/obsessive, self-gratifying process meant to procure a stand in reality. The clinging action of mind that makes up, grasps and sustains the condition and conditioning of self-identity inturn makes up the apparent separate existence of a world. Identity is the cause and effect of suffering.
Any notion of self, Self and not self is merely a series of interdependent, polarized, conceptual constructs that we've become addicted to believing ourselves to be (or wrapped our self up in). These concepts have no existence outside of their co-dependency on one another. It's a house of cards. An intricate story based on a false premise. We are powerless over identifying our self as this pseudo-identity because we fear Being-The Unknowable - Non-Conceptual Existence in relation to our puny isolated body/mind self-identity and its world. Our self-image temporarily and partially assuages and pushes down this fear. And it works for periods of time. Of course its impermanence itself leads to more fear! It is constantly under threat from people, places and things beyond its control.
All our knowledge of self is objective, second hand and hearsay. We really do not know who we are, or why we're here or what anything really means outside of what we say it does (which is rooted in conditioning and consensus) as we fill in that terrifying gap of the unknowable with something, anything, so that we can cling to being some thing. After a while we become adept at finding better and more complex self-notions that give us a false feeling of security and pleasure. Of course this only leads to fear of the potential loss of this self justifying feeling. However, at its core this 'thing' we 'know' as our self is empty of actuality. In a sense, that's what the sum and substance of fear is and what it's afraid of, lack of reality. Manipulating and controlling is part and parcel of the system that justifies and defends the existence of our imagined separate existence.
The consequence of holding that we are what we think, simultaneously and subsequently, is that everything else we think, perceive and conceive, gets locked in as the same 'substance' of fearful isolation and actually serves to further verify our limited self-concept! All our definitions of the world are based in this original mistaken self-identity which in and of itself lacks an inherent existence and therefore any ability to perceive anything! All thought, including the thought of self is inert. We merely project our separate notion of an isolated objective self-image upon the world we make up and the world reflects a made up separateness right back. We're a thing amongst things. It's perfectly insidious and symmetrical, self-sustaining bondage.
In this humbling realization, which entails the admission and acceptance of our own individual fraudulence, an understanding can dawn. This understanding is the key. In the moment of confrontation with the truth of the falsity of our self-identity (and therefore all we think/know), a sense of freedom is engendered (if you don't crap yourself in the process and make up another self) that releases us at least momentarily from self-conceptualization. It is then understood acutely (not 'known') that rather than working on, enlightening, improving, controlling or fixing our self-concept, it is only realization or understanding that can be the way to liberation.
Admitting that 'you' can't stop thinking that you are what you think and that this act of objective self identification is what suffering entails is the first step. Accepting your inability to 'think' about yourself in any other way through your own volition is the beginning of the second step.
If this premise that our self-identity is false and concocted seems inconceivable to you it may just prove the premise itself. How? 1: Because what we are IS inconceivable. 2: Not being able to stop conceiving of our self-identity as who/what we are IS what an addiction to our self notion is! ;-)