The false self lives for others; the true self is more likely to emerge when you're alone. Arrange a stretch of unstructured time—a long walk or a solitary sit in a quiet place—and see what bubbles up. Or try meditation, a time-honored way of both disciplining and opening up the mind. Habitual thoughts tend to choke awareness; banishing them by means of meditation allows something new to happen inside you. (To learn more, see Daniel Goleman's book The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience
Pay Attention to Dreams
Freud called the interpretation of dreams the royal road to the unconscious. Uncensored expressions of your deepest emotions, dreams can lead you back to your true self. Try keeping a simple dream journal, a notepad by your bed, on which you scribble down whatever you remember about your dreams when you first wake up. Don't worry about detail; hang on to what you can recall, even if it's just a scrap, a phrase, an image. Sometimes a little piece can help you remember the rest of the dream. Also jot down how you felt in the dream or just after waking. Later, at a regular time each day, take a few minutes to read over your dream notes. Add any specifics that have come back to you and write down your associations: What do you think the dream is about? Do the dream situations or emotions remind you of anything in your waking life? See what themes emerge over time. What disowned part of you needs attention? Psychotherapy offers a way to work regularly on dreams and the feelings they call up.
Break Up Your Routine
Structure may be useful, but it's also a place to hide. Change daily habits; add new people and activities to your schedule. Visit a museum, a flea market, the zoo—anyplace you can be surprised by the unexpected. The unpredictable lets air and light into your life, making room for long-lost emotions and new, healthier habits. Small changes (like taking a different route to work, eating lunch in a new place) make you alert to the moment in ways you aren't when you're sunk in habit. And when you make things fresh again, you're receptive to new experiences—and to yourself.
Next: Are you hiding the real you?