When we are exclusively identified with the small self, we tend to take what is arising in a quite personal way. We have a clear and exclusive identity, and everything arising in the inner (sensations, emotions, thoughts) or the outer world either conforms with and strengthens this identity, or does not conform with and threatens this identity. Everything becomes very serious. We are always on guard. There is something to protect. There is something to justify. There is something to hide.
When we awaken to ourselves as the Witness – as space & awareness – we find a ground distinct from the small self. From here, we see that everything unfolding within/as the small self is universally human, although with a unique flavor. We are no longer exclusively identified with it, so we don’t need to take it so seriously. We see both the universality of the small self, and the tragedy and the humor of being caught up in it and taking it too seriously. We have come to know ourselves as distinct from time, so the small self is not a life-and-death matter to the extent it used to be. Our identity is more fluid, porous and inclusive, so there is no longer such a need to protect, justify and hide what arises as the small self. We have a lighter touch, and a sense of humor about its quirks.