Feeling a lack of control over one’s own fate is arguably a large characteristic found in different types of mental anguish and suffering. Being able to understand the self is a method of gaining some of that control.
Different types of therapies have their own methods for attempting to achieve this goal. In the process of psychoanalysis, for instance, a person spends time with an analyst. One of their tasks together is working to understand the story of the individual as it is created and as it has been created.
This New York Times article describes some of the research and interest that is making a resurgence in this type of psychological work.
The power of understanding the self can be tremendous and has been understood as such in many cultures and times. It is noted in many sayings, from the ancient greeks, to the religious, to the non-religious.
But, what is it to know oneself? I think it is one of those questions that are hardly understood until the answer is also, at least partially, seen. Many questions take time to evolve into answers. In the meantime, they may seem to have no answers. It is a question that takes time to evolve in the individual.
Being able to tell one’s own story, a highly unique story if ever there was one, is a facet to knowing the self. In the process, one gains the feeling of control over one’s fate. Choices one did not realize suddenly appear and the world becomes a more rich and enjoyable place.