Some words in Spiritual Practice, Concepts and Ideas are so familiar we tend to stop thinking critically about them, and fall into accepted meanings, and traditional views. This can be dangerous, as it engages sloppy thinking, and produces blockage to discriminating effectively .
One such word, or "words" actually, is self and Self. The personal self, and the concept of The Self are concepts, albeit different concepts, in Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism.
The individual self; the "self" with a small "s" is the "I" we uncover when we stay in the "I AM". This is also the "personal" self of Christianity, only with an added sense of "sin", and a need for "redemption".
Then, there is the "Self", with a Capital "S". This is the ultimate "Self". This is the Atman. This is the Self that holds all small "s" "selves". This is what we Are. The Atman is the same as Brahman we are told. Our small "s" self is within the Capitol "S" Self, which is the same as Brahman.
Fine concepts, but confusing words, maybe dangerous words.
The idea of an individual self is, of course, misleading, the individual being only a collection of gunas, or attributes. The individual self is also the first place of identification. Even in the "I AM" state, the "I" remains. Even without identification with the body/mind, the "I" remains.
Through meditation on the "I AM", there is movement toward the "Self". This is where the possible confusion, and "entrapment" take place. "Self", with a capitol "S", is the same word as "self" with a small "s". The mind understands the small "s" self very well. The mind has had control of the small "s" self for a long, long time. It knows the territory, and it knows how to rest and hide there. This "familiarity" with the known small "s" self makes assumptions about the "nature" of the Capital "S" "Self". This leads to ego expansion and blockage of further discovery/uncovery.
This is why I have found it so important not to get lost in this "Self". Let me further explain:
The average "person" feels safe in his "personal" self. He will go to a lot of effort to maintain that sense of "self". His view, even with a degree of understanding, is that he is the "self", and it is he who seeks Enlightenment, Awareness or whatever. He develops a sense that "he", as an "individual", must absent himself, for more "progress" to be made, but comes up with a concept of the "higher" Self so that "he", or "he transformed", can still be present to "witness" it all. This leads the mind to "commandeer" the uncovery of the Self, and make it "in it's own image".
Both the words "self" and "Self" are nouns. The words Atman and Brahman are also nouns. This is part of the problem. These nouns are all things. We see the "self" as a thing, just as we also see "The Self" as a thing!" We also tend to see the Atman and Brahman as things. This is very misleading.
Instead of "Self", I use the word Love. Not love as a noun, but the action, being, verb: Love. Our nature is Love in action. The stillness of ever movement. This "Love" in action is not easy for the mind to conceive of as our nature, as the mind tends to think of "itself" as a thing, not a "movement" not a "potential". This quiets the mind, and opens the heart.
"Self" is where so many get trapped. As, we do not become the "Self". We do not become "Brahman". We do not "become" any "thing". We uncover as Love. We realize Love.
When the Lover and Loved are absorbed in the Loving, Only the Loving remains.