The metaphor given by Ramakrishna usefully describes the process of 'gaining' enlightenment. He says it is like trying to remove the green scum of algae on top of a pond. You've probably seen a pond completely covered by this, in the middle of a hot summer, so you can't see the water. If you try to use say, a cup, to scoop the algae out onto the side, you will find for a long while that there is no visible effect. You will accumulate a pile of slime but what is left will just keep spreading out so you still can't see anything.
After much effort, you will start to get glimpses of water but this will still be covered over if you stop scooping. If you persevere however, there will come a moment when the interplay of the forces of surface tension etc. with the remaining scum means that suddenly the covering will break up completely and you see an unbroken expanse of clear water.
So it is with the Self. It is always there but is invariably covered up by a layer of ignorance (of varying density!). As we work on one of the acknowledged spiritual paths, we slowly remove some of this ignorance. For a long while it appears to have no effect. Eventually, we start to get occasional glimpses of the truth and, if we persevere, there will come a time when all is suddenly revealed - we are enlightened.
We have not done anything to the Self (indeed could not). Trying to reach it (e.g. by moving aside the scum with the hands) is not productive either. What we do is remove the ignorance; drop the ideas, opinions, desires, fears etc. and lo and behold there is the truth, where it always was.