True self - False self
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Judith Schuepfer-Griffin Registered MBACP, BA Hons
1st September, 20140 Comments
We all have to find a way to live in this world. For that we have to adapt to what's generally acceptable and we all do this to a lesser or greater degree. This adaption starts from the minute we are born. We need our parents or caregivers in order to survive; we are totally dependent on them and we learn very quickly how to be so that we get the attention we need - in all its forms.
Children who don't get enough attention - or not the right kind - can become very difficult in the perception of the parents. The purpose of being difficult is, at least to get some negative attention which is still better than no attention at all. Other children close down and become self-sufficient very early on. They are often seen as "independent", as if they don't need much attention. In most cases this is not what the child experiences; it's just less painful to seem independent than having to fight for attention all the time.
If we are really lucky we have parents who will let us be and become who we are by nature. They will look after us and make us feel safe and loved, and they will be strong and clear and warm and also give us clear boundaries which make a child feel safe. They will be like good gardeners: they will let the plant grow, water and feed it and protect it from danger. They will wait and see who we are and let us be that. They will not try to force us into a mould, prune and cut and try to make us into a bonsai. They will offer guidance but will let us grow to full size. They will not extinguish our excitement, our enthusiasm and curiosity, they will not crush our little hearts that are bursting with love. Then we will be able to be our true self.
If we have to develop a false self by over-adapting or over-rebelling, then we will get to adulthood without knowing who we are and what we want and need. Most likely we will then marry another false self and... let the battle begin! Two people who don't know who they really are, who try to "be normal" and fit in too much will be an unhappy couple indeed, be that in a dramatic way by fighting and shouting a lot, or by suffering in silence until they can't take it anymore, or until the day they die, bitter and disappointed in life. But it's never too late to discover your true self! It's still there, maybe in a dark corner of your soul, waiting for you to come and find it, so that you can heal and become whole.
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