Journeying Toward Wholeness

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False Self vs. True Self: 5 Second Half of LIfe Realities, B

December 7th, 2015 · false self vs. true self

In Part A, we examined the core issue of false self vs. true self, our deep inner drive to express the true self, and the central importance of that drive at midlife.

false self vs. true self

In this post we’ll examine the central importance of wholeness, and acknowledging who we fully are, as a means of distinguishing false self vs. true self, and, look at attitudes that open the door to the gradual emergence of the true self.

It’s easy to assume that we know all there is to know about our true selves.  Yet generally this amounts to the ego only knowing the ego. It’s when we start to be aware of the aspects of ourselves that are disturbing, surprising and sometimes downright not what we want, that the real journey of self-knowledge begins to open up in front of us.

Often that journey involves the emergence from the unconscious mind, by dreams and other means, of symbols of wholeness.

Wholeness and Images of the Self

The unconscious puts many images in front of us to symbolize the fullness and completeness that is calling us toward greater knowledge of the true self.  Depth psychotherapists know they’re limitless in number, but here are some of the key symbols:

These images draw us.  We may find ourselves drawing them, literally.  If we look, we may even find that these images appear within our dreams.

Self Acceptance and the Later Life Journey

In dealing with the question of false self vs. true self, and authenticity, much depends on our attitude, and whether we can accept the self that emerges, as we discover more about ourselves.

But do we even want to know about some aspects of ourselves?  Elements of the self may well not be very acceptable to our egoss.  Yet  finding a way somehow to tolerate them, to be compassionate to ourselves and to allow them to emerge may be essential for our development.

For example: a person may have sexual fantasies that aren’t acceptable to the ego.  Yet, those sexual fantasies may actually contain something really precious, connected to the soul’s deepest yearnings.  The same may be true of feelings of resentment, envy, sadness or many other types of feelings.  Doing this type of what we call shadow work is an essential part of self discovery in depth psychotherapy.  As Andrew Samuels tells us, “To admit the shadow is to break its compulsive hold.’

false self vs. true self

Here I Am

Some therapists have trouble with the idea of psychological wholeness.  Yet, in psychological work, there is very often a “felt sense” of when we are gaining a greater and more complete kind of awareness of who we are.  There are often feelings of relief that accompy a greater sense of acceptance of who we really are, and of the need to no longer defend ourselves against it.

When we show up as authentically ourselves, there is often a feeling of rightness about this.  Depth psychotherapy starts from the place that, however difficult it is to know some aspects of ourselves, it is infinitely better to know than not to know, always, but especially in the second half of life.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © isterik32  ; Self-portrait and portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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False Self vs. True Self: 5 Second Half of Life Realities A

November 30th, 2015 · false self vs. true self

As people move through the middle of life, the false self vs. true self distinction becomes more and more meaningful.

false self vs. true self

The false self vs. true self distinction is always important — and certainly always important in depth psychotherapy.  Yet, as one moves through life, the question of “how can I be my authentic self?” starts to grow more and more urgent.

Now, why is that?  Probably for many reasons, but one fundamentally compelling one is that there seems to be something deep within us that is convinced that a key part of the reason that we exist is to express who and what we most fundamentally are.

To help us understand this, the archetypal psychologist James Hillman quotes the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus:

“ETHOS ANTHROPOI DAIMON”

Well, what does that mean?

False Self vs. True Self: the Real Goods

The true self begins to appear very early in our lives, as we experience our bodily life and begin to express ourselves in our early life world.  We simply are, and we express ourselves in a way that flows spontaneously from the core of our being.

false self vs. true self

However, the child can easily absorb the message from the world that their spontaneous self is not very welcome.  We can get the message that the family or other environments are requiring us to “edit” and “censor” ourselves and our genuine reactions.  As Winnicott pointed out, when that happens, the infant’s spontaneity is in danger of being encroached on by the need for compliance with other’s wishes and expectations.

These expectations can become so powerful that they supercede our original genuine and spontaneous sense of self, and flood the self with anxiety.

The individual can be left with a sense of inner emptiness within an outer social shell that appears independent and self motivated.  This is the false self to which Winnicott and others refer.  Jungians often refer to this as the individual being identified with his or her persona.

We Often Don’t Know The True Self

It can often be that, by the time and individual reaches the middle of life’s journey, they have been reflexively meeting the social expectations of others for so long, and so completely that they can no longer distinguish what is truly part of the self, from the false self or persona they have constructed to meet the demands of the world. This would be a situation of strong identification with the persona.

Often, when this situation occurs, it is reflected in the appearance of shadow figures in the dream life of the individual. Dark or aggressive individuals may appear. They may be pounding on the door, they may slip in as burglars, or they may arrive in a myriad of other ways. We know that when they do, there are repressed or dissociated parts of the self, often having to do with strong feelings, that are trying to make themselves part of conscious awareness.

Example:  A female clergyperson, long conditioned to meet the expectations of parishioners to be “nice” and “unselfish”, has a long series of dreams where she is locked in a church, and outside, bikers and thugs are breaking in the doors, and smashing the stained glass, trying to get in.  Ongoing depth psychotherapy work allowed her to explore and stand up for her own desires and needs.

In the second part of this post, we’ll be exploring ways that depth psychotherapy opens up the consciousness of false self vs. true self, and facilitates the journey into the undiscovered self, especially through symbols and images of the Self.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © kate hiscock ; Afshin Darian ; Miran Rijavec
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

 

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