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What is Self Doubt? Depth Psychotherapy’s View of How to Cope

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments · what is self doubt

What is self doubt?  What really is this questioner that comes calling, sometimes bringing agonies that can be nearly intolerable?

what is self doubt

For many people, coming to terms with self-doubt is one of the most urgent needs in their lives. Yet, a real understanding of self-doubt can sometimes be elusive.
The doubt I’m referring to here is not a matter of doubting some intellectual proposition, such as “I doubt there is life on Mars” or “I doubt that vegan diets are healthy”.  It’s something much more fundamental.  From a depth psychotherapy perspective, what is self doubt, really?

Self Doubt as Toxic and Paralyzing

Self doubt can certainly stop us in our tracks.  Genuine self doubt may stem from extremely early wounding in our lives, sometimes so early and so fundamental that it is too painful to look at the root cause.  Emotions associated with these wounds can be so painful that they get pushed into the unconscious.  The situation can be so painful that it cannot easily be tolerated, and so it stays behind the scenes, out of the view of the ego.  From that hidden place it distorts perceptions, and influences decisions, often poisoning relationships.  The individual cannot tolerate the pain of the wounding, or even start to let in the healthy self doubt that would actually challenge the ego’s distorted view of the situation.

Self Doubt as Potentially Freeing …Really!

Fortunately, most of us are not so wounded by our early life experience that we cannot face or be aware of our self doubt.  Often, we are all too aware that it exists, and interferes in our living of our lives.  This may seem like a curse.  But are there any dimensions of blessing that are contained within this awareness of self doubt?

The psyche can easily arrive at a set, static, unchanging posture or stance.  A posture that keeps us from having to confront any of the painful kinds of awareness that we have in our lives.  This can feel very comfortable, but it can keep us from any kind of growth or change, or from key things of which we need to be aware in order to accept ourselves and our lives.  As James Hollis tells us, doubt, even self doubt, can be the necessary fuel for change, and therefore growth.  Self doubt can keep us from getting stuck in attitudes and images of ourselves that are stuck in yesterday’s reality.  Actually, it is often only self-doubt that can free us from the tyranny of the ego.

what it self doubt

Getting Beyond the Stuckness of the Ego

The seat of consciousness in our psyche, the ego, would tend to tell us one particular story about our identity and our lives.  But it ain’t necessarily so.  A Jungian or depth psychotherapy perspective emphasizes that there are more — many more — than one version of one’s story in psyche, and many more than one aspect of our personal identity.  Hollis puts it well:

While the ego would like to make the universe of the soul monocratic and monotheistic, the psyche is in fact polytheistic and powerfully democratic, with many split-off energies or complexes.  The enlarged sense of self requires a dialogue with these energies and an ego both open and humble.  

He ends with a sentence that powerfully resonates with my own experience:

Most of us have only truly grown when our ego’s haughty power was brought down. 

We need to be compassionate to our ego, and all the other parts of ourselves, and yet realize that a false certainty about who and what we are will not lead to more self-understanding and self acceptance.

What is Self Doubt?  Well, What Will We Make of It?

Is self doubt the enemy of soul?    Suppressing doubts about ourselves and the direction of our lives often forces us into molds of rigidity and self-deception.  Often self-doubt exists because we are on the threshold of acknowledging some previously unknown truth about the self, and taking the next step on our journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  anna gutermuth ;  Paul Sableman
© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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