Intimacy is yours when having an honest relationship with yourself.

Intimacy feels elusive when we are not honest with ourselves or each other.

We are not always aware when we are lying to ourselves when we are busy pretending.  

Developing a real self is being honest with ourselves.

We are alive at a time where people feel alone.  Many people are busy pretending that they aren’t alone.

Introduction

Donald Winnicott English psychoanalyst in the 60’s introduced the concepts of true self and false self.  

We are our true self when we are comfortable with our real feelings and desires whilst interacting with other people.  

Our true self describes us when we are spontaneous, alive and authentic.  

Carl Rogers psychotherapist saw a person with a real self as having good self-esteem.  For Rogers good self-esteem entails being able to feel for others and having a positive regard for oneself and others.

Real Self

When we are being in our real self we are with the reality of what is actually happening.

We are also our real self when mastery of daily tasks in everyday life is maintained with equilibrium.

False Self

We form a false self often from the way we are parented.  How we relate to our parents carries forward to how we relate to significant others.

It is challenging to form close relationships when we are behaving from a false self.  For example when we are not being our true selves people find it difficult to trust us.  We also find it difficult to trust ourselves.

An antidote of a false self is allowing ourselves spontaneous selfexpression.  The aim is to express ourselves rather than to hide.

When we are behaving from a false self we are motivated by childish fantasies of wanting someone else ‘to do it for us’, such as completing our day to day tasks.  

We think we will be safer when we behave from a false self to not get hurt.  

False self develops

False self develops when we feel we have no choice but to ward off our feelings of anxiety.  

Protective function

It has two protective functions to:

help a family maintain its denial of problems.
keep the true self safe and hidden from others.

Personality traits

A false self has these personality traits which give us a false sense of safety:

Passive behaviour by wanting others to make us happy.
Supine behaviour where we pretend to be friendly but aren’t willing to be friends.
Expectation that life owes us.
Blaming others for our predicament and suffering.
Denying our own fulfilment by being a martyr.
Dependant on addictive substances keeping us disconnected.

Parenting and other authority figures shape how we behave as a false or true self

We will select from our environment anything that reinforces early parental messages that inhibits or strengthens our selfworth or image.  

How we cope with life and how we manage ourselves has a lot to do with how we perceive and value ourselves.  We learn this from our caregivers.

Common signs of low self-esteem

Some common signs of low selfesteem are needing to win, whining, cheating in games, perfectionism, shopping excessively or other addictive behaviour, clowning around, teasing, sarcasm, attention seeking, being critical, making excuses for things, ghosting others, being defensive, people pleasing, unable to make choices and say yes or no.

Low self esteem is a lost sense of self.

Healing a false self

One way to heal a false self is through psychotherapy.

This involves accepting and becoming aware of the pattern of behaving from a false self.  

In therapy we talk about our fear of being our true self with the therapist.  

Often our fears of being real are projected onto other people.  

This feels like externally people are judging us, being withholding, or making fun of us. 

Sometimes this is very confusing and painful because it feels like it is really happening to us.  

Here we blame people and experience conflict in relationships and in the workplace.  

It feels real because externally the way the person is behaving mirrors our ‘wound’ often stemming from childhood.  Their behaviour feels personal and sometimes it is when the person can feel it’s a soft spot for them.  The person feeling our vulnerability will gain an unhealthy sense of power when they sense this.  

Once this happens it is challenging for both people because there is conflict that will need resolving for the community to flourish.

Right intention, effort and action    

You can resolve the conflict independently seeking help from a psychotherapist.

The steps include helping you to be mindful, present and aware of your experience through your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and memories associated with the pain.  

The process of healing takes time.  Therefore don’t lose hope and trust.  

Stay close to your goals by taking responsibility for the way you want to experience your life.

Treatment in healing a false self

Therapy helps us to investigate where our negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs originate from, such as parents, peers, teachers, or colleagues.

We identify the false self in therapy when we find limiting beliefs, alienating thoughts or feelings, memories or body sensations that feel non-spontaneous and tense.

Self-awareness

It is in this work that we become aware of who we are and what our needs are as we arrive at a greater understanding of the situation.  

Steps to take in healing 

Therapist strengthens our real self as we feel heard and known in the reality of who we are.
Feel held in the therapy.
Remedy the situation by accepting where you are.
Turn your attention within and become mindful.
Allow yourself to be still and pause in mindfulness.
Listen to your inner world as the therapist works collaboratively with you.
Ability to stand back and be objective.
Listen, acknowledge and accept your feelings.
Treat yourself with respect and accept yourself as you are.
Praise yourself and be honest with yourself.
Feel the freedom to make your own choices.
Respect your feelings, needs, wants, suggestions and wisdom.
Therapy is naturally a creative unfolding process that reinforces the real self.
Allow yourself to experiment and be creative and pursue your own interests.
Notice your real self as you feel these qualities from your heart and mind: heart full compassion, calmness, clear minded awareness, connection, curious attention, creativity and courage.
Creativity reinforces your real self.

Key to healing a false self

Facing our fears of not being liked and feeling abandoned carves out an import path to meeting your real self.

It is helpful to understand that abandonment depression is caused by caregivers disallowing young people from being independent and having unique self-expression.

When we aren’t encouraged to be ourselves we look to others to make our lives meaningful.

We thereby lose our self-esteem to execute day to day tasks successfully.

Real self skills

An important real self skill is being able to speak up and ask for what we want which requires us to be vulnerable as we are ourselves.   An action system of daily life is being able to reach out to others, give and accept support.

One of the purposes of therapy is helping a person be themselves.

Psychotherapy improves self-esteem

What is important is in therapy a person contacts feelings that she or he have buried when they were a child.

It is helpful to work on a memory, and have the opportunity to deal with long forgotten, but still incapacitating feelings and conflict.

Shame, guilt, and a great deal of buried, forgotten and unexpressed fear and anger is expressed for the person to regain a sense of selfworth, selfsupport and wellbeing in our life.

Therapy helps us get in touch with our own goodness to feel at home in the world.  We are helped to give up negative messages about ourselves and form positive ones.

Therapy is effective in helping an individual know themselves.  It is a relief for people to uncover the truth of who they are and feel comfortable being their real self.  For many it is like a home coming where they no longer feel the need to hide.

References

1. The Forgiving Self The Road from Resentment to Connection.  Robert Karen.
2. The Search for the Real Self Unmasking the Personality Disorders of our age.  James F. Masterson.
3. Windows to our Children.  Violet Oaklander.