Today wraps up the series of “How We Become What We Are Not” – a blog series I wanted to share on how each one of us start out as a product of our environment. Over the course of time, we learn what we are not and more importantly… who we really are. It’s always up to us to go with out intuition and create who it is that we want to be, believe we can do it without any limitations and follow through with our commitments. Be sure to check out each of the previous posts: Part 1, where I touched on our initial environment and how we initially adapt. In Part 2, I go over how we develop and adapt ourselves with our parents. Part 3 was about infancy and our mothers. And Part 4 goes over the worldview of the child based on parental upbringing methods and practices.
As children we begin to create a submerged reservoir of unacknowledged, nonintegrated feelings that pollute our earliest sense of who we are, feelings like being insufficient, unlovable, or unworthy. To compensate for these, we build up a coping strategy called, in psychoanalytic theory, the idealized self. It is the self we imagine we should be or can be. We soon start to believe we are this idealized self, and we compulsively continue to attempt to be it, while avoiding anything that brings us face to face with the distressing feelings we have buried.
Sooner or later, however, these buried and rejected feelings resurface, usually in the relationships that seem to promise the intimacy we so desperately crave. But while these close relationships initially offer great promise, eventually they also expose our insecurities and fears. Since we all carry the imprint of childhood wounding to some degree, and therefore bring a false, idealized self into the space of our relationships, we are not starting from our true selves. Inevitably, any close relationship we create will begin to unearth and amplify the very feelings that we, as children, managed to bury and temporarily escape.
Our parents’ ability to support and encourage the expression of our true selves depends on how much of their attention comes to us from a place of authentic presence. When parents unconsciously live from their false and idealized senses of self, they cannot recognize that they are projecting their unexamined expectations for themselves onto their children. As a result, they cannot appreciate the spontaneous and authentic nature of a young child and allow it to remain intact. When parents inevitably become uncomfortable with their children because of the parents’ own limitations, they attempt to change their children instead of themselves. Without recognizing what is happening, they provide a reality for their child that is hospitable to the children’s essence only to the extent that the parents have been able to discover a home in them for their own essence.
All of the above may help to explain why so many marriages fail and why much that is written about relationships in popular culture is idealized. As long as we protect our idealized selves, we are going to have to keep imagining ideal relationships. I doubt they exist. But what does exist is the possibility to start from whom we really are and to invite mature connections that bring us closer to psychological healing and true wholeness.
This concludes the series and I hope you found it helpful. After reviewing each of the posts, which areas do you find most important?