Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I have previously discussed the existence of the two selves, the Natural Self and the Family Self. Each of these selves serves a different purpose. The Natural Self exists based on reactions to the world, what feels good and what feels bad. The natural emotions that emanate from this self are the simple emotions of anger, sadness, joy and realistic fear. The Family Self is made to survive the family experience. The emotions that stem from this organizing principle are guilt, shame and irrational fear. Anxiety signals the existence of a conflict between the emotions of the two Selves. The individual must choose which set of emotions to listen to amidst the internal competing voices that represent these two poles.

There are many forms that the Family Self can take, and can be found in the roles that each of us play within the family. Children within a family survive by becoming either a Hero or a Scapegoat. Heroes do what the parents want and work very hard to do what is expected. They typically idealize their parents, and may even refer to them as their "best friends". They excuse mom and/or dad's weaknesses and justify being mistreated as "doing the best that they can". Scapegoats are typically thought of as the "problem children" who act up and cause their parents much heartache. They challenge the parent's directly and ask for accountability for what the parent does wrong.

Heroes sense of self becomes distorted by the need to see the good and deny the bad. Good and bad that register in the Natural Self cannot be heard or they risk becoming a Scapegoat. They mute the natural internal reactions and listen to their guilt and shame. This leaves them without an internal compass. They learn to rely on other's reactions to form their own. If the other is OK, then then are OK., replacing the reactions of the Natural Self with the reactions of whomever they attach to. They fear being alone because they literally lose their bearings for lack of an internal compass. When differences emerge, they get caught defending themselves or trying to convince the other of the truth in their position. They become dependent on another's reaction rather then believe in their own.

In this type of Family Self, the person has what I call a reflected sense of Self. The person must see themselves in the mirror of the other person's reactions in order to believe in their own reaction. They lose themselves in the reactions of others, leading to dependent relationships. Regardless of how miserable the relationship may be making them, they cannot leave because they fear being alone. With their Natural Self silenced to this degree, they feel all alone with nobody to show them the way. They live scared and unable to believe in themselves.

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