Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A stable sense of who we are is a vital force within every human being. You will often hear people say, "I can't do that. That is just not me". We make choices based on how we perceive ourselves and feel secure when our choices match how we see ourselves. We feel secure when our responses are internally consistent. They match our predictions. The security of the match between what we say and what we do keeps our anxiety low and enables us to build self-confidence. We work hard to stay internally consistent. It makes us feel emotionally stable and healthy.

The opposite is also true when we confuse ourselves either by our internal reactions or our actions. We become highly anxious when our sense of self is threatened. We don't know what to believe, lose confidence in ourselves and our reactions, and our anxiety turns to panic. We can't make decisions, can't even make sense of any problem, and most importantly, can't solve any of the dilemmas that we face. We become riddled with hopelessness and helplessness and filled with anxiety. Failing to believe in ourselves, we turn to others to tell us what to do.

Emotionally healthy people realize that confusion is a fact of life. Life is neither stable nor secure. While we all may want to feel secure inside, that is often not the case. The Natural Self and Family Self are always battling for your attention. The idea of a "Real Self" is difficult to sort out amidst the many competing voices within. In fact, we can sell out our Natural selves out for the stability created by listening to the voice of the Family Self. We can feel internally calm when we listen to our parents rules and live our lives by their principles. Honoring our Natural Selves is harder. We must often stare down our guilt and shame to honor our anger. Even if you can push yourself to listen to your natural anger, there is a backlash of doubt grounded in guilt or shame. It is rarely easy and often a lonely experience.

There is a way to feel more stable inside in spite of all the confusion. It begins with a true recognition of what you believe in and how that differs from the way you were raised. Feeling like you have "two sides to yourself" is normal and to be expected. Identify the emotions that come from the Natural Self and use them to protect your Natural Self from harm. Natural anger, sadness and joy are the principle emotions of your real self. Shame and guilt are the emotions that tie your self to the family. When there is an internal conflict, look for the emotions behind your thoughts to identify the anger or the guilt. This is not easy as there is typically high anxiety associated with the conflict. When you can separate the two reactions clearly, follow the thoughts and actions that are consistent with your natural emotions. Lastly, be prepared for a backlash of shame and guilt. Ride this reaction like a wave. It will crest and fall over time. By riding through the backlash, you can stay the course, choose your reactions that represent you, and enable your Real Self to be clearer to others and yourself.