The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/wounds/free_self.htm
This is one of a series of articles on Lesson 1 in this Web site - identify and reduce inherited psychological wounds. The primary wound is having your personality dominated by a ''false self'' composed of several well-meaning subselves or "parts." This article summarizes options for freeing your wise resident true Self (capital "S") to guide you in al situations.
perspective on freeing your true Self and reducing psychological wounds
a status check on what you believe
requisites for freeing your true Self from subself "blending" (take-overs)
two key techniques, and...
key recovery resources
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on what you'll read in this article.
Q&A on six inherited psychological wounds,
perspective on false-self dominance
the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle; and...
Overview: personal wound-reduction ("recovery")
The content of this Web site is based on 36 years' clinical research and experience. A conclusion from this research is that normal human personalities are composed of talented "subselves" like the members of an orchestra or sports team. These subselves are probably discrete regions of our brains programmed by genes and experience to perform specialized survival functions for us.
A universal subself is an inherently talented leader - our true Self. When s/he steadily guides and coordinates other subselves, people report feelings like these. When subselves distrust and disable this wise inner leader, they form a "false self," and cause behaviors like these.
Typical people don't accept the ancient idea of normal personality subselves yet, though evidence of them is everywhere. If you're skeptical or curious about these subselves, read this letter to you after you finish this. Then experience a safe, interesting dialog with one or more of your subselves.
To benefit from this article and lesson 1, you need some key beliefs and knowledge. Check yourself for these by rating each of the following as T(rue), F(alse), or ? ["I don't know," "I'm not sure," or "It depends" (on what?)].
I accept that one of my subselves (my true Self) is a wise, far-seeing leader who knows how to guide my other subselves effectively and make healthy decisions in all situations. (T F ?)
I believe that some well-intentioned subselves haven't learned to trust the leadership of my Self (capital "S"), and disable her/him at times, causing unwise decisions and behaviors. (T F ?)
I accept that being dominated by a false self can cause up to five specific psychological ''wounds,'' and I can name and describe each of them now. (T F ?)
I have assessed myself honestly for psychological wounds, or I'm motivated to do so in the next week (T F ?)
I can clearly describe the difference between pseudo recovery and true recovery (wound reduction). (T F ?)
I have a general idea of what "parts work" is and I'm learning how to do it. (T F ?)
I can name the general benefits of freeing my true Self to guide my personality. (T F ?)
Freeing my true Self is among my top five life-priorities now. (T F ?)
My true Self is responding to this status check. (T F ?) If not, your responses may be distorted.
Pause, breathe, and notice your thoughts and feelings now. If you answered True to most of these items, then you have the basic belief-set needed to free your resident true Self to guide you. If not, a well-intentioned, distrustful false self may be trying to protect you against scary changes.
Requisites for Freeing Your True Self
Reducing false-self dominance and other wounds is a major lifestyle change. It's a process that evolves over many months, and varies for each person. True (permanent, vs. pseudo or temporary) recovery depends on key requisites like these:
Hit true (vs. pseudo) bottom and/or experience an epiphany, and commit to personal change. As a veteran family-systems therapist, I have heard many stories about how people decided to empower their true Self. Tho every story is unique, most people seem to have one or both of these events trigger their commitment to personal recovery. Without them, wounded people seem to have pseudo (temporary) recoveries, and eventually resume their old ways (relapse).
In this context, an epiphany is suddenly recognizing the reasons for life-long pain, confusion, and loss - i.e. fully accepting that you experienced early-childhood neglect, abandonment, and abuse (trauma), and have been dominated by a false self for much of your life. The stunning impact of this realization is like a blind person being able to see for the first time. A related motivator for recovery is newly-aware parents who vow not to pass the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle on to their vulnerable kids and grandkids.
Adopt a patient, long-range viewpoint. People in genuine wound-recovery accept that their healing is a multi-year process. Freeing your Self permanently takes experimenting with intentional changes to old attitudes, priorities, beliefs, and behaviors - learning from the results and gradually changing your lifestyle.
Take full responsibility for the quality of your life, health, and relationships. Before committing to free their Self, many Grown Wounded Children play "Victim" They blame their parents, "fate," siblings, the government, religion, employers, or other people for the pain in their lives. Other GWCs may moan "I can't help (my toxic behavior)." These attitudes always indicate false-self dominance. While most of us need help along the way, we are ultimately responsible for our own recovery.
With professional help, assess yourself for addictions. Typical addictions are false-self strategies to self-medicate against major inner pain. You need to fully experience your pain to hit true bottom and attain clear awareness and thinking.
Many veteran recovery guides say that you must be "sober" (free of addictive thinking, behaviors, and relationships) for six months or more before attempting lasting wound-reduction. Ignoring or postponing this requisite is a sign of false-self dominance and pseudo recovery.
More requisites for freeing your true Self over time..
Learn accurate answers to questions like these:
What are common traits of my subselves?
How has false-self dominance affected my life, family, relationships, health, and work - specifically?
What do I need, and what do I have to do to free my true Self to guide me ("recover")?
How can I recognize and avoid pseudo recovery?
What do I need to learn to permanently reduce my psychological wounds and protect my descendents from inheriting them?
How has my false self contributed to the mistakes, losses, and painful relationships in my life?
What kind of recovery help do I need, and how can I find it?
How can I tell if my recovery is "working"?
What is my moral responsibility to them and our wounded, unaware society?
Research these and related questions by studying and applying Lessons 1 thru 4 here.
More requisites for freeing your true Self...
Break protective denials. A common false-self symptom is major reality distortions like denial - believing that something real is not real, or vice versa (e.g. "The earth is FLAT, I tell you!"). To free your Self, you'll need to fully accept some difficult realities like these:
I was raised in a low-nurturance (traumatic) family by wounded, unaware (vs. "bad") adults.
My personality is composed of a group of semi-independent subselves and I am normal, not crazy;
I have been ruled by a well-meaning false self for much of my life, which has caused significant pain to me and other people;
I am not responsible for my wounds or their impacts so far. I AM responsible for freeing my true Self (reducing psychological wounds) now - and from now on, I AM responsible for the impact of my wounds on myself and other people;
I can promote my healing by accepting the influence of a benign Higher Power ;
To recover, I'll probably have to change some cherished beliefs, habits, and relationships.
I need to depend on the reliability of the "still small voice" within me (my conscience) to guide my decisions - even if they're scary or unpleasant.
I need to intentionally rebalance seeking immediate gratification vs. long-term satisfaction.
My mate/s and I may have transmitted significant wounds to our kids, tho we never intended to;
I need to stop distracting myself with _______ (e.g. chemicals, TV, work, sex, money, religion, bigotry, my hobby, etc) and intentionally increase my awareness.
Add other realities unique to your personality and situation
Paradox - you must break denials like these to recover, and you'll need some recovery progress (and hitting bottom) before you can break them. The more you progress, the easier it gets.
Assess yourself honestly for psychological wounds. Doing so (a) validates your need to commit to personal recovery, and (b) gives you specific recovery targets to work toward and a framework for doing so. In the 26 years I've been studying wound-recovery and working my at own, I've never found anyone else who proposes this healing framework for "adult children of dysfunctional parents."
Change habitual self-neglect to genuine self love. Many (most?) Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) learned to believe early that they were worthless, unlovable, and undeserving. This manifests as the tragic wound of excessive shame. A common symptom of this wound in our culture is epidemic self-neglect - ignoring healthy diets, rest, exercise, and preventive medical checkups.
Replacing self-neglect and self-abuse with genuine self-appreciation and love is a natural result of true recovery progress. The empowerment-requisite here is to...
recognize the toxic effects of self neglect without guilt or shame, and...
intentionally choose an attitude like "I deserve to care for myself as much as I care for other important people in my life."
This encourages "promoting yourself to equal," living authentically from a Bill of Personal Rights, and learning to assert your needs, perceptions, and opinions calmly, without guilt or anxiety.
More requisites for freeing your true Self...
Intentionally seek to expand your daily awareness. Most adults have never been encouraged to be aware of (a) themselves, (b) other people, (c) their social behavior, and (d) the environment around them. Many Westerners are used to being distracted by ceaseless stimulation (TV, smartphones, PCs, Ipods, media, etc.)
Personal awareness is essential for effective wound-recovery and internal and social communication. Specifically, you'll need to hone your awareness of who is leading your subselves - your true Self, or ''someone else.'' You'll also need to become aware of who's guiding important other peoples' personalities. Can you do either of these now? If not, you can learn to do so. See this and this for perspective and options.
Develop faith in, and communion with, a benign Higher Power.
Most veteran recoverers acknowledge the value of a genuine faith in God, as they perceive God. One value of such faith is to believe that we are not alone in our personal struggle, and that there is a wise, attentive Power to whom we can turn over problems that are too complex or stressful for us to handle on our own. A third benefit is that people of faith can find hope for relief in intolerable situations
As children, some wounded people were taught to fear a vengeful, jealous, critical God. In true recovery, they need to revise that belief and accept that they do not have to "perform" to merit God's Grace. Other people have to change a dread of "eternal damnation" if a punitive God decided they were willful "sinners." Such childhood teachings promote the wounds of excessive fear, shame, and guilt, and need to be replaced with healthier beliefs.
Some pious people accept the reality of a Higher Power, but don't seek actively to develop a two-way communion with their Supreme Being. Prayer is one-way (asking for God's help and support) or two-way (listening for God's responses and advice). Developing two-way communion requires awareness and self-permission to reduce distractions, meditate, and be still.
Value and use informed help. Many GWCs had to "grow up early" and be self-sufficient as young kids. Others of us had to care for younger siblings, while nobody cared for us. We also learned that asking for - or accepting - help often brought pain (like scorn, rejection, and manipulation). Still others learned to expect that help from a judgmental God was granted only if we were humble, obedient, and pious.
So the first part of this requisite is adopting new attitudes that...
"I don't have to do it all myself,"
asking for help is not "weak or "a crutch," and that...
other people enjoy helping (feeling useful and good) where they can, so accepting help is a gift to the helper.
We also need to believe that spiritual help is available and given freely with love, not stern conditions. We need to accept that our wounded, unaware parents meant well, but were mistaken (uninformed) about many things they taught and modeled for us kids.
Then you need to learn how to choose informed help - i.e. knowledgeable, empathic support from persons, media, programs, and groups who understand true and false selves and true wound-reduction.
Recall - we're reviewing requisites for empowering your true Self to guide your other subselves. Another is...
Let go of toxic (wound-promoting) relationships and habits. Try saying your definition of a "toxic relationship" out loud now. Are some of your relationships "toxic" (stressful and unhealthy)? Often, people dominated by a false self gravitate to other Grown Wounded Children. That often means their relationships cause more stress (conflict, hurt, disappointment, frustration, doubt, anxiety, and anger) than serenity and satisfaction. Average GWCs are used to this from our early family relationships, so we often just endure the stress.
The requisite here is to...
use your awareness (above) to decide which relationships are nurturing and which are toxic - and then to...
intentionally limit or end the latter without guilt if the other person/s won't compromise their behavior or join you in recovery. Do this with or without an explanation. If you choose to explain, you can say something like this:
"(Name), I often feel stressed (hurt / frustrated / confused / bored / disrespected / belittled / unheard / ignored / disappointed / anxious / etc.) in our relationship, so I'm choosing to cut back on contact with you. I've tried to tell you what I need from you, but you haven't been able to honor my needs."
Be prepared for (false self) "resistance" like denials, blame, complaints, whining, threats, crying, guilt trips, rage, and so on. Respond calmly with a mutual-respect attitude and empathic listening. Then repeat your statement (above) calmly, with comfortable eye contact,
Option - ask the other person for a hearing check to confirm s/he understands what you are doing and why. Avoid lengthy explanations and bringing up blameful examples, which can quickly become lose-lose arguments and dilute your assertion.
you may have to persuade your People Pleaser and Guilty Child subselves and/or some critical people that you have legitimate human rights, and don't have to endure unpleasant or harmful behavior from other people!
Follow up. Make good on any change that you committed to, despite attempts to sabotage your resolve. Inability to follow up usually indicates a false self has taken you over.
Part of gaining this requisite is confronting people who don't understand or respect what you're trying to do (free your Self), and who criticize you for reducing or ending toxic relationships - specially with wounded, unaware parents, grandparents, and other relatives.
An overarching requisite is...
Evolve a high-priority recovery plan, and commit to it. A plan has specific goals, steps to reach the goals, a timetable, key resources, and perhaps contingency steps ("Plan B"). Because Self-empowerment is a challenge for most GWCs, a thoughtful, flexible plan based on thoro preparation (these requisites) and accurate knowledge, is vital for your eventual success.
There are many ways to free your true Self to lead in calm and stressful situations. The steps on the next page illustrate some key options in making your plan.
Pause, breathe, and reflect. How do you feel about these requisites to free your true Self to guide your life decisions? View each of these requisites as a separate goal, and take your time! Feel free to edit these requisites to fit your personality and situation. If you try empowerment without investing patiently in these requisites, you risk achieving only pseudo (temporary) wound-reduction.
Options for Freeing Your True Self
From 23 years' clinical experience with hundreds of people, I propose an effective way to reduce your inherited psychological wounds is inner-family therapy, or "parts work." For an in-depth explanation and illustration of parts work and recovery, see my Lesson-1 guidebook "Who's Really Running Your Life?" (Xlibris.com, 2011, 4th ed.)
The main steps of a long-term wound-reduction plan using parts work are...
__ 1) get clear on the benefits of Self-empowerment ("recovery");
__ 2) prepare to recover - get the requisites on the prior page;
__ 4) define your specific recovery goals - e.g. "I want to replace my excessive shame and fears with self-love, confidence, and courage;
__ 5) study this overview of basic parts-work techniques and when to use them;
__ 6) study several of the many other books now devoted to recovery from childhood trauma to broaden your perspective and your options;
__ 7) seek the help of an experienced parts-work (IFS) coach;
__ 8) identify which subselves are causing your wounds and toxic attitudes - i.e. learn which subselves don't know about - or trust - your true Self to manage your life;
__ 10) Learn how to work with your powerful Inner Children.
__ 11) work creatively with each distrustful subself to gain its trust in your Self and Higher Power.
__ 12) after gaining Inner Kids' and Guardians' trust, watch for opportunities to re-do any key real-life (remembered) childhood traumas to experience better outcomes;
More options for freeing your Self and harmonizing your personality subselves...
__ 13) Identify any subselves (usually Inner Kids) who are living in the past, and respectfully bring them into the present when they're ready - one at a time. Introduce them to your other subselves;
__ 14) Watch for opportunities to (a) have subselves help each other with their personality roles, and to (b) replace outdated or toxic inner-family roles with new productive roles ("jobs"); .
__ 15) encourage all your subselves take pride in their group membership and teamwork, and invite them to identify, validate, and commit to your unique life purpose; Experiment with holding inner council meetings of all your subselves, led by your Self.
__ 18) Be open to other helpful recovery options to augment your work, like massage therapy, movement therapy, journaling, breath work, spiritual and/or Nature retreats, and local recovery programs and groups.
__ 19) If you get tired or discouraged along the way, stop, rest, and regroup. Expect temporary relapses to the old way, and keep working patiently to change. Keep a long-range view.
__ 20) Be comfortably alert to other people who are ready to free their true Self, and offer them your version of these steps and resources as appropriate. Avoid preaching about parts work or manipulating others into trying it. That's inherently disrespectful, and is usually a sign of your false-self at work.
__ 22) Weave learning effective communication basics and skills into your recovery work (self-study Lesson 2). These will help you manage your subselves and outer relationships well, and significantly speed your healing progress.
__ 23) Periodically inventory your (decreasing) wounds, and affirm and appreciate your recovery progress and benefits, and...
__ 24) Enjoy an increasingly satisfying, serene, long, productive, wholistically-healthy life!
Pause, breathe, and reflect - what are your inner voices (subselves) saying? Do these requisites and recovery-steps seem too complex and overwhelming? They're no different than any other worthy long-term multi-step project like building a house, moving across country, or graduating from college or a trade apprenticeship.
This is a skeletal outline of a dynamic, organic multi-year healing process. It is a framework for you to tailor and fit your unique personality and situation. Experiment with several steps at once, not one at a time. The further you progress, the faster you'll heal and grow!
Use these options to evolve your own recovery plan. Follow the links for more perspective and detail on each option. Ultimately, your subselves and any young people in your life will thank you for your perseverance and determination to guard them and break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle.
This lesson-1 article on wound-reduction ("recovery") provides more perspective on the summary you just read.
The heart of freeing your Self is learning how and when to...
connect your needy Inner Kids with your Good Parent (Nurturer) subself, and...
persuade distrustful Guardian subselves to rely on and follow your true Self and other Managers, and possibly to change their inner-family (personality) role.
Each of these depends on first (a) learning to dialog with your subselves.
1) Use Your Nurturer (Good Parent)
I've never met a Grown Wounded Child without one or more Nurturer subselves. They may have been repressed, distrusted, or ignored by other needy subselves, and they may not know of one or more Inner Kids. Guardians who fear losing their jobs and status can discount or block your Nurturer from helping to take care of needy Inner Kids, which is their special talent and goal.
Confirm that you have one or more nurturing subselves in your inner family. Developmentally, they are usually adults or older teens, and may be Spiritual Ones.
Establish a partnership between your Self and each Nurturer through one or more inner dialogs. Agree on and affirm their valuable role among your subselves;
Learn which Inner Kids they know of already, and identify any Kids the Nurturers don't know, or aren't supporting so far;
Identify any Guardians that are resisting or sabotaging your Nurturer/s from caring for specific Inner Kids. Common examples are the Saboteur, Blocker, Critic, Perfectionist, Numb-er, Magician, Procrastinator, and Pessimist.
Meet with each of these Guardians (your Self), and learn...
specifically which Kids they're protecting, and why;
how they feel about having the Nurturer/s help them, and...
whether they trust your true Self and Higher Power.
Reassure each Guardian they cannot be "fired," killed, demoted, or ignored, and explain the value of possibly finding a valuable new role for them among your inner team of subselves after they're satisfied the Child/ren will be safe with the Nurturer/s.
When you feel ready, have each Guardian meet with your Nurturer/s (internally) to discuss how to best support each needy Inner Child. Stress you're promoting teamwork, here, not competition, and that your other Managers are there to help.
When you reach an agreement, organize an internal meeting with each child and their Guardian's and Nurturer/s. Introduce everyone, and explain in age-appropriate language that the Nurturer is going to help care for the Child from now on. Common Kids needing support are Scared, Shamed, Guilty, Lost (Abandoned), and Angry.
If the Child is very young, minimize talking and have them experience the Nurturer holding, soothing, and playing with them. Answer any questions, and agree on a trial period to see how everyone feels about this new caregiving arrangement. See if there are any inner playmates that would please the Child, and if so, introduce them.
Tailor these steps to fit your subselves and situation with each Guardian and Child, and patiently take your time. As you do, stay aware of the larger goal of reducing false-self takeovers, and harmonizing all your subselves under the expert leadership of your Self, other Managers, and your Higher Power.
How do you feel about these options for using the talents, drive, and energy of your Nurturing subselves reduce takeovers and help empower your true Self? Experiment with them to broaden your understanding and options. As you do, watch for chances to...
2) Build Subselves' Trust in Your True Self
False-self takeovers occur because one or more Guardians or Inner kids don't know of, or don't trust, the Self and other Managers to keep everyone safe. You can identify distrustful subselves by internally interviewing each Guardian and Child over time. That can sound like this, after initial introductions:
Self - "Do you know what my (inner-family) job is?" Common answers are "No," or something like "Yeah, you're supposed to be the leader." If you get "No," explain in appropriate language what your role is. This assumes that the subself is aware of your other subselves. Option - if not, hold an internal council meeting of all subselves to introduce this part to them. Then ask...
Self - "Will you tell me what your job is? What are you here to do?" Often the initial answer ids vague like "To make things better," or "To prevent bad things from happening." Work respectfully to refine such answers - e.g. by asking "How do you do that?" or "What 'things'?" Related questions:
How do you like your job? How long have you had it? How did you get it?
Do you have any help? or Would you like some help in doing your job?
Are any other subselves making your job harder?
Is there something you'd rather do?
What would happen if you stopped doing your job?
Does anyone appreciate what you've been trying to do for us all these years?
The ultimate question is - "Do you trust me (my true Self) and other Manager subselves to keep us all safe? If the answer is "No," then start to negotiate a "trial period" where the subself is willing to not take your Self over, and to see what the Self and the Managers do. Option - ask "What would it take for you to trust my judgment and let me help you do your job?"
Many Guardians and Kids can't comprehend anyone unselfishly wanting to help them (as in childhood), and are understandably cautious and skeptical. They also may fear accepting help and losing their importance, status, and power. Negotiating a trial "trust me" period takes patience, sensitivity, and respectful bargaining.
There are many useful materials and programs to help you in your wound reduction. Here is a sampling:
These brief research reports related to Lesson 1
This series of inspirations
The nonprofit Internal Family Systems (IFS) Self-leadership Web site, among others
These books on subselves and recovery by various authors, and...
internal family systems
PTSD and EMDR
cast of characters
Self / true Self
Use your creativity and imagination to search on similar terms and phrases. Don't expect most search results to reflect awareness of subselves, psychological wounds, or the [wounds + unawareness] cycle. The results can still add to your knowledge and Self-empowerment options.
Be aware that the general term "recovery" often relates to addictions, illness, or physical injury, not psychological wounds. Also be aware that most self-help materials, programs, and Web sites focus on reducing symptoms of psychological wounds, not the wounds themselves. As such, they risk wasting your resources, relapses, frustration, and increasing personal stress over time.
We've covered a lot of ground here! Take time to breathe, reflect, and see where you stand on freeing your Self now... A = I agree, D = I disagree, and ? = I'm not sure, or It depends on (what?)
I have read and understand all these preliminary readings. (A D ?)
I have honestly assessed whether I need to free my true Self from subself take-overs, or I will do so in the next week. (A D ?)
I am strongly motivated to gain the benefits of reducing my psychological wounds now. (A D ?)
I accept that freeing my Self to guide me is a long-term process. (A D ?)
I have begun learning about "parts work" (harmonizing my subselves) (A D ?)
I believe I can free my true Self to guide me using steps like those in this article. (A D ?)
I want to explore the recovery resources above now. (A D ?)
My true Self is responding to this status check. (A D ?)
Be still, and notice your self-talk now...
This two-page Web article is one of a series on assessing and reducing inherited psychological wounds ("recovery"). It offers...
perspective on freeing your true Self, and requisites for doing that,
an outline of how to use "parts work," or "inner-family therapy" to free your Self and harmonize your inner family of subselves;
two key parts-work techniques
a status-check on what you know and believe about personal recovery so far. and...
useful recovery resources.