In my previous blog post, of yesterday, I spoke of my discovery of living with a False Self. Please go read the bottom part of that post to find out what that is.
Here is a brief summary:
A False Self was proposed by Winnicott to explain behaviors in adolescents and adults. He said a False Self emerges in infants and children when they have big, to them, emotional pains to deal with. You can think of a False Self as the set of explanations, distractions, behaviors used to make the pain bearable.
I have a False Self. I want to tell you what it’s like living with one. The feelings I was avoiding was feeling that I wasn’t valuable to those around me, which as a kid were my parents.
The single biggest thing is that it’s very difficult to feel or experience love. This is because the False Self is a completely intellectual thing, and the mind doesn’t feel love. Only the heart can. [I know, I’m speaking of the brain, heart, and body as being separate; transform those into however you understand yourself to exist.] When someone says, “I love you,” two things happen. First, you notice that your heart responded one way, but your mind wants to take over and formulate its own response. This lasts just a moment, and it causes pain. Because you are feeling emotional pain, your False Self will take over to deal with it. It becomes a well-practiced response for the mind, your False Self, to take over. But the pain remains. You can’t express real love, nor feel it. In any context. I can honestly say that until I realized I had a False Self, and spent enough time to learn when it was trying to come forward and stop it, that I never knew what love felt like. I knew only the outward show that I learned from watching others.
Most importantly, I didn’t love myself. This was a small bonus, when I read things like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, that was easy; go watch TV. But the drawbacks are huge: I had no confidence in what I could accomplish. I felt that I had to edit everything I’d say so that no one could see that I had no value. Without a love of yourself, which automatically approves of anything you say as valuable, your brain is left to determine it. Talking to a woman, especially one I wanted to impress, was just impossible; I didn’t have the brain capacity to speak while calculating the totality of all ways she might take what I said, good or bad, so I could reject the ones I thought might reveal my lack of value before it left my mouth. So I’d just go speechless around people. Which causes pain. Which reinforces the False Self. I was jealous of Spock; he didn’t need to deal with any of this. Mostly.
Imagination and fantasy are a big deal. Everyone needs positive support. Your False Self can’t do that. It emerged to handle feeling much more primitive. So I had a massively active imagination. These were long-lived fantasies where I was doing something great. These fantasies were not having the world worship me. They were my doing something important, which influenced the world in very major way, but my response was always humble. Inventing anti-gravity technology to allow personal flight and limitless power—and I still lived at home. Setting up a space station, having convinced Warren Buffett to fund my obviously great idea, to allow school kids to get used to working and playing in zero-G. Being a bass player so good that artists flocked to my little house to play with me. Fantasy. It kept me going for decades.
I also had a HUGE inner dialog. It was my False Self trying to talk with my True Self (or something) and I had inner conversations going all the time. My mind was never silent, except when I was falling asleep.
Spirituality is different. I’m still exploring this, but this I can say: the of spirituality experienced by a False Self can’t possibly match that taught by Jesus. The sort of spirituality I felt always led me to be alone. It never felt like I wanted to go out and be with people, to love them, to be with them. It was like a warm blanket at best. Powerless to follow the example Jesus gave us.
Without love, and feeling a self-centered spirituality, I’m astounded that I stayed in the church. There is no reason I should have. Well, one, I was still trying to please my parents. Obedience is what caused the emergence of my False Self, and my False Self was obedient to the end.
Since the False Self exists to deal with emotional pain, it tends toward very addictive behavior to distract from that pain. I think all addictive behavior exists to hide pain. Alcohol, cigarettes, porn, food, TV, binging, purging, drugs, drugs, drugs, vitamins, looks, exercise, socializing, hermitizing, anger, and probably the rest of all the bad things man does to themselves, are all part of avoiding this deep emotional pain. This is one of the main things I noticed when my True Self began to take dominance: all my addictions disappeared instantly. I won’t say what they were, but the departure surprised me. PTSD’s are probably the response of a False Self. That's just a guess.
The other big thing I noticed was that I love being with people now. I used to only be comfortable in the desert, by myself. Being by myself was the best way I knew to not feel I had no value. Being around people always brought pain. But now, with a dominant True Self, I can honestly say I love being with people. I’m still learning who my True Self is, but the thing I want most now is a close, deep conversation, where important ideas and feelings are expressed, and listened to. I'll add, though, that there was one other place I liked being, where I felt I had value: in front of a class. I loved being a teacher then, and still do, even more.
When Jesus visited the Americas, there is a scene which happened that first day, when the children gathers around Jesus, and angels came down and administered to the children for quite some time. Here is what I think: they were dealing with False Selves. I’m rather firmly of the opinion now that if we properly understood our friends with False Selves, and knew how to talk about it, and help them understand how we will love their True Selves much more than the False Selves, we could have the same society for centuries that the Nephites experienced.
Does it sound as if I am saying that dealing with the False Self is a panacea to all harms and trouble. Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.
If you have a False Self, dealing with that should be your most important priority in life. If, when you think of yourself, you don’t feel that warm glow of love in your chest, you have a False Self. Try it now. At least half of you have have one. Maybe as many as 70%. Most people in Utah die with theirs.