No one has greater ability to help you or to hurt you than your family. They know you, and they shaped you. This makes family a tricky thing for people like me dealing with a dominant False Self. This is because families are the greatest cause of dominant False Selves:
- A child grows up in a setting from which a dominant False Self emerges...
- ...and marries a spouse who also has a dominant False Self because that's all they know of love...
- ...and raise their own children as they were raised...
- ...so that the children also experience a dominant False Self.
- Goto 1.
This is a cycle, repeating generation-to-generation. Peter Gerkach, a family therapist, put together a huge, deep and all-inclusive website to help families break this cycle, with a lot of great information, and also a lot of noise and a confusing layout.
Alain de Botton also recognized the importance of how a child is raised, in what he calls a Good Childhood and a Bad Childhood (YouTube), and the difficulty, or impossibility, of dealing with our childhoods (YouTube).
Overcoming a dominant False Self, as I am doing, makes dealing with family very tricky. My False Self is very comfortable with family. It's the only Self my family knows. And no one knows me as well as my family. They have all had decades to learn just what to say to induce shame. And I'll tell you, shame is a very effective tool to cause emotional pain, and always causes my False Self to jump into action. Always. Your family may be the same.
And here's the real kick in the crotch: once the False Self is completely dominant and you are socially compliant, you'll think that staying close to your family is your best hope for affection, love, and happiness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are in this situation, move out! Get away from them, and give your True Self a chance to come out. If you suspect you have a dominant False Self the most important thing you can do is to get out on your own. I honestly don't think that it's possible to bring your True Self to the fore in the presence of the family which caused it to recede to the background as a child.
Just a reminder here, what I'm saying is that your home situation as a child made you protect your feelings (your True Self) by using intellectual justifications and mental excuses (your False Self) to survive; as a child you needed to switch from living with your heart, feeling free to say what you felt, and feeling that you were valued and accepted, to living in your mind in an effort to mute your emotional pain. You need to get to a physical place where you can return to, and practice living with, your heart and feelings again. You need to relearn how to listen to all your feelings, and to relearn how to express exactly what you feel. You need to be surrounded by people who accept you as you are, right now. You must relearn how to stop censoring your feelings.
I'm lucky. I don't have a wife. When I want to get away from family, I can come home. To those who are married, and whose marriage was formed because you both recognized in some unknown way how matched you were to each other (you were equally messed-up) but is now the source of the greatest emotional pain, I hope you can find some way of forgiving each other long enough to remind each other of those times when you felt you could say anything to each other, and accept the other's flaws as endearing. It's a first step to regain the ability to express your True Self, your innermost feelings. Your spouse is the perfect person for that, though each of you has become sidelined by all you learned in your families, and your False Selves have emerged.
Find people who you can talk to and tell them what you are going through. I can't express how very grateful I am for those people at church and work who have listened to all these strange things going on inside my head and heart, who accepted what I said as genuinely me and my experience, and who gave gentle advice while realizing that listening and accepting was their role in the conversation. If it is in your ability, try to be that person to anyone who reveals to you they are not happy. I'm trying to be that person. I can't force anyone to express what they really feel around me, but I can model it, I can express my feelings openly, and let them know I'm not nearly as perfect as they might think I am. All strangers, oddly, appear perfect to us. So I'll try not to be a stranger. It's a tricky thing, though. No one expects acquaintances to open up. No one wants to trust someone who isn't a spouse, or family, with their inner feelings, worries, flaws. But I've found that there is a huge amount of love out there. I've never told someone my problems and not found a sympathetic ear. They might not be well-versed in what you are going through, but they never mock or run away.
So for the first time in my life I can say this and I think I can really mean it: I love you all, and I hope to be your friend.