Growing up, I remember being a very quiet, gentle child. I was rather introverted and spent a great deal of time thinking and reading. I was also described as "very obedient" by various authority figures in my life, particularly my mother and mothers of my childhood friends. My mothers and her friends would openly praise me in front of my siblings and the other children. I became the standard for girls around me. I hated conflict in any form and so I would do exactly what I was told, when I was told and how I was told to do it. I learned that, in order to receive compliments and approval from the adults around me, I had to comply, no questions asked. Unfortunately, this trend continued right through my life: saying 'yes' to people, things, tasks, jobs, relationships and behavior that I, quite frankly, resented with all my heart.
I was never really consciously bothered about this pattern until I turned 30 this year. I felt a very strong need - almost like a persistent voice inside me - compelling me to closely examine my life. The results brought my 'perfect' world crashing down on me. I found myself unable to answer the question, "Who am I?" Indeed, I discovered that the person I am now is like a really pathetic jigsaw puzzle: all I am now, is really bits and pieces of other people in my life - bits and pieces that are expertly held together by approval from others and fear of conflict.
I'm numb on the inside. There's no spark or excitement. I lack joy and energy. I badly want to be true to myself, to live an authentic, conscious and fulfilling life. But I'm stuck. I know what I have become and I detest it. I want to be myself, but I don't know who that person is. I don't know if she still lives. How do I discover who I am? How do I find MY-self?
Thank you for your heart felt questions. Your cry from deep within is the voice of the truth seeking expression. Who you are, is definitely not, who you think you are.
Your description of the ego is poetic and accurate. You feel like "A pathetic jigsaw puzzle." And "Bits and pieces" of approval are exactly what hold together the ego. The ego is the learned; image self, not the real self.
You are the victim of extremely effective positive conditioning. You were formed into an image every time your behavior was reinforced by praise. I was also conditioned to be a perfect daughter. Ah, to be the perfect friend, the perfect psychologist, the perfect lover... ugh. How small and tight is the box a perfect person lives in.
While there are many healthy things children need to learn from their parents, children are extremely vulnerable to the effects of positive conditioning. As a result, parents often teach their children to negate their authentic feelings, emotions, intuition and inner knowing. Soon the child learns to completely denial her authentic self.
This is the reason you do not know who you are. The consequences are devastating. You are passive, afraid of conflict and trapped inside a frozen wall of energy. The more you negative your real self, the greater your risk of mental illness, emotional distress, physical disease and suicide.
Of course, you wanted to please your parents. Of course, loving children do not want to inconvenience their parents. Unfortunately, this love and caring is used against the child to force them into perfect behavior. Many well-meaning parents do not realize the grave damage they are doing to their children by conditioning them into perfect behavior.
Honestly, people who are conditioned with praise have a much harder time undoing their unhealthy learning than the children who were punished. I know this may come as a shock to many mental health professionals and parents so let me explain.
When you have been reinforced for being perfect you have a great deal to lose by breaking free of your conditioning. You lose your special status. You lose approval. You lose society's approval. Your parent's approval. Your own approval. Alas, you will no longer be special. Approval is a very hard thing to let go of.
In contrast, the children and adults who have been criticized for doing everything wrong and bad do not have anything to lose. They are already on the outside. They do not have approval. They are not accepted by society. As a result, bad children are freer than the good children who have become automatons.
Bad children can run, dance and act out more easily. This allows them to keep some of the spark of their own personality alive. Whereas, good children are so obedient, they do not have much of a spark left. Or more accurately, their spark is harder to access and bring forth.
A perfect child is a perfect example of what John Watson meant when he said, "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors."
Fortunately for you, Watson was only partly correct. Parents can condition you to be anything they want you to be. But once you are an adult, you do not have to continue to live a conditioned, controlled life. You can unlearn anything unhealthy that your parents taught you. You can find, access and use the hidden gems within your body, heart and soul.
So, rejoice, all of your natural tendencies, talents and innate abilities are deep within you. From my 35 years of experience as a holistic psychologist I can honestly tell you that your authentic self is intact. I have never meet anyone, no matter how sexually abused, physically traumatized and positively reinforced, who did not possess all of the gifts they were born with.
Nothing that has ever happened to you can destroy your authentic self. You can be conditioned to doubt your feeling and emotions. You can be praised into distrusting you inner knowing. You can be brainwashed into rejecting your body and sexuality. But nothing can destroy your wonderful, innate, organic, juicy energy inside of you. Nothing. This is a law.
So your joyful, natural energy is calling out to you. It is the same voice that Socrates listened to and followed. The Greeks called this voice, the Daemonion
. Your Daemonion
is strong and you are strong to listen to it.
The authentic self is composed of flowing energy, which takes the form of feelings and thoughts within your body and soul. These energies are palpable and you can learn to sense them. The reason my holistic psychology approach is based on energy is because this is the only way to know, expose and separate from your ego self.
Be grateful you are listening to the voice within you instead of denying it.
Here are the steps toward transformation you have taken:
- The voice from deep within occurs.
- You listen and acknowledge the cry.
- Your perfect world comes crashing down.
- You become aware of how passive you were conditioned to be.
- You realize your perfection is an image, an ego state and not authentic.
- When you see your ego for what it really is, you hate it.
This is where you are stuck. You see your ego and detest it. You are on the precipice of the first major block to transformation. This same precipice is also a doorway, through which you can pass, into a life-changing breakthrough. When you go through this doorway, you enter a vibrant moment, a new way of being alive.
Millions of people are stuck in this state where they cannot find, access and use their natural energy. They do not know how to turn the energy block into a breakthrough.
The first thing you need to learn is the difference in energy between your ego and your authentic self. For example, your poetry obviously comes from your authentic self. Once you know for sure which energy is which, you then have the ability to make choices. You can separate from all things fake, false and phony!
After you learn to sense, in your body, the difference between real energy and unhealthy, conditioned energy you can follow your heart. If you follow your vital energy, which is your emotional self, you will end up knowing your soul. The emotional self leads you to your purpose in life, which sits within your soul.
This journey to your soul happens naturally and organically. All you need to do is get your learned, positively reinforced self out of the way. Your ego is blocking and controlling you.
When you get your ego out of the way, you can heal your emotional self. This is another problem good boys and girls have; they have not been abused, so what pain do they have?" Many psychologists, parents and teachers completely miss how much pain good boys and girls are in.
Working with my therapist during my early 30's, I discovered pain is completely subjective. My emotional distress was valid even though my parents loved me and took care of me. Everyone's pain is equal. The good child's pain is as great as the bad child's pain. (I do not have the space to explain this in more detail.)
Your pain is great and you are confused. You were controlled by love. This means you need to learn the difference between the energy of real love and approval. See the chart on the difference between an unhealthy, care-taking relationship and a healthy, loving relationship here
Blocks Can Become Breakthroughs
It was in Goa, India where I first confronted my ego. Quivering lips, vibrating involuntarily, after a morning physical exercise on the beach, brought me to my knees. Suddenly, images of me being a jerk flashed across my conscious mind. It was as if the images were stored in my lips.
The more my lips shook, the more the images came. Me, the perfect one, saw myself having to be right. Having to be number one. Having to be perfect. Being rigid. Being a 'tightass.' Ugh. I saw the part of me I had denied and pretended was not there.
As soon as I saw my ego, I hated myself. I was horrified and could not believe anyone would love me again. How could I go on? Terrible images of my perfect self would not go away. I did not want to ever be seen again. What was I to do?
A cashew nut tree, my body, my knowledge as a psychologist, my soul and Ocean Mother helped me through this horrible day. Just as the sun set, I went from blocking my energy to allowing my energy to flow.
The tears flowed. I was not perfect or special. I never had been. "Dr. Tightass," my self-righteous ego, showed me I was the same as everyone else. I was no better or worse than anyone. I let go of having to be perfect.
I became part of humanity. I realized I was equal to everything and everyone. A big burden lifted off my shoulders. I could relax and be myself. I did not have to work so hard to please others any more. What a relief!
If you want to break free, your next step toward transformation is to let go of control. This means you relax your body and allow your physical, mental and emotional energy to flow. When you let go of control you cry and feel your pain. You are the same as everyone else.
Then you can move, dance and be yourself. You do not have to work hard at being perfect any more.
Action Steps to Take:
- Name your ego. I call mine, "Dr. Tightass." Naming the ego helps tame it. It also helps you separate yourself from this unhealthy energy so you can break free. If you know the name of something, you have mastery over it.
- Use your body to help you break free. Physical awareness exercises, massages, body awareness and bodywork are essential to receive and use in your daily life if you want to breakthrough instead of block your energy. Getting to know and love your real body is essential for transformational work.
- Let go of control. Not an easy thing to do, but one that will always help you move forward. The natural process knows how to resolve itself, if you get your controlling ego out of the way. Read more about how to let go of control.
- Learn the difference in energy between your ego and your authentic self. After you learn to sense, in your body, the difference between real energy and unhealthy, conditioned energy you can follow your heart to your soul. Study and use over and over again, the "Opening the Heart" audio and E-book, to learn to sense the difference energies in your body and heart. Readers of Cultivate Life! get a bonus discount worth $30.00 off the "Opening the Heart" audio, if purchased before March 1. Put LIFE! in the coupon box.
Coaching copyright © 2010 Dr. Doris Jeanette
Doris Jeanette is a licensed psychologist with 35 years of experience helping men and women break free from conditioning. All of her self help holistic psychology products help you become more aware of your energy, body and emotions. In-person energy sessions are currently available in Glenwood Springs, CO. If you would like Dr. Jeanette to visit your area and conduct a workshop, or if you want to set up a session and sign up for her free holistic psychology newsletter, "