This is a critical post and is the key to understanding the power of self-knowledge and enjoying the rapture of being fully alive. Read it carefully, then read tomorrow’s post, and re-read this one again.
As promised, today I am going to talk about what might be in the way of gaining greater self-realization which is essential to knowing who we really are, and what we believe at our core. In the 1960s a very insightful psychiatrist named Hugh Missildine wrote a book entitled “Your Inner Child of the Past”. In the book he talked about how our “child of the past” influences adult life. Although most parents care deeply about their children and do their best, it is impossible for parental imperatives and expectations not to be communicated to us as children in some way. Problematic is that we often suppress or repress parts of our selves to gain parental approval and love. Our perception may not be correct but to us it is reality. Early mental models are based on these compromise formations and represent accommodations to those imperatives.
Although most of these imperatives are subtle it might be instructive to look at some extreme parental attitudes to illustrate how what happened in our past may influence our thinking or present a roadblock in our present lives. Missildine identified a number of excessive parental attitudes and illustrated how each may be influencing you as an adult. A highly summarized list of excessive parental attitudes and their potential impact on our adult life is depicted below:
Perfectionism=If you must strive to always do better.
Over-coercion=if you can’t stop procrastinating
Over-submissiveness=If you are demanding and impulsive
Over-indulgence=If you are bored and can’t “stick to it”
Hypochondria= If you worry constantly about your health
Punitive=If you constantly seek revenge for the past
Neglect=If you feel you do not—and cannot—“belong”
Rejection=If you are painfully self-isolating
Sexual Stimulation=If you seem to misjudge the role of sex
But, how do our compromise formations get established and fortified against change?
Within our brain, a “complaint center” acts as a conscious filing cabinet for repetitive frustrating situations, non-medically-based physical symptoms, uncomfortable emotional states (e.g., anger, anxiety, depression), and other situations and experiences that represent areas where we remain unfulfilled. The central issues being “filed” are often kept in our unconscious by resistance and other defenses, which exists as a survival mechanism to preserve us physiologically and psychologically.
But underneath these issues is pre-conscious (accessible to consciousness), “privately felt, rarely verbalized, present and chronically endured pain.” This pain is the emotional counterpart of “how we feel and have always felt about ourselves” (Mann & Goldman, 1994, p. 21). According to Mann and Goldman, we have an unconscious wish for reunion with the early important person or persons we believe to be directly responsible for the pain, the person or persons who we consider the most desirable healer.
In other words, as you will see in tomorrow’s post, we unconsciously search for persons who can create a functional “simulation” of the original learning context of childhood even if it looks different as an adult. (Can you recall ever saying to a spouse or significant other something like “you are just like my mother, or you are just like my father)?” Only then can we begin to re-live and repair the chronically endured state that keeps us from knowing and accepting our true selves. Because of this, we repeat these early relationships, even finding others in our lives to serve a substitute objects—possibly unconsciously—until we have resolved or addressed the chronically endured pain in our lives. This recapitulation keeps the structure and function of our early mental models based on historical parental connections in place. This in turn prevents us from seeing and knowing ourselves objectively, including how we are re-creating our own presently endured pain. Often a cue will trigger one of our senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste) to find the old files in our filing cabinet and bring them to our consciousness. This is an invitation that we often ignore, but can say “yes” to if we understand the process of gaining self-knowledge.
Tomorrow we will explore and see how relationships have the potential to liberate or destroy what our true self has been longing for our whole lives. The information presented today is a lot to digest, but I believe you will love tomorrow’s post!