How We Lost Connection To Our Authentic Self

By on June 28, 2016
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As promised, this article shows how we lost our connection to our (most) authentic self.  Getting Real practices aim at helping us regain that connection by freeing ourselves from ego-protective habits like trying to look good or appear in control.

I believe it’s very important to understand how the mind works if you want to become a fully-functioning person. If you understand that most of your mind’s thinking comes from the conditioned need to control or avoid emotional discomfort, you’ll be empowered to step outside your conditioning so you can use your mind for creativity and problem-solving instead of for control.

 


 

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(Click the Image to see the book via Amazon.)


 

Your mind is like a video recording device.

 

It records experiences from your life that become memories—both conscious and unconscious. The mind is designed to pay special attention to experiences that are or appear to be threatening or dangerous. In this way it helps you survive.

In a potentially dangerous situation, the mind (also called the ego-mind) will call forth a mental model of how things have gone in the past in a similar situation; as in… ‘I touched the stove burner not realizing the stove was still on, and I got burned. Next time, I’ll notice if the burner is on.

This sort of mental documentation is useful. But somewhere along the line in our evolution, the mind became more and more fixated on avoiding danger- to the point where even things that weren’t really harmful got lumped in with the really dangerous things, just because they appeared to threaten our emotional safety.

Neuroscience tells us that our brains are wired to scan for danger to our physical survival. Nowadays, very few people experience tigers and other predators as part of their daily existence. But the brain hasn’t evolved to the place where our minds make good distinctions between survival threats and threats to our emotional safety.

 

My latest book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair, describes this in detail.

But for our present purposes, let’s just say that the human mind doesn’t always make good distinctions between life-threatening pain and transitory emotional pain.

 


 

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(Click the Image to see the book via Amazon.)


 

This is due to the fact that our early bonding experiences with caregivers didn’t provide adequate emotional holding, showing us how to ‘be with’ our emotional upsets- feeling our feelings until we reached a sense of resolution.

Thus, the mind now operates as if emotional pain is a survival threat and, as if its job is protecting the ego rather than protecting us from real harm.

 

So, we humans tend to center our lives around the avoidance of emotional discomfort.

 

Our attention becomes dominated by cautionary stories about what to expect because of what happened in the past, and we put less and less attention where it should be—on what’s happening now!

Thus, we learned to live more in our head, with its stories of danger, and less in our actual present-time experience.

So now, many of us have a mind that just won’t stop telling us what to watch out for, what we should or shouldn’t have done, what to expect, what people are really thinking, and so much more.

We can learn to step outside our conditioned habits and to take in stride ‘the normal pains of adult life.’ The compassionate self-inquiry process described in my new book shows how to develop a mindful, loving relationship to emotional pain. It shows how to re-wire your brain so you don’t overreact to imagined danger.

 

Now let’s go back in time and review how our minds were conditioned:

 

Most parents were not trained to understand their own minds, nor their own fears of emotional discomfort. Nor did they understand what a child’s experience is like. So they weren’t very well equipped for nurturing their offspring to actualize their highest potential.

When we cried loudly as babies in an attempt to make our wants known, our early caregivers often felt anxious or uncomfortable—perhaps thinking they should be able to protect their child from pain. This anxiety was communicated to us little people because we were very sensitive to the messages we were getting from our caregivers.

Sensing that our self-expressions were causing anxiety or stress in our parents, most of us learned to dampen our demands for attention so as not to make our caregivers uncomfortable. This self-suppression began a life-long pattern of disconnecting from our actual needs and abandoning ourselves.  If our caregivers didn’t appreciate strong expressions of need, we’d pretend these needs did not exist. Others of us would dramatize our feelings so that when our caregivers ignored or punished us, it was our dramatization (our false self) that would be punished or frustrated, not our real sensitive, vulnerable self.

 

Over the years we developed other strategies for hiding our true feelings and staying a safe distance from the pain of having our basic needs frustrated…

 

  • If everyone seemed too busy to listen to us, we learned to remain invisible.
  • If our parents seemed uncomfortable with our anger or frustration, we pretended to be satisfied.
  • If our parents exhibited immature, impulsive behavior like getting drunk, we learned to be overly responsible.
  • If our parents were fearful about our safety, we learned not to trust ourselves.
  • If they were over-controlling, we either learned not to trust ourselves, or we learned that expressing our needs and feelings did no good, or we learned to be sneaky.

 

Basically, what we were learning was how to not be real- how to either mask or exaggerate what we were really thinking or feeling or wanting- whenever our feelings or wants seemed destined to meet with an unfavorable outcome. This caused us to feel disconnected and split off from ourselves. We lost our connection or our relationship to our authentic self.

 

The underlying cause of this human tragedy is the fact that…

 
 
Humans haven’t yet evolved to the point where we can use our minds appropriately, without letting them run the whole show.

Most people pretty much believe what the mind tells them when they have a thought about how something should be, what something means, or what dangerous thing is about to happen. We are easy prey for our ‘mind chatter’ because our early bonding experiences were incomplete, and we were never supported in feeling our feelings and discovering and expressing our authentic selves.

I have an 8-part video program on You Tube that addresses how to use emotional upsets in an adult relationship as a pathway to healing our incomplete early bonding experiences. The program is titled ‘What to Do When Love Hurts: Parts 1-8.’

 

Here’s Part One:

Want more from Dr. Susan Campbell? Click Here.

 

The best way to build relationship skills is to practice.  The best way to do that is to attend a Wabi-endorsed LIVE EVENT.

 

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About Susan Campbell, PhD

Bestselling author of many books (including 'Getting Real') and early leader in the Human Potential movement, Susan is passionate about making the world safe for differences. A student of Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. A cross between Margaret Meade and Jane Fonda.

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