I feel called to write this post after one I reblogged yesterday from the WordPress website Solace on depression and purpose. As coincidence would have it, I am reading and have been sharing here some excellent writing on uncovering our authentic selves by Andrea Mathew. I posted a post yesterday which dealt with how access to our authentic self can become cut off in childhood when it is not mirrored or if it is actively shamed (which happens to a lot of us, most especially very empathic sensitive children).
Mathews goes on to explain in her book Letting Go of Good how when we have to sacrifice our grief over the true self being never fully validated, mirrored or ‘seen’ we can then adopt an identity in which we turn our own need for these things and for nurturence around and learn to be the ‘good guy’ or ‘good girl’, who orients him or herself around others in a quest for acknowledgement and a sense of worth and by association, purpose. It’s an issue psychotherapist Alice Miller also dealt with in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child.
When we turn against ourselves in this way and sacrifice our true self and true feelings we naturally also can forget that we are actually angry and sad underneath or deep inside. We were not allowed to have these feelings in response to what happened to us, in fact a key turning point in therapy which is not at all comfortable and can evoke both separation anxiety as well as abandonment depression is when these feelings which were prohibited start to emerge. Miller also addresses this issue in several of her books.
I have shared in another post how therapist James Masterson in his book The Search For the Real Self names six key feelings that occur in this process as the ‘six horsemen of the psychic apocalypse’. Due to the way my blog is organised this post is deeply embedded so I wont link to it right here right now. Suffice to say that on the road to healing we have to face a lot of fear and get out from under the demons of self criticism, introjections and associated guilt or shame which can be so deeply embedded in our psychic structure, the entenched sense that our true Self and feelings have no right to exist or are ‘bad’ or selfish.
Anyway getting back to the issue of purpose. Mathews makes the point in her book that looking for a sense of purpose or worth outside of the self is often doomed to fail if we are not authentically rooted in our own self acceptance and in a true, grounded sense of Self and self love.
She defines self love in this way :
The process of coming to love the Self is not at all the same as trying to force ourselves to justify or to build rationalizations, so we can excuse ourselves for our behavior or feelings, or so we can move past enough shame to finally have some feeling or affection for ourselves. That’s what we have commonly been trying to do. We have been trying to treat the Self in the same way we treat others. We rationalise and justify for them – that’s how we let ourselves stay in relationships to people while they continue to use us and treat us badly or abuse us. So we do the same for the Self.
The problem with trying to love the Self this way is that we can feel the fact that it’s not working. When we excuse, rationalise, and justify for others, we don’t know how they are receiving us, we think that they probably think that everything is okay now. But when we do that to ourselves, we are both the giver of the excuses and the receiver of them – therefore, we know it’s not really true and it’s not really working. Then we begin to feel that it is impossible for us to love ourselves. And we begin to feel all the more defeated.
But here’s the miracle of self love that beings to occur as we sit with our emotions to hear their messages: we begin to develop empathy for the identity. Rather than justifications and rationalisations, we empathise with ourselves.
The authentic Self is an ancient tree within each of us. It is rooted deeply in the essential spirit of the soul, where life force begins, grows, and completes its cycle. The life force is still completing us. It never left. The psyche is always leaning toward wholeness. And it always stands ready to receive our consciousness with open arms. So the identity can be loved, after all. When this process is complete, when the authentic Self has been present with the untruths of the identity (we had to assume to find a feeling of worth or love outside the self) and the emotions and personal powers, we not only know what is false and true within us, but we will love both the false and the true – for both have given us a gift. The false kept us alive long enough to encounter the true.
… Self love… is organic. Like the roots of that ancient tree.. that love is the life force that is the evolutionary process of our unfoldment. Duty, obligation, and the bargain we call selflessness are not natural, nor do they facilitate our evolution into Self. As we follow the inner leading of self love, we open up to the messages of compassion and passion, which not only make the heart blossom and thrive, but offer their gifts to others, (and) will be received as genuine.
This process of self love is far more profound than the mixed up idea that there was something shameful, purposeless and unworthy in us all along that we covered over with looking for a purpose (such as being there for others) to make us feel and be seen as worthy by a culture that so often denies the mixed up inner life which is really seeking our healing and deeper recognition all along. I am talking here of how we can so often self abandon in a quest to be seen as okay.
Often we are subtly told to deny our true feelings and take actions to cover over such denial and justify it. This is a very different approach or orientation to taking action to deal with the harsh realities or feelings and powers that lie buried beneath the denial, that we were never raised to believe we were worthy as we are, if not doing something others believed would prove our worth or purpose to them.
Our true worth in life is and should be inherent to us, it cannot be bought or sold nor bargained for and this, Mathews points out is something we often learn to do in an effort to win love by doing what we think will make us appear worthy in the eyes of others, either consciously or unconsciously.
Our highest purpose, I believe in this life is to be us, to be our true, genuine, authentic selves. When we lose the way to this Self we may seek a surrogate purpose or a surrogate Self, but it may not be totally real for us and truly fill us up. This is very different to finding a true purpose by fully knowing and living true to who we are and to what we feel, know and value. That to my mind is our highest purpose. And it must arise organically or through a long journey of emerging from our own personal dark night into the light.
Mathews argues that often we chase a sense of purpose or believe in what she calls ‘the lie of purpose’ “because we believe that purpose will finally inform us that we can be valued – that we are worthy…. (that) the greater and more noble our purpose, the more we are valued. (but) the need for purpose (often) denies the reality that we need a Self. It assumes that something we can do – whether or not that doing comes from something genuine – will make us worthy, when we are already worthy simply by the nature of our being. Yet the paradox is that we may go looking for purpose and accidentally run into Self – and then realise we never had a need for purpose, we just needed a Self.”
The deeper truth as I see it is that once we have a Self we have a far greater sense of what our true purpose is – in being who we are and oftering that authentic self to others so they can do the same. We don’t feel such a need to justify it or exclaim it, we probably just end up fully living and expressing Self every day in a simple way through engaging in those routines and activities which light us up from within and fill us with a sense of embodiment and joy even in the face of dark times. That said there are those things that give us energy in this life and those things and people that steal it away. Our spirits and souls know inherently which is which and we feel a much greater peace and higher level of energy when we value and listen to this inherent knowing.