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The Big Answer


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Recreating Your Self: Building Self-Esteem Through Imaging and Self-Hypnosis

a book by Nancy Napier

(our site's book review)

Napier seeks to empower readers to reclaim their real selves which are often buried and hidden, since these selves learned early on that it was unsafe to express themselves and be. People end up hiding their real selves and using their false selves to relate to the world, as a way of not getting hurt. They also end up feeling that their real selves must be bad and undeserving because of the way their real selves got treated when they were little, so they keep their real selves buried out of shame and guilt. True emotional intimacy requires people to be real and express real feelings, but the false self often prevents intimacy, making the person blame the partner or themselves and ending the relationship, even though the next relationship is likely to end up the same way. Her book explains all this carefully and leads the reader on a healing journey toward healthy real selfhood.

If your real being hides around your family and even yourself, you are far from abnormal, but the sad truth is: you have no life, no spouse, no family and no real connections to humanity
If your real being hides around your family and even yourself, you are far from abnormal, but the sad truth is: you have no life, no spouse, no family and no real connections to humanity

One of her methods is self-talk, but it’s done in a context of “self-hypnosis” and through “post-hypnotic suggestions.” This is called “trance work.” Sometimes it’s about self-discovery. Other times it’s about affirmations. Other times it’s about nurturing one’s inner child, i.e., self-parenting. See John Pollard’s Self-Parenting book for instructions on how you can concentrate on healing sessions with your inner child. Gloria Steinem’s Revolution From Within is also helpful in the area of inner child healing. John Bradshaw’s books and tapes are useful too.

The false self is a concept encompassing all the protective parts and maladaptive strategies you developed as you survived impossible childhood situations. It’s the totality of your dysfunctional responses, which arose by necessity when you were young—but of course these same responses when you are an adult are counterproductive and spoil much of the potential in your life. That’s why unless your real self is re-empowered, you’re not likely to have a very fulfilling life: no autonomy, no real self-actualization, and few deep human insights, emotions or feelings that relate to who you really are. Going through life safely numb isn’t really much of a life.

Going through life safely numb isn’t really much of a life
Going through life safely numb isn’t really much of a life

According to Napier, “The major work of reclaiming the self is to hear the [inner] child’s story from the perspective of this forgotten, often-buried true self. This means being willing to experience pain that was never expressed openly. . . . As old ways of coping cease to work, you discover your true self, and you begin to experience and express your true needs and feelings . . .”

There’s a positive inner child, a negative inner child, a positive inner parent and a negative inner parent—in Pollard-think. One’s false self rejects one’s real self and sees it as a troublemaker. False self-based self-talk is from the inner parent—the more it’s negative, the more it represents the negative inner parent.

The more a real self is oppressed and mystified and confused during childhood, the more likely one is to lose mental health and go nuts
The more a real self is oppressed and mystified and confused during childhood, the more likely one is to lose mental health and go nuts

In R.D. Laing-think, the more a real self is oppressed and mystified and confused during childhood, the more likely one is to lose mental health and go nuts. The real self being allowed to be is critical, but if a false self replacement is forced by environmental negativity, then the person needs effective defenses, coping skills, and repression of real feelings to keep sane. If parenting is too harsh, confusing, inconsistent, negative, deceptive and/or mystifying, the child loses touch with reality, psychologically splits, and becomes mentally ill—often schizophrenic. Mentally ill parents pass their illness onto their kids this way. Other times heredity and/or brain chemistry is the major factor in mental illness, although often a good or bad environment can make a big difference in whether a person predisposed towards mental illness actually becomes ill or not.

Having a false self is not really about craziness or illness for most of us. In fact, it’s about staying safe and postponing being a real, feelingful person until someday when it’s safe—so it’s a mental health asset. It becomes a liability if you don’t somehow—as an adult—take steps to free your real self and strive for autonomy and self-actualization, however. You may not go nuts from the frustration of feeling needful and unloved and frustrated and unsatisfied as a false-self-centered person, but you’ll suffer the numbness and unaliveness of a virtual reality existence.

Having a false self is a liability if you don’t somehow—as an adult—take steps to free your real self
Having a false self is a liability if you don’t somehow—as an adult—take steps to free your real self

Napier would have been well-advised to more directly confront the downside of this self-reclamation process. She acknowledged the suffering and fear and confusion, and even some of the dangers. But a person undergoing such a delicate and intense process has to live and function in the real world. Normally the people around you are on the side of the false self and/or the negative inner parent when you start to change—change makes everyone uncomfortable. Strong new feelings are likely to get projected on others at times, making the others feel that they like you less and judge that whatever you’re up to is destructive and bad and you’d be better off if you quit it. Other people in your environment are likely to be people who you picked because they remind you of a rejecting parent—you picked them because you have an inner tape recording playing over and over about your early negative experiences, and they’re just characters in that plot.

The people around you often function as characters in your inner play
The people around you often function as characters in your inner play

Transactional Analysis experts see things in terms of your being your parent, your child, or your adult; they try to help people achieve maturity rather than playing tapes all day in which the inner child and the inner parent are fighting for control. They look at the games people play rather than being real—games being germinated by the ongoing inner self-talk tapes. Unfortunately, support for your real self rather than your false self and for your maturation rather than your game playing is unlikely to come from the normal environment you’re likely to be in most of the time, especially because your hang-ups were a/the major factor in choosing who you’d select as a spouse and who you’d choose as your friends.

Hang-ups are often the major factor in choosing who you’d select as a spouse and who you’d choose as your friends
Hang-ups are often the major factor in choosing who you’d select as a spouse and who you’d choose as your friends

It’s hard to say if it’s even a good idea to begin a self-reclamation trip in an environment in which normal relationships would naturally work against the efforts and feelings of your real self/inner child. You might simply lose these people and end up depressed and worse off. You might end up driving those around you nuts as you project feelings from your past onto them. So it’s important to set up a positive, supportive environment for your voyage of discovery. You might feel that since your friends and spouse love you, they’ll support your process. But they know you mostly/only as your false self, so when they see you change, they’ll be likely to feel the new you is unreal, phony, crazy, negative, or simply “not you.” Will they even like the new you? Will it kill your relationships?

Remember that other false-self-focused people around you will be made very uncomfortable with your aliveness since it reminds them of how dead they usually feel. They’ll be threatened by the implications. On the other hand, if the people you live with are real-self-focused and therefore sensitive, real, feelingful and unusually insightful, then they may actually be the supportive environment you need for your self reclamation process. This is ideal. But the dilemma Napier all but ignored is the fact that it is just as unlikely as it is ideal. [Think MC for a way to optimize possibilities for support on such a voyage. See Why Register for an MC?.]

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Her approach to this problem is to note that the voyagers may resent the fact that they themselves have to be the caretaker of their inner child. They’ve been trying since childhood, and into their adult life, to get others to be a good mom or dad to them—which others wouldn’t and couldn’t do. They want the support to come from the outside—the same thing they wanted as a child. They don’t really want the responsibility of being their own parent. But, they want to be alive and real—not numb and false. So they should find a “safe place” and do the reclamation work her book outlines, and give up on trying to get the people in their lives to parent them. This is a good, realistic thing for them to do. But will it be that easy?

Napier is trained in systems therapies, by her own account. Isn’t it true that her book needed to deal with the issue of the family/social system in which the voyager would be immersed when not alone and voyaging? People need people, and are likely to strongly react to the voyager’s changes, and the voyager is just as likely to strongly react to their reactions—and begin playing his/her old tapes again, tapes that are about being at effect of a negative early environment and tapes that will do their best to ensure s/he doesn’t become at cause in his/her life. The tapes are programming. Unless his/her living environment is set up to support realness and not tapes, it will usually support the latter.

old tapes
Your old tapes

This surely doesn’t mean that Napier’s methods should not be utilized by everyone who feels comfortable self-healing in this way so as to reclaim their real selves. But it does mean acknowledging the systems aspects of voyagers’ lives and adjusting as needed to these realities. It’s edifying to hear her self-hypnosis ideas and encouraging to see her benevolently helping readers nurture themselves in so healthy and insightful a manner. Our concerns are that normal lifestyles, being what they are, will usually work against such voyages. After all, aren’t they what got the voyagers in need of these healing voyages in the first place? We strongly recommend she updates her book with these realities in mind.