Let's start at the beginning. We were born absolutely perfect, a perfect example of the magic and miracle that is life. Think of the opening scene in the Lion King when all the animals come to pride rock and cheer the arrival of Simba. Rafiki then lifts Simba up for all to see and they kneel in reverence. This moment is mirrored in the movie Roots when Omoro lifts his son Kunta Kinte up to the heavens and says: "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!"
This is also where many relationships start out, romantic and otherwise. We see them as perfect, as an angel sent to save us from loneliness and misery. We can't stop thinking about them, and fantasize a blissful future with this ideal image. Unfortunately we are due for a fall from grace. For children and relationships we eventually find the honeymoon is over.
For babies this fall from grace may start at the moment when are born with a slap on the butt. If not, hunger, pain, and other suffering are soon to come. The same goes for relationships, not physical hunger, but in many other ways. This is life, completely normal and natural, and if we are fortunate we have caring, kind, and compassionate people in our lives to help us through.
The problem is many of us do not. We may experience neglect or abuse at the hands of others physically, mentally, sexually, and spiritually. We then adopt coping mechanisms and survival skills to deal with difficult people and situations. Commonly we will adopt fight, flight, or freeze responses to deal with threats. These may serve us well at the time, but become a hindrance from intimacy (love and belonging) in later years and other relationships.
We then "Armor up" as Brene Brown teaches, as we put on masks that hide our soft and vulnerable hearts, and a false self comes forward to live through us. The effects can be devastating as our Inner Child, Loving Higher Power, and Loving Inner Parent are locked away deep in our hearts and minds. Think of a child locked in their room, the basement, the closet, or the attic for years to get a feel for the gravity of the situation.
The natural curiosity, authenticity, exuberance, love, emotionality, playfulness, and joy may be ignored or even hammered down. If this sounds foreign to you, thank God. But for many this is reality, and becomes so normal they don't even know there is another way to live. This may go on for years, decades, or a lifetime. Many have lost touch with their feelings so much, they haven't laughed or cried for years.
It would be easy to think we need to be rid of our wounded inner child, critical inner parent, and condemning Higher Power, but these too are part of us, and so shouldn't be cut off and thrown away. Rather the wounded inner child needs to be taken into a loving embrace and held until pains and fears subside. This takes time too, a lifetime of caring for this lost and frightened part of ourselves.
Likewise, the critical inner parent may have some good advice for us, just as overbearing parents do, but express it in negative and hurtful ways. It's like a bus, as every seat holds two passengers. So our Loving and critical inner parent can "sit" side by side and converse, but the loving side is in control and keeps the critical side at bay. The worst situation is to let the critical parent drive the bus!
The same goes for our Higher Power, except this one, the loving one, should be in the drivers seat. In reality it is hard to imagine God as being jealous and punishing, as often portrayed. Nature just is, and so Higher Power. The sun shines, the rain falls, and the seasons pass, and not to reward or punish anyone. Considering the benevolent conditions we have enjoyed on earth for thousands of years it seems much has been given us to be thankful for.
So what is the True Self? For this to be a full and complete life we must take it all in: Wounded and Wonder Child, Critical and Loving Inner Parent, and a (perhaps man made) judgmental higher power and Loving Higher Power. And as frosting on the cake we might add human wisdom, music, art and science, wise teachers, and whatever else helps make us whole and keep us sane. As always it is up to you: your journey, your life, your healing, and your True Self.
P.S. For a longer, more in depth exploration of the True Self please click here