Reclaiming Our Lost Selves

"If you wear a mask long enough you begin to forget who you are beneath it.” -Anonymous

We can go through our lives feeling perfect, or mostly happy. We eat, breath, love, sleep, work, have relationships, and feel we are living good lives. We are living good lives, or good enough lives. And yet, something is missing or we get reactive to certain people or certain situations. This reaction could seem so innocuous and can seem like it is to something so unimportant. It is this very reaction which in fact leads us to our lost selves. Think about the times you got upset at the driver driving slowly in front of you preventing you from passing him, or getting angry with your child or partner for spilling milk or drinking from the bottle, or some other kind of silly situation in which you got inappropriately upset. These are silly examples, yet the kinds of things that can happen every day. When we react in an extreme fashion which doesn’t equal the event itself, then it is time to look within.

When we are very little, before words and up until the age of around 3, our memories are intrinsic. By intrinsic, I mean that our memories have no category or sense of time and place. We just learned something or experienced something and whatever that was, it is recorded in our memory where it just comes up when something happens that reminds our brain of that memory. In life, as we get older, so often we find ourselves reacting to something or someone and have no idea why. The why is embedded in that intrinsic memory. When we are able to unearth that old memory, it gives us the opportunity to reclaim a part of us that we didn’t even know we had lost.

An example of this is with a patient of mine. This patient has a great need to please others and can lose her own thoughts when connecting with others. Their ideas and beliefs and thoughts become truer than his/her own; for the moment. It isn`t until he is alone that his own thoughts and understanding of who he is comes back to him. Have you ever experienced such a phenomenon? We can be so influenced by others that in a sense we lose our own ideas and thoughts and beliefs temporarily, and sometimes for a very long time.

When we looked back into his early life, we saw he had lost his mother very young and he was never told the truth as to what happened. He was told some things, and what he was told never rang true to him. Yet, he believed what they said. He had to. His father was all he had. It was a matter of survival. On top of this, as a young child, he thought the loss was his own fault. All children think that what happens is their fault. When we are little, everything is about us and has to be in order for us to survive. In his case, so that he didn’t have to think about he being the cause of his mother`s loss, it was easier to believe what he was told. In that moment in which he believed what he knew to be a lie in order to preserve a sense of himself, he lost or let go of an intrinsic part of himself. It was better to believe others than to feel and think that her disappearance was because of him and something he did or didn’t do, or because of who he is. That early belief was much worse than taking in a lie. Where did that knowing part of himself and the trusting of his instincts go? It went out so that he didn’t have to think he was the cause of the loss of his mother. That set the stage for many future events where he believed others over him, and when he engaged in interactions with anyone other than him, he would lose his own sense of his voice and what was right for him.

Becoming aware of that intrinsic memory and how it affected him and still affects him was the beginning of his reclaiming that knowing part of himself. We could certainly look back and see what happened in his mother`s life and father`s life to see what also blindly affects him/and his way of coping in life. We do that through the Family Constellation work. And even without doing that, giving him a consciousness of where this comes from in him is a powerful step to his reclaiming a part of himself. As we do that we become more whole, connected, and vital people.

Guided Visualization:

Take a minute and ground yourself by placing your feet comfortably on the ground. Make sure there are no other distractions with phones, people interrupting you. Begin by taking a few deep breaths and as you do, breathe this air deeply into you. Become aware of your body, the air in your body, and where you may be carrying any tension in your body. Let the air blow away the tension. Imagine yourself going back in time to a time and place where something occurred in your life that was troublesome, traumatizing, painful, embarrassing, or such. Just let yourself go to that place with your eyes closed so you see this in your minds eye. Become aware of the colors around you and the smells and the sounds. What is happening, or going on around you? See it, feel it, and if you can touch something; a person near you or the wall or a nearby tree, and whatever is around you. Begin to take in what is happening and make some sense of it. Who is there? Actually, see them and hear them. What is happening that is bothering you? How are you feeling, and what do you want to do in reaction? What is the reaction in your body? What do you want to say or to do? Now become aware of how you are responding inwardly. What are you telling yourself, and what are you feeling? Are you good enough, do you need to be quiet, is it your fault, how could you have prevented it, you want to disappear…..anything. Just open yourself to this inward feeling. Now begin to move forward in time while keeping this awareness with you. Become aware of yourself on your chair and your breath in your body. You are in the present time. With this awareness inside of you, imagine now how you would react to a present situation which irritates you or upsets you or angers you. Does this situation in the present remind you of how you felt and reacted back in the past? Invite your new awareness to come and be with you. If you can, put together your old feeling and thoughts with your present feelings and thoughts. Is there a similarity? Can you reframe your old feeling and thoughts to be helpful in the present situation? This could go something like: I felt like that then, and I see why I am feeling like this now. This time, I can do something different…..I can respond, or I can know it isn`t my fault, or I can realize this isn`t about me, etc. Whatever fits in your own situation. Feel yourself responding in this new way. Now become aware of your breath again, and feel your body on your chair. Breath deeply a couple of times and when you are ready to open your eyes.

Take a few minutes to write down your experience so you have it with you. And again, if you feel moved to share your experience with this, I would love to hear from you.


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