I’ve had a recent realisation.
Having been off the ‘dating scene’ for a few years I’m now ‘getting out more’ as they say, and I’ve noticed how, even though I’ve changed and grown as a person/woman/soul there are still aspects of me that can ‘pop up’ into a conversation – which I would much prefer didn’t!
I’ve been thinking about what these unwanted aspects of me are like, what they do and say, and most importantly why they might perform as they do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about having multiple personalities… more like splinters of my own main core personality, or sub-personalities as they are called (and which form an 8-week group within my overall programme called ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process). Those that I dislike are activated when I am trying to impress or attract someone. Then I can suddenly become either a show-off, or bossy, self-centred, or even flirtatious and coquettish.
Hindsight is fascinating – but I also need to know how to block their appearance on stage, and instead to just stay real and emotionally connected to both myself and the person/people I’m with – even when it feels so important to me that they like me and don’t reject me.
These particular aspects, or sub-personalities, which I dislike in myself could be summed up as Ego Defenders, because I realise now that they do what they do to protect my vulnerability. However, they show up in spontaneous acts of over-compensation – either with superiority, manipulation, seduction or feigned ignorance (so that the other person has the opportunity to ‘inform’ me of something I do already know, and they can thereby feel elevated, and not see me as threatening or somehow too clever and unlikeable). However, I’d be better off without these ego-defending cameo role players because I can protect myself nowadays and I’m resilient in a way I could only have wished for when they were first set up.I do appreciate that they might mean well – to stave off any threat of shame, or the hurt feelings of rejection… but they are out of date and misplaced – and they get in my way!
We all have sub-personalities which each have their own mini ‘persona’, energy, thought and speech patterns and their own ‘agenda’. Some of them result from our childhood wounds and our desire not to have that pain repeated; others are more recently created and can be beneficial and helpful to us, and the people we interact with. So they aren’t all bad.
The ‘ego’ is a protective covering of our deepest fragile self. It can be like a polished suit of armour that creates a barrier and emotional distance, but in doing so it ensures we don’t get our needs met. It tries to protect us and at the same time it can bring us the very pain we want to avoid. It keeps us separate from others and focuses in a childlike way upon ‘ME’ and what ‘I WANT’ – never mind anyone else! It creates intolerance and impatience with others; our anxieties and fears about how we are perceived by them; what we must do in order to fit in, belong, be accepted, wanted or even admired… all so that the ‘I’ feels better and avoids the acute pain of indifference, rejection or abandonment. It can be very scary to be without the ego-armour or our deflecting sub-personalities which support it – and yet it is much more scary to remain hidden, stifled and restricted by it.
A few weeks ago, whilst chatting to a man I found attractive, I suddenly had an ambiguous and sarcastic humour (that’s from my late father) towards him; I also noticed a show-off little girl speaking from out of my mouth; I walked in front of him in a strut gaining smiles from other men I passed (my hope being that he would see these and ‘want’ me more because other men appeared interested in me – physically at least); I created a quick type of one-upmanship with him involving quick witty retorts to whatever he said – which immediately ended the conversation and cut off my learning any more about him. Drat! Silly childish girl!
On another occasion on that same evening I became shy and lost for words, and later was cold, detached, and in ‘my own world’ – but all seemingly in a smooth flow like a quick change artist in a one-woman show.
I really dislike and want to cast off those old and outdated ‘aspects’ of me which are selfish, narcissistic, manipulative, critical, judgmental or patronizing. They show up mostly when I’ve had a drink (which is very moderated nowadays I must add!). I don’t want to become too raw and vulnerable though so some mid-ground is needed whereby I can call up my sub-personalities when and how I wish, so that some of their qualities might serve me well in a particular situation. It’s all about the ‘Adult’ part of us making that split-second decision about how to respond, and not simply reacting with the old programming.
Just when I think I’ve got them rounded up and safely in their pen, a new situation occurs that I hadn’t anticipated and out they ‘pop’. I am ready for them next time and will keep in mind the following question to myself “How would I now behave if my ego wasn’t getting in my way?”
I know the answer, and I much prefer to interact from that curious, attentive, listening, considerate, caring and compassionate place… a place of connection and potential unity where egos and their defenders don’t exist.
To be more ‘evolved’ and compassionate creates a challenge to our ego – which we must loosen hold of and be able to put to one side if we are ever to become truly caring and compassionate beings, able to love and be loved by those we can trust not to hurt us, or whose hurt we can understand, detach from and forgive.
By Maxine Harley (Msc Integrative Psychotherapy) www.maxineharley.com www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk www.qpp.uk.com