The three selves. The real self, the false self and the invented self.

Before examining fear in more detail it might be helpful to understand the difference between emotion and feeling, because this book is about feeling rather than emotion. From the primary emotions spring secondary feelings. For example, shame and embarrassment can come from sadness, and jealousy can come from anger or fear. Although we cannot eliminate primary emotions, we can alleviate secondary feelings. So, fear being a primary emotion, cannot be eradicated, but negative experiences and harmful relationships creating feelings of fear, can be dealt with through various therapies that rewire the brain with more positive neural pathways. Emotions, therefore, are innate, deeply rooted and hardwired in the Limbic System of the brain, while feelings originate in the malleable neural cortex and are reactions and interpretations of emotions. Feelings are influenced by thoughts, memories and images linked to any emotion, and are more complex than emotions, but can be changed as reactions against your circumstances. In other words the cortex is plastic, and this enables changes through therapy.
We are told that there are five basic fears – fear of extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, ego-death and fear of abandonment. Fear of abandonment is related to fear of ego-death, which is about the false self that we loath and which will be mentioned throughout this book in the context of the issues outlined in Appendix 1. At this early stage it is well to understand what the different selves are, as this will help you to make better sense of yourself. Partly through reading the great theorist Carl Rogers, I became aware that we have three selves – the real self, the false self, and the invented self. The real self (authentic self) is how you are when you are born, the false self is how you are formed through your childhood environment (your home, school etc.), and the invented self is how you present to the world. The latter is a valuable self insofar as it allows you to interact and to live a relatively functional life. The false self is the one that contains all the negativity picked up in childhood – fear, shame, anger, self-loathing, perfectionism, placating, lack of assertiveness, anger and a whole host of other shackling symptoms. You never want anyone to see this self, but you often think they do and that increases your fear and your shame. How sad it is to live a life where you hate and are ashamed yourself, and have a poor opinion of others! It is the false self that we open up in therapy. The self that we have never shared with anyone, but now have the courage to explore it with a therapist.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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