Note to Self: Let’s Get Real- Part Two

If you are human, you have experienced some degree of struggle between your real self and ideal self. We learned from our first blog in this series that focusing solely on the ideal self can diminish our true selves and promote undo unhappiness. How we deal with this internal conflict can interfere with the trajectory of our lives and our emotional/relational health. 

Dr. Henry Cloud discusses in Changes that Heal the ways in which we try to resolve our inner conflicts. Most of our common approaches simply do not work. Knowing what works and what doesn’t can serve as a personal examen to keep us on track to live authentically and in harmony with our primary relationship…ourselves. 

Here are two examples of unsuccessful strategies:

1. Whatever is true can be at the same time unacceptable. We often strategize around the unacceptable by attacking, judging, and dismissing the aspects of our real self to protect the ideal self. “The normal conscience, states Dr. Cloud, condemns by saying things like I am stupid, worthless or bad.” “This self-inflicted angry attack on the real self distorts and derails the ambition of the ideal self. A house divided.

2. Denial is one of the most common ways people handle the bad or disappointments in their lives. By denying aspects of ourselves that do not fit the ideal, the ideal self condemns aspects of the true self. Never showing emotions is sometimes thought to be a strength, but it is not healthy. In fact, restrained emotions can show up as phobias, fears, anxiety, depression, or even physical illness. By challenging the ideal self and reclaiming emotions as part of the real self, many symptoms can be reduced or eliminated. Wellbeing improves.

So what works? Acceptance and love versus attacking the real self who fails. Cloud states, “In this alternative, we deny neither the ideal nor the bad. We accept and forgive the bad, while clinging to the ideal as an unrealized goal that we strive for in an atmosphere of full acceptance…in ourselves and in others.”

It sounds simple, but we often need an outsider, such as a therapist, to help in the process of living into and loving one’s whole self.

Sheri Schulze