The last thirty years I’ve been traveling the world as a management consultant. In that time I’ve listened to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people tell me the stories of their lives.
Not too long ago, maybe ten years back, I had this thought that maybe these narratives were covering up, as much as revealing, who these folks really were on the inside.
I thought that as well as being a insight about others, it was also my own projection. After thinking about, I concluded that I too have created narratives about myself that were meant to cover up (protect) who I really am.
With that in mind here’s my theory on what’s going on beneath the surface as we are describing to others people who we are.
1. We all endure assaults on our egos as we develop through childhood.
2. The first time we are told “no” as a very young child, we might experience our first sense of guilt or shame. It continues from there when we realize someone may be considered more attractive than we are. Or is a better reader. Or is taller, or more athletic, etc. All of these shocks to our emerging egos take a toll on whom we perceive ourselves to be.
3. Nature gives us ways (or defenses) to absorb these shocks. Blocking out bad memories is one such defense. Retreating into our own world of fantasy is another. Rationalizing or pretending the shocks never occurred is yet another way. There are many such defenses most of us employ to protect our egos from real world assaults.
4. With age and maturity our defenses are part of the stories (or narratives) we use to tell ourselves about ourselves. These same narratives are also used to tell others about ourselves.
5. Part of these narratives end up covering up, as much as revealing, who we are.
6. Eventually, our narratives are at odds with our egos. We are not who we say we are. We begin to feel uncomfortable with ourselves without knowing why.
Most all of us experience some degree of discomfort emotionally. And those of us who have created extraordinary narratives as a coverup are most susceptible to intolerable degrees of discomfort, leading to acute anxiety.
Eventually the ego begins to push back. The inauthenticity of the defenses, pretend narratives and coverups are challenged by our egos’ need to become more authentic.
What needs to be done? We need to peal back the false narratives, undo the defenses, admit the pain, and honestly deal with the assaults on the ego.
Liberation is vocalizing and (in my own case) writing about the false narratives. By this I mean, admitting the narratives are in some instances not correct, and at times used as much as a cover up as a revealer of who we are.
The ego is almost automatically liberated. Those memories that have held us captive lose their power. How do I know this? I have lived it.