The primary function of our caretakers (parents) is to nurture us through the various developmental stages and to meet our basic human needs. Another concurrent job our caretakers have is to socialize us so that we will be accepted into the world, including family, community and beyond which include schools, religious communities and peer groups. When we are not adequately socialized and receive repressive messages from the environment we give up parts of ourselves in order to survive . To live a life of joyful aliveness it is essential to embrace your shadow to reclaim lost parts
There are rules and expectations about what sort of behaviour is to be encouraged and supported and what must be discouraged or extinguished which vary not only from culture to culture but from family to family. These rules and the way the messages of socialization are delivered impact the development of our capacity to express ourselves through thinking, feeling, acting, sensing and the core energy of being.
If the messages are accepting of the expression of our aliveness and guide us in appropriate ways to channel that expression, our energy to that particular area of our functioning stays intact.
Examples of accepting messages are as follows:-
“It’s OK to express your thoughts”
“ It’s OK to be creative”
“ It’s OK to think”
“It’s OK to show feelings”
“It’s OK to express all your feelings”
“It’s OK to exaggerate
“It’s OK to move”
“It’s OK to dance, run, play”
“It’s OK to be strong”
“It’s OK to feel sexual”
“It’s OK to touch”
“It’s OK to enjoy your body”
Through Core Energy
“It’s OK to be”
“It’s OK to be you”
“It’s OK to feel alive”
It the messages are repressive, giving us the sense that we cannot have that part of ourselves and still be loved and accepted, we must choose between wholeness and acceptance. Sometimes these expectations are clear, overt and verbally taught, like the “don’t” messages:-
“Don’t think for yourself”
“Don’t assert yourself”
“Don’t show certain feelings (anger, sadness)
“Don’t show off,
“don’t make a noise”
“don’t enjoy your body”
“don’t show your body”
“you’ll go blind if you…..”
More often than not these expectations are implied, covert and taught through modelling (imitating the norms of the family/culture). These messages may be harder to erase from the fabric of our belief systems. They often appear in the way we believe people should act.
Unconsciously we learn that to be loved and accepted we must disconnect from certain aspects of who we are (giving up playfulness, expressing thoughts etc.). Alternatively we might choose to risk alienating our family, peer group and community by being true to ourselves and express our wholeness. If we were to do this we risk losing love and acceptance.
In conforming to family and societal rules, we essentially create a lost self, a self whose aspects of thinking, feeling, acting, sensing and being go underground and under-develop.
Here are some examples:-
• The little boy who was told not to cry, “to be a man” will grow into a man who cannot show his feelings
• The little girl who was told “It’s not ladylike to show anger” will suppress expressing discontentment as an adult
• The child that was told “don’t think for yourself” will find it difficult as an adult to be confident enough to make decisions and to express opinions.
Because we crave our original wholeness we miss these parts of ourselves. In searching for our Imago match, a person who carries these lost parts will initially be very attractive. We may even refer to them as our other half.
Whilst we are initially tremendously attracted to these traits, after time we may come to dislike and despise them in our partner. This is because unconsciously we recognize that this is a trait that we deny in ourselves and had to give up in order to be accepted by our caregivers.
If we want to have happy, joyful relationships we need to consciously take steps to reclaim our lost traits, accept that they are a part of ourselves which we have previously denied or disowned. Oftentimes a relationship will end because we are frustrated that our partner is “not like me”. We can change the relationship, still attracting a partner who has traits that we have lost and we then journey on the same cycle over and over again. In summary; We have it, we lose it, we miss it, we meet it, we marry it and then we try to kill it!
Imago Relationship Counselling provides the structure and safety to help a couple uncover their lost self. Read more about Imago Relationship Counselling here and here to learn more about the Imago match
Read Suzanne E. Harrill’s article on Finding And Reclaiming The Lost Self here