THE IDEALIZED SELF-IMAGE
Key Extracts from Lecture 83
© The Pathwork® Foundation 1999
Now I would like to discuss the most important countermeasure man resorts to in the false belief that it will circumvent unhappiness, unpleasure, death, never realizing that this very countermeasure not only does not avoid, but brings on the very thing that is most dreaded and fought against. This common, universal pseudoprotection is the creation of the idealized self-image… It is supposed to be a means of avoiding unhappiness… But since the self-confidence established through the idealized self is artificial and not genuine, the result cannot possibly be what was expected. Actually the consequence is quite the contrary and frustrating only because cause and effect are not obvious to the person. It may take him a great deal of life experience and inner will to find the truth about himself. Then and then only will he slowly discover the links between the unhappiness and his idealized self-image.
Let us now consider some of the general effects of the existence of the idealized self and some of the implications. Since the standards and dictates of the idealized self are impossible to realize, yet never giving up the attempt, you keep and cultivate within yourself an inner tyranny of the worst order. But since you do not realize the impossibility of being as perfect as your idealized self demands, you never give up whipping yourself, castigating yourself, and feeling yourself a complete failure whenever it is proven that you cannot do so. The sense of abject worthlessness comes over you whenever you fall short of these fantastic demands, and engulfs you in misery. This misery may at times be conscious, but most of the time it is not. Even if it is, you do not realize the entire significance, the impossibility of your demands. And when you try to hide your reactions to your own ‘failure,’ you take to special means in order not to become aware of your ‘failure.’ One of the most common devices is projection into the outer world, onto others, onto life. This we have discussed at length in the past, but you will now understand the deepest reason of such projections. The more you try to identify with your idealized self-image, the harder is the disillusionment whenever life brings you into a position when this masquerade can no longer be maintained. Many a personal crisis is based on this factor, and much less on the outer difficulties.
Sense of failure, frustration, and compulsion, as well as guilt and shame, are the most outstanding indications of your idealized self being at work. These are the consciously felt emotions of all that lies hidden underneath. The idealized self has been called into existence in order to attain self-confidence and therefore, finally, happiness, pleasure supreme. The stronger its existence or presence, the more genuine self-confidence or remnants of it fade away. Since you cannot live up to these standards, you think even less of yourself than you originally did. It is therefore obvious that genuine self-confidence can only be established when you remove the superstructure of this merciless tyrant of your idealized self.
When you make the very first steps toward giving up the idealized self, you will feel a sense of liberation as never before. Then will you truly be born again. That is, your real self will emerge. Then you will rest within your real self, being centered within. Then and then only will you truly succeed in making yourself grow… This will change many things. First will come changes in your reactions to life, to incidents, to yourself and others. This changed reaction will be quite astounding enough. But little by little, outer things are also bound to change. Your different attitude will cause new effects.
The words are very insufficient. You have rather to sense what I mean. But you will know exactly what I mean when you have arrived at weakening your idealized self considerably by the mere process of fully understanding its function, its causes and effects. Then you will gain the great freedom of giving yourself to life because you no longer have to hide something from yourself and others. You will be able to squander yourself into life, not in an unhealthy, unreasonable way, but healthily as nature squanders herself. Then and then only will you know the beauty of living. You cannot approach this most important part of your inner work by a general concept. As usual, your most insignificant daily reactions, considered from this viewpoint, will yield the necessary result. So continue your self-search out of these new considerations, and do not be impatient if it takes time and relaxed effort.
Of course, you are not perfect in your real self. It is a complex of everything you are at the moment. Of course, you have your basic egocentricity. But since you own up to it, you can cope with it. You can learn to understand it and therefore diminish it with each new insight in this respect. Then you will truly experience the following words. The more egocentric you are, the less can you have of self-confidence. The idealized self believes just the opposite. Its claims for perfection are motivated by sheerly egocentric reasons. And this very egocentricity makes self-confidence impossible. So this great freedom of coming home, my friends, is finding your way back to the real you. The expression ‘coming home’ has often been used in spiritual literature and teachings. But it has been much misunderstood. It is often interpreted to mean the return into the spirit world after physical death. Much more is meant by coming home. You may die many deaths, one earth life after another, but if you have not found your real self, you cannot come home. You must be lost and remain lost until you do find the way into the center of your being. On the other hand, you can find your way home right here and right now while you are still in the body. When you muster the courage of becoming your real self, even though it would seem to be much less than the idealized self, you will find out that it is much more. And then you will have the peace of being at home within yourself. Then will you find security. Then will you function as a whole human being. Then will you have eliminated the iron whip of a task master whom it is impossible to obey. Then will you know what peace and security really means. You will cease, once and for all, to seek it by false means.