INTEGRATION #2 Younger Self vs Adult Identity
If you remember last week’s message about Locus of Control, you know I think it’s a first step along the integration journey.
Hopefully, many of you have gone online and taken the free assessment I linked and now have a better idea of how to improve your locus scores.
This week, I want to bring your attention to the reconciliation between your Younger Self and your Adult Identity.
I’m not a “trauma is everything” type as I don’t think that’s useful.
I don’t mean any disrespect to the traumatized out there, and I count myself among them, it’s just that it can become shrouded in avoidance, like a dark and humid basement a child dare not go into (I have one of those).
It can become an excuse too.
As in “why do you drink?” Answer: “I have trauma, man!” You stopped drinking and started again, why? “I have trauma, man…”
Now the brain is thinking “how else it can leverage this to avoid taking responsibility and continue to live according to my whims?”
That’s not for you.
However, I will tell you that you are run by your nervous system and conscious awareness is along for the ride.
Furthermore, your nervous system is trained by experiences.
In fact, there is nothing new to the brain, it compares everything in front of it to what it has seen before.
Been to a lake as a kid and now you stand before the ocean, the brain says, “I have seen big water before.”
Drive into the Rockies for the first time, the brain says, “I’ve seen hills.”
Not only that, if you feel something today, you have likely felt it before.
The brain takes your databank of prior experiences and comes up with instant hypotheses about the circumstances you are in which you then disprove or confirm using the social reality before you.
So, let me repeat: if you feel something today, you have likely felt it before.
This also means that if you want to feel differently, you must do new things to provide your brain with new concepts to use going forward.
This facet of integration becomes necessary because of the way the brain adapts during aging.
Studies show us that even a one-year-old child knows if someone is treating them or others unfairly. Children have a keen survival sense, and know how they are being fucked over (if at all) by the people around them as they grow.
When a child encounters situations they find unfair or where they feel powerless, or where they are of “two minds,” their rudimentary operating system will step in “to deny, repress, or distort, inner and/or outer reality to lessen anxiety and depression.” (Vaillant, 1998)
Conforming with caregiver imperatives helps two-fold: to keep you alive and to become socialized (if you are reading this, the first imperative was successful: a cause to celebrate! while the latter is a work in progress).
This operating system is installed in a child mainly through language, often under a “threat and reward” (carrot and stick, if you will) style of parenting.
This full nervous system OS is also known the the ego… and is continuously updated throughout childhood.
Only a man’s prefrontal cortex doesn’t come online fully until he’s aged twenty-five or thirty.
At which point, absent parental feedback, he becomes totally responsible for his own neuroplasticity.
He needs to do his own operating system updates.
Failing this, parts of his existence will still be run by his Younger Self.
You can imagine (and might already suspect or know) how this turns out.
He encounters some situation and responds emotionally out of context, leaving himself and those around him dissatisfied and uncertain.
Some men build a defensive wall of denial in order to manage shameful feelings that are often decades old in origin.
And, the bitch is these things in a man’s life don’t tend to get better on their own. They tend to get worse.
In fact, if you consider the human life cycle and peg life expectancy at eighty-two years, the low point average in happiness is age forty-seven.
I know from working with hundreds of men that this has much to do with failing to update our operating system by integrating the Younger Self with a strong and powerful Adult Identity.
When you do the work, in some ways you in effect become your own father.
It’s up to you now and forever. Parents often regress to “old children” as they near the end of life. You become their parent.
This is part of that process.
Understanding your past frees you to create a compelling future.
That’s part of what it means to Integrate. You reparent yourself.
It requires courage… but is the best work you will ever do.
Nothing I have done on the personal development front has been more rewarding. Despite looking like I had it together, I suffered..
After carrying a secret “piece of shit” shame for fifty years, I did the work using plenty of curiousity and acceptance, and was finally free.
I want that for you too.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” said Joseph Campbell.
Stay powerful, true and free…