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How Negativity In Relationships Gives Rise To A False Sense Of Self

By Guest Blogger,

Philosophy as well as Psychology are replete with insights into authentic (or true) self and false self. A vast quantum of research is already available in psychology around true (or authentic) and false self since Donald Winnicott introduced the concepts in 1960. What we need in day to day living is a practical awareness of how a false sense of self arises as we interact with people with whom we find it difficult to be positive and our best self. It helps us be our authentic self.

A little deep observation makes it clear that negativity in relationships gives rise to a false sense of self. It distances one from one’s authentic self and reduces the spontaneity and the joy of being which characterize the authentic self and is the basis of great and lasting relationships. So the costs of getting caught in negativity in relationships are pretty dear but a little deep awareness can save us from the real losses and rather bring us immeasurable gains.

Whether it’s one’s own negativity or others’, either way it promotes the construction of a false sense of self on either side or both. As it gets into an interactive mode it happens with both the sides. In fact as two (or even more) sides get into an interactive mode when negativity is returned by negativity it’s a clear sign that both (or all) are getting caught in a false sense of self.

If we could see and be deeply aware of the process how a false sense of self is constructed as one tends to be unaccommodating (I don’t like this person!) around negativity (He is simply intolerable!) it can help us deconstruct it or, rather, not let it build up and be one’s authentic self (Why should I get caught up in stray instances of seemingly intolerable behavior of anyone? Instead of being reactive, I should keep open and try to be more understanding and empathetic).

Let us get into the phenomenon a bit deeper to see it more clearly. As I firm up the feeling, ‘I don’t like someone’, I partly attach my identity to not liking that person. As the feeling becomes more deep rooted we even tend to derive our sense of identity from it (I just can’t tolerate him and his likes) and be proactively defensive (This person must be maligning my image before others, I must be cautious in interacting with people close to him!) or aggressive (I should brief my people about him!)

When we thus bracket and dismiss a person to the disliked category  (remember that) the person cannot be (finally) deleted from our memory unlike a file from a computer’s memory. The very act of disliking and dismissing someone (I don’t like such type of people! I have absolutely nothing to do with them!) creates a distinct identity for the person in my mind and memory and a counter identity for myself (I am a different sort of person! My values and aspirations are different!) which is seemingly a complete antithesis to that person. This counter identity and antithesis is the false self which is an artificially constructed self and never the authentic self. In fact we go on constructing many such false selves which we pit against respective people whom we have disliked and dismissed. This immensely complicates the course of our lives both as individuals and organizations. This is how the process goes on when negativity comes to dominate relationships:

I don’t like the person!
I simply don’t like the type!
It doesn’t resonate with who I am!

These propositions clearly implicate:

A distinct entity that has hardened likes and dislikes.
An egocentric construct that can see people as flat types.
A judgmental center that accepts or rejects people on the basis of its own conditions and parameters.

All these implications refer to the process of building up a false sense of self. One can get into a similar negativity mode with an organization:

The culture of this organization is rather different from what I’ve been accustomed to!
There are many things which I don’t like!
They simply don’t resonate with who I am!

But I hear you asking me what if someone is really intolerable and you  really don’t like that person. I would counter question you, can you put that person and your feelings about her or him just at the edge of your mind and consciousness and not let them enter deep within yourself as you just don’t like them? (This incapability to keep a person, whom one doesn’t like, on the edge of one’s mind and consciousness hints at the formation of a false sense of self around him.)

I hear you asking yet another question and more challenging to resolve, aren’t there people who are intolerable? Yes, there are! But should we let their intlolerability make us intolerant as we get to interact with them? When someone whom we find intolerable (as in normal relationships it’s simply some subjective parameter and measure which gives rise to variation in mutual feelings) generates a hardening response within us at every instance we interact with that person or even remember them we tend to concretize feelings of intolerance within us.

Let us go a step farther. What if that person tends to get brutal if you go on tolerating him? In fact brutality frames and isolates itself and often gets into the clutches of law if it borders on criminality where its hardened nature socially alienates itself. But even in those cases we, as a sensible society, have to work positively on the pathology of hardened human (sensibilities and) behaviors. Of course within the frame of law and reformative measures that our culture permits.

So is the authentic self all accommodating? Are there no likes and dislikes in the authentic self?

First of all, an authentic self beats in rhythm and harmony with the spontaneous throb of life, the joy of being. Abiding in the joy of being builds up adequate reserves of love and compassion to admit and accommodate variety of life, selves, temperaments and behaviors without developing any antagonism with them. Instead of saying I don’t like the person, the type, it doesn’t resonate with me; one feels and says, how different this person is from me, it will be wonderful to look at things from his angle and viewpoint. It is so enriching to learn from people with different outlooks. This is how an authentic self is more accommodating and therefore has greater leadership potential. So instead of personal likes and dislikes in a false self we have a natural base for a genuine cosmopolitan outlook in an authentic self.

 This article was originally published by Thrive Global

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