Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Psychological Skin

I recently heard the term "Psychological Skin", and fell in love with it. We humans are such complex creatures, much like Shrek describes Ogers; we are like onions with many layers.

If man possesses a psychological self, surely he possesses an intellectual, emotional and physical self as well. With all these layers of self, it is no wonder human relationships are so complicated. For every person we relate to, we are interacting with at least four layers of who they might be, while they are interacting with the four layers of who we might be. So when you think there are two of you in the room, there are actually eight.

When relating to others, it is nearly impossible to know what that individual has experienced and subsequently, how he has perceived his past experiences. The adult self is a result of the sum experiences and perceptions of the child self.

We get one psychological skin in life. If that skin has been battered and bruised by verbal, emotional or physical abuse as a child, the psychological self of that individual will certainly be more sensitive later in life. What may ignite the emotions in one, may not in another. How and what we react to as adults, lies parallel to what we experienced as children.

I learned very early in life, that I could not trust my mother with "me". It was not safe to cry, to feel, to want or to need. As a result, to prevent feeling unaccepted by my mother for "feeling", I learned to disown my emotional self. It was the way I learned to cope. Feeling unaccepted far outweighed my need for hugs and kisses then.

Sensitive to feeling overpowered, I learned to stay on guard, and as an adult I still am. So often consumed by my mothers anger, I now refuse to be put under the emotional thumb of another. It is a conditioned response I must learn to acknowledge when dealing with others. It is a human condition of mine that has both aided as well as hindered me in my life.

My adult skin; the one that holds the many layers of all else that make me me, still lives in the psychological skin of my many yesterdays. It is my intellectual self however, that helps me ease the old battle wounds of the past.

When relating to others, it is important to try and understand what thoughts have created this mind. Was this psychological being hurt, demeaned, tormented, or perhaps content and joyful as a child? Had this mind felt powerless? Was this being taught to control, manipulate, or throw tantrums to get his/her way? Was anger the one emotion that masked all others?

My best friend was verbally abused as a child. Her father was a rageaholic. She feared him. She feared his words. As an adult, she has become him. When she was young, she could not protect herself from him she thought. As she grew older, somewhere inside she would refuse to ever be in that situation again. Today she is her father. Today her children fear her just as she once feared her own parent.

Thankfully my friend is working on her psychological self through her intellectually self, with the help of her emotional self. She is courageously committed to self actualization and is doing very well on her journey towards self awareness.

It is helpful to grasp the concept of "many selves" when dealing with others. It is healing to also comprehend the idea that we are too, "many selves". Our reactions to things are very much tied to our experiences from the past. In order to heal today, it is necessary to go back to the place in time when skin was first wounded.