Sense-of-Self Help Introduction
The Start of My Inner Quest
The development of the Sense of Self Method began nearly 30 years ago when I, as a new mother, went on a personal quest in order to end severe insomnia. Now, this book represents part of a growing business, research, and educational project. Publishing this Method is the realization of my vision to contribute to a better life for each individual on a personal level, and on a bigger scale for the world at large.
It is 1985, and my daughter is three months old; it is time to return to work. I have a job as a bassoonist in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the six weeks of maternity leave have come to an end. Why am I suddenly unable to drift off into a well-deserved and refreshing sleep, just when I need it most? Being a new mother is quite a challenge by itself, especially when your child is born prematurely. She was as tiny as a Barbie doll, my first-born. Combining the care of my baby with being in shape for my job required a clear mind and a well-rested body, but… I couldn’t sleep!
“No doubt I’m having trouble adjusting to my new situation. I trust it will gradually solve itself,” I reassured myself. But it didn’t. One night I would sleep reasonably well and the next two nights there would be little or no sleep at all. Not that I actually worried about something while lying in bed; no, my mind was totally blank. Nothing stirred. I had no idea what was going on.
In the months that followed the onset of this insomnia, I tried to cope in many ways. “Have a glass of hot milk before you go to bed,” was my mother’s advice. “A glass of red wine,” a well-meaning friend suggested. “Stop doing anything an hour before you go to bed and do relaxation exercises,” was someone else’s advice. “No coffee for you!” I was ordered by many people. “No garlic and no peppers,” was the remedy from a Tibetan healer, along with his prescription of a great number of bitter brown pills that made no difference. My doctor provided me with sleep medications, and yes, they did put me to sleep. But the moment I stopped taking them, it was over. I did not sleep anymore. As medical causes for my constant insomnia were ruled out, I despaired: “What else is left for me now but a lifetime of medication?”
I refused to start on that journey. I figured that sleeping is a natural process and if my sleep was being thwarted, there had to be a reason. I was determined to discover that reason. So I turned inward in my quest for the cause and the cure of what kept me awake at night and that was so damaging to my quality of life. It affected my ability to mother my child, maintain my health and resume my career, not to mention what it was doing to our family life.
In hindsight, I can say that I had more problems than just insomnia. They included an extreme temper. If things did not go the way I wanted, I would burst out in anger and blame everyone and the world for it. Even my best friend expressed her concern about my temper. My co-musicians complained that they felt I lacked team spirit. I had frequent colds on crucial performance days. “Your timing is off in ensemble-playing,” my colleagues pointed out candidly. I had taken singing lessons on the side but whenever I made a commitment to sing my throat would act up.
I tried changing things outside myself: practicing like crazy, taking more lessons, getting help at home. Not a thing I tried had the desired result; as looking outside of me didn’t really help with the problems, gradually I began to observe what was going on inside of me. I started to observe my thoughts and behavior. I delved deeper into all the things I was worrying about instead of pushing them away. “What are my motives for what I do or for what I try to avoid?” I wondered. What was the underlying reason for my explosions of rage, which seemed so out of proportion to what actually took place on those moments?
A Mini-Disc recorder became my confidante. I began to record my thoughts and feelings. For 25 years, I talked to and studied myself, trying to make sense of what motivated me and I noticed that often I seemed to work against, instead of in favor of, my personal goals and ambitions. I discovered my choices were based on subconscious, not conscious, motives. Decades later, an understanding emerged about what was really going on in my mind that previously had been totally outside the spotlight of my awareness. I was shocked time and again to find what I started to call my Hidden Agenda.
I discovered that I had motives that I had never considered. Some of the emotions I experienced on a daily basis were reactions to things I had no conscious awareness of. To my surprise, I realized I had many fears. So I followed the trail back to the roots of my fears and I learned what kept me imprisoned and why certain motives were still as active in me as when I was a child or an adolescent. I had yet to understand the reasons for my fears or for my insomnia. All I was able to create was a map, and as we all know, “The map is not the territory.” However, this map has proved very useful to me in changing the territory of my life, both internally and externally.
Many years later, I was able to describe the nature of many of my problems; I had to conclude that they stemmed from an unhealthy relationship with my mother. Unknowingly, an enmeshment had formed between the woman who had raised me and me. This state of enmeshment prevented me from developing any sense of being an independent and autonomous person. It kept me spellbound to try to live up to her conditions.
Something Was Missing: My Sense of Self
In my search for the truth that would enable me to break free from my predicament, the discovery I made was quite unexpected, and one that I dreaded to even say aloud. It was the hardest truth I ever had to face, and even now it chills my heart.
The role and function of a mother is revered, and therefore I did not find anys support among my family (father, brother, and sister) and even among friends, in contemplating the possibility that there might be any fault in the relationship between my mother and me. Even the Bible protects her: “Honor your father and your mother,” one of the commandments states. But how can we respectfully find a solution if things do not follow the commonly accepted picture of all-encompassing love? Can we even allow ourselves to look at the (our) mother and find that she is just a person who has her own demons to fight? Should we not admit that, unless the mother is able and willing to get a clear sense of her shortcomings, she will not be able to attend to the needs of her child in a sufficient or optimal way? What I found was that I had never felt acknowledged and respected as a (valued) unique human being but that I had been treated as a pawn in her own game of life, which had thwarted in me the development of a healthy Sense of Self.
(Preface, pp xix)
Instead of having an inner “home base” for my “me-ness,” I depended on getting approval, mainly from my mother but also my father. Sometimes it wasn’t my mother but a replacement for them, like another “authority figure,” who triggered in me the same need to feel accepted. Sometimes it just was, what I call, “virtual parental approval,” as I had internalized most of their opinions and judgments, having been focused on them throughout my life.
(Preface, pp xx)
My life was quite an emotional jungle. My journey was mainly about finding my way through this entanglement by constantly scrutinizing and interpreting my symptoms—at whatever moments I could get out of the whirlpool of being absorbed by them. This task took over my life and by and by led me to follow a different path. This book is the result of that process.
Since then, my quality of life has gone way up. I am happier, healthier, more playful, and more successful. Occasionally I fall back, as I still need to refresh my reconditioning every so often. Through that, I can reach again, on the deepest level, the certainty that my being and my doing are separate. In order to be I do not have to do; in order to do I first have to be; then I have the choice of doing or not doing. My Being is no longer correlated with, or dependent on my Doing.
I can say wholeheartedly that every day, getting into the right mind-set and experiencing my Restored Sense of Self comes more easily. It needs to be said: My method of restoring one’s Sense of Self is not a quick fix. However, everything is better than skipping your own life altogether—and honestly, it is mighty interesting as well!
I feel moved to share my story and my findings in the hope and expectation that you will find value in it. This sharing has required devoting myself nearly full-time for several years to developing the materials you are seeing. What motivated me to put in so much effort?
I have learned in the course of my healing process that we can break the vicious cycle, which perpetuates an unhealthy SoS from one generation to the next, by making our own SoS healthier. Once we will have taken care of our own SoS, we will be able to effectively facilitate a healthy SoS in our children. Then everyone’s quality of life will improve considerably. There will be less violence, less war, less human suffering. I take pride in reporting about my life’s journey so others can learn from my experiences and thus make this world a better place.
Sharing my findings with you, with the world, also fulfills a vow I made as a four-year-old girl looking at the ruins of World War II.
My Vow as a Little Girl
I was born in the Netherlands right after World War II. Even though I was not alive during the war, I vividly recall listening to my father’s stories about the horrors that happened during the Holocaust. I remember walking with him over the ruins of the city in which he was born and raised, Groningen (see Figure P.1). I have stored in my memory in detail the atrocious acts of war I picked up on with my four-year-old ears. Is it a wonder that my firm decision, my vow to myself that I had to do something to make wars stop, was firmly engraved in my mind, even though I was just a little girl?
Little did I know that life would offer me an opportunity to contribute to the understanding of human behavior by having me grow up with a “lack of Sense of Self.” Through the task of figuring out what was “off” in my life, I gained a deep understanding of what is “off” with the world and, with that, of what could be the healing procedure.
Now, more than half a century later, my vow is ready to start its work. My contribution to humanity is to help bring peace in the family, peace among people in general. My Sense of Self Method greatly helps to establish peace within the heart and mind of each individual. When we have a clear SoS, we can find peace within ourselves. Only when we have peace within ourselves we are able to solve conflicts with others in a non-violent way.
My findings are the fruits of my life experience and intense effort to understand the ultimate cause of my personal problems. The root cause of these problems (and possibly yours) might even be quite similar to the root cause of war.
By studying the SoS Method, you will—I believe with all my heart—not only experience a decrease in the number and level of intensity of your own problems, and finally get a good night’s sleep, but also contribute to a more peaceful, war-free world.
Ending the war within ourselves through gaining a Restored Sense of Self will lead us to happier and more productive lives. Finding our “inner home” may also help prevent wars between people, between groups of people or between nations. I truly hope that the impact of the concepts of this Method is clear and that it may help you and your loved ones to become more successful and live up to your potential.
The essence of this message is that once we gain the ability and the courage to honor our own spirit, we automatically gain an ease about letting others honor theirs, and no fighting is needed to establish who has the power. We can just be who we were born to be.
Now let us get ready to work our way toward our goal of less human suffering!
(Preface, pp xxiii)
The SoS Method will remain a living work in progress for some time to come. I invite you to share your thoughts, thus helping to turn this educational work from a Method into a practical healing method and giving more people a chance to improve their quality of life.
To those who want to use the Method for healing purposes: Healing through a self-help method is hard work; I hope that this Method will help you heal faster and with less pain along the way.
Who Will Benefit from Working with This Method?
It is likely that you will be able to improve the quality of your life if any of the following describe you:
- Something is “off” but you are unable to find what it is.
- You know you are not living up to your potential.
- Doctors and therapists don’t make you better.
- You have relationship challenges: marriage, children, social.
- You are addicted to work or other activities or behavior.
- You have a terrible time staying sober.
- You are in pain physically or emotionally.
My insight is quite unconventional. Who would think that there are people walking around in this life without a SoS? What does that actually imply? Please don’t toss out the idea too quickly just because you think it is unusual and therefore probably doesn’t apply to you. Or just because you don’t like the idea of applying it to yourself—the degree to which denial plays a role in all this is impressive. There are many people walking around without a healthy and Natural SoS.
We now know that the solution is to restore or strengthen your SoS. Then we are no longer ruled by unhealthy and (in hindsight completely obsolete and unnecessary) subconscious motivations, which too often can be the cause of many problems and pains.
Educating ourselves about, and then healing, our SoS might alleviate an impressive array of problems. An astounding variety of ill health, lack of well-being, general or specific dysfunctions, and in general feeling miserable seem to all come down to the root cause of lacking a healthy SoS.
Some of these problems and pains include but are not limited to the following:
Relationship problems in general
Addictions of many kinds
Relapse during recovery from addiction to substance use
Anger issues and rage
Being held back by “invisible glass ceilings”
Too much drama
Not living up to one’s potential
Lack of focus or learning problems in children
The symptoms and problems show up differently for each of us and vary with our circumstances. The strength of the SoS Method is that it functions as an umbrella for a great number of ailments and dysfunctions. In other words, the root cause of a lot of dysfunction and disease may, I believe, be greatly relieved by having a Restored Sense of Self (RestSoS).
No pills, potions, doctor’s visits, new religion, or new technology is needed, though some people might require assistance or professional help. You are your own expert. That fact, together with understanding and applying the SoS Method, can give you great tools to solve a variety of issues you might have and deeply enhance your life!
What Is Required from You?
Getting to the answer to your challenges requires your open-minded willingness to look around inside your mind and feelings and be honest about what you find. I offer you suggestions of what to look for. If you find what I think you will find, you can apply to yourself the suggestions and solutions that worked for me. The Method is logical and easy to understand. There are stories and examples, and the basics are repeated on a regular basis. Once you get the ideas, you are well on your way to your own healing!
There also is a chance that you already have a healthy Natural Sense of Self. In that case you might want to read the book out of interest or to help understand your clients or even your friends. There is much to learn that can help you do better business with people once you have a clearer view on where they might be coming from.
There Is No Perfect Solution But . . .
For many of the problems and choices we face in life, there simply isn’t the option to find a one and only best solution. Sometimes we need to set priorities or give in to the limitations of our personal circumstances. But one thing every caregiver can do is this: Consider your children as independent, autonomous human beings and not as extensions of yourself! Having a healthy SoS yourself enables you to do just that. If you feel that is a challenge for you, then please find the courage to undertake the steps necessary to work your own way to a healthy Restored Sense of Self. This will enable you to create a better future for yourself, for your child, and for the world!
In a nutshell, that is the purpose and goal, the hope and the vision, of the SoS Method and the activities of our company, HealthySenseOfSelf.