Recommended Reading for the Online Course: Unit 9
Unit 9 – Putting it all together: Are You Riding an Emotional Rollercoaster?
Life in a SSoS-oriented Way
Living in a Substitute Sense of Self-oriented way is a life based on fiction because it involves, although subconsciously, a fictional Self. People live the fiction that getting approval is necessary to have a sort of self- experience: ‘I won’t exist unless I get approval.’ They live with this in order to experience anything resembling their right to exist. And they need the continuous influx of feeling good about themselves while never being aware of the falseness of the construct.
The term substitute in this Method connotes that a Substitute SoS is unhealthy. When we are guided by and anchored in a Substitute SoS, we go through life in an inauthentic way. We are not in touch with nor able to express the core of our own being, nor are we in touch with our repressed natural, authentic needs, feelings, motives, and desires.
Because the Substitute SoS has taken the place of our never-developed Natural SoS, on a subconscious level we never feel that we are fully existing, which is a cause of ongoing anger and sadness. Because of this nonexistence of our Authentic Self, (it is there but we don’t sense it) feelings are blocked or dried up, which leads to the inability to experience joy or pleasure in normally pleasurable acts.
We are guided daily by what Vehicles will best help us fulfill our Ego-References and achieve the Fgas state; we engage in activities that are not really of our own choosing. We may study music not for the joy of music, but to fulfill the desire of a caregiver, or we may wash dishes not because we enjoy a tidy kitchen, but to satisfy something else, perhaps our parents’ insistence that the kitchen always be spotless.
So as you can see, in this process, although the body is not destroyed, eventually there is a near extinction of a person’s spirit and psyche. The person is always conforming to something external, never free to know and express his or her real nature; the real potential Self never develops, and once this Substitute SoS-orientation has settled in, it becomes our identity.
After years of constrained, contorted behavioral compulsions from their Early Childhood Survival Strategies (ECSS), children start to identify with the ego-referent behavior: The behavior is part and parcel of their SoS, which in reality is only a Substitute SoS. Working to fulfill the conditions becomes not only their identity, but the only reason for living. Life for them becomes one big struggle to live up to all the (self-imposed) conditions to constantly renew this fictional identity.
When people do not notice that this psycho-emotional pattern is operating, they are bound to repeat it. These people are not in touch with themselves and are merely juggling to experience the Substitute SoS as much as possible. The poignant drama here is that they are skipping their own lives altogether, and aren’t growing and maturing. These people are not the masters of their own lives; they are slaves to the force of nature that is fulfilling the Ego-References and achieving the Fgas emotional state. People caught in this Substitute SoS-oriented life miss out on a life that is their “own.” In a way, we could even say that their worst fear is true: They don’t really exist! In the long run, that can cause many addictions and diseases, big and small.
Personally, I dare say that I must have missed out on quite a number of years of active presence while being the slave of my Ego-References.
In the grip of these imperious imperatives, the only thing we see is our own point of view, which is all about fulfillment of our Ego-References. There is no room for another person to be truly seen or heard or acknowledged. All people are merely pawns in the game of fulfilling our Ego-References. And through our actions and behaviors, others sense our inauthenticity. They perceive us subliminally as being uncaring, insincere, and distant—which, indeed, we are!
The Harmful Effects of the Addiction to (or Dependency on) a SSoS
Unhealthy motivations, like Hidden Agendas, are fairly common, and people employing them would not necessarily be called mentally ill. But Hidden Agendas are bad for you*; once you become aware that you have them you had better make sure that you do not allow them to take over your life They are not about the present day but aim at compensating for past traumatic experiences and tend to lead to many kinds of suffering in oneself and in others, though. The actions which function as Vehicles for our Hidden Agendas are, as said before, everyday little actions and activities. It all may seem pretty harmless. Not so.
Here are the harmful effects that stem from Indirect Motivation and indirectly from the dependency of a Substitute SoS:
Addiction to the Substitute SoS leads to compulsive task fulfilling behavior:
When behaviors have a hidden (subconscious) agenda of getting approval, they become compulsive and addictive. If succeeding in achieving the agenda feels at risk, we can erupt in rage and violence, become overwhelmed by these emotions, and not know why! Or we can become chronically depressed, as well as suffer from disease, insomnia, relationship-problems and many other types of human suffering. All of these can be traced to one root cause: being motivated by the Hidden Agenda of getting approval. By cleaning up your motivation, you not only improve your quality of life; you also help make the world a better place.
I am not a doctor so I cannot go into specifics. However, it seems to me that much physical distress might be the direct result of the dependency on a Substitute SoS, possibly even auto-immune disorders (see Comparison Chart and Map of Healing). Might it be possible that where no self is taking possession of the body the body turns against itself? This is an important question that others will have to test. At the risk of not knowing what I am talking about it seems worth it to me, to express my hunch at this place in the book.
The various types of fear, including but not limited to anxiety, fear of failure, Fear of Annihilation, certain cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, certain phobias, and general isolation.
Common depression. I have a hunch that there are many more symptoms that are the immediate result of the addiction to or dependency on a Substitute SoS for your self-experience.
There is a lot more to say about all kinds of dysfunctions we encounter on a daily basis in our lives as well as in society as a whole: violence, suicidal thoughts or acts, divorce, greed, bullying, frequent fights in families, and many more . . . The purpose of this book does not permit going into more detail about those. For now, we focus on getting the SoS Method verbalized and out to the world. It is our intention as the company HEALTHYSENSEOFSELF to study all aspects of dysfunction and disease that could possibly benefit from our body of work. We welcome any experts in those fields to join us.
Mental and/or emotional problems: Including a lack of the ability to focus, heightened sensitivity to criticism, unstoppable urge to hurry up in everything you do, memory problems, learning problems (math!) for children, inability to experience feelings, and so many more . . .
(Chapter 7, pp 89)
…what started out as a strategy for the child to get his needs met has now grown into a full-blown, but extremely unhealthy, irrelevant and self-ignoring way of being. When the child’s Substitute SoS-oriented Goal has reached a new phase and the whole of the Substitute SoS-oriented System has come into place, it starts to rule and further form the (young) adult. In this system, the person, as he or she grows, builds on the earlier observations and strivings from childhood and, as a young adult, identifies (mistakenly) this way of being as being his or her natural self. Such a person always needs to achieve and has no inner place to rest. This exhausting, debilitating, and stressful lifestyle is the overture to the next phase: exhaustion, burnout, or disease.
(Chapter 8, pp 103-108)
In review, we develop a Substitute SoS-oriented System through the following experiences:
- We receive Mirroring from a Distorted Mirror (i.e., a caregiver/parent who is self-absorbed) that states, ‘You are not unconditionally OK,’ which makes us believe that we are not worth being taken into account the way we are.
- From this Mirroring, we perceive that we are deficient in some way and that we are to blame for not being acknowledged as a unique human being with the right to be the way we are. We experience Annihilation (our spirit is not acknowledged). We don’t develop the spine for our psyche, a healthy Sense of Self. We develop Fear of Annihilation and become totally absorbed in avoiding Annihilation.
- To avoid feeling annihilated, we observe what pleases the parent and adopt complying to these aspects, turning that adaptation into our Early Childhood Survival Strategy (ECSS).
- With every repetition, we identify more with these observations and they become Ego-References.
- We use Vehicles as an excuse or as a cover-up to perform the Ego-References.
- Over time we strive to fulfill our Ego-References; each time with a need to complete it better than before, with one specific agenda in mind that we are not aware of—approval from the caregiver/parent or, if he or she is no longer with us, from our Internalized Parent Voice (IPV).
- When we bring our Ego-Reference to a good ending, we experience our Hidden Agenda, in other words we experience the ‘Feel-good-about-Self state, which functions as our Substitute SoS.
- Because the Fgas-state is fleeting, we have to begin the process over and over again in order to make sure we can experience it as if it were permanently available. And each time we are more determined to succeed in achieving our Ego-Reference’s goal. It is this unknown goal that drives us. We are not consciously aware of it and mistakenly take it for a reason for living.
- We suffer from many other Substitute SoS-oriented fears, ailments, and disorders, such as Fear of Failure, Fear to not be able to function, Fear of our own emotions and behavior.
A Substitute SoS is kept in place in the person’s psyche only through constant re-creation through this complex system of dependencies, conditions to be met, motivations, the Hidden Goal/Agenda, emotions, and behaviors.
The Complex Emotional World of the Substitute SoS-oriented System
How can we start to understand the psycho-emotional makeup of a person who is governed by a Substitute SoS-oriented System for self-experience? I refer to my own experiences here, but a detailed, “linear” description of all emotional aspects that were at play within me when I was still totally Substitute Sense of Self–oriented is hard to give.
For me, it meant that the emotions in the family where I grew up must have been quite overwhelming. In fact, as a young adult, I felt a distance between myself and most of the common things people seemed to be preoccupied with—things that would upset them or make them happy. I had made a decision not to be bothered by them and to focus on how to do things differently. Later in life though, when I became a mother, I needed to review this strategy because there was no escape from the trivialities and logistics in life at that point: I had to learn to deal with it all.
There are two predominant emotions in a person who has a Substitute SoS: the Fear of Annihilation and the Fgas state. Fear is the basic motivation for doing what it takes to get to a Fgas, and they seesaw back and forth. When one is high, the other is low. There is never a stable situation, because the Fgas state never lasts for long before it fades and requires the next “fix” of approval. When it fades, the Fear of Annihilation gets stronger. (Note that a Fgas state does not survive a good night’s sleep—hence, insomnia.)
The Soup of Substitute SoS-related Goals and Emotions
The complexity of all the emotions that a Substitute Sense of Self generates in a person is best compared to soup: Everything is in it but you do not recognize the individual ingredients. So I’ve decided to describe my psycho-emotional makeup as if it were soup. Everybody’s soup tastes differently, even though many of the ingredients might be the same. My goal in creating this description is for you to get insight into what “laws” are at work when you combine some of these psycho-emotional ingredients:
- Normal quality-of-life events and emotions;
- “Holy decisions,” such as “I am never going to do this or that; I am always going to be such and such; I’m absolutely going to do things in a different way compared to my parents; I am going to be different from everybody else.”;
- The two sides of Ego-References: the normal Quality of Life motivation, for example, ‘not wanting anger in your house,’ plus the SSoS- oriented motivations for not wanting to be angry (for Fear of Annihilation);
- Multiple simultaneously existing but incompatible Ego-References that lead to Inner Conflict;
- The ‘elephant in the room’ of feeling good at all cost (as a family-wide Ego-Reference and Hidden Goal). I refer to the unspoken agreement (in my family of origin) that every family member makes it his or her top priority to behave in such a way that other members are provided with or can preserve their Fgas as a Substitute SoS;
- Fear of encountering reasons to be angry, and the continuous conscious and subconscious drive to be on the lookout to avoid those.
- Fear or one’s own feelings/behavior;
- Fear of “blowing it.” There is perceived to be so much at stake (Quality-of Life–level family peace, as well as the [much stronger] Substitute SoS-oriented Goal). However, we are distressed, and puzzled because we are not aware of what is at stake (nor is anybody else). All we are aware of about ourselves is that we are “high-strung,” that our temper is not always contained, and that in some vague, undefined way, we sense a temper display puts us back to zero, having to start from scratch. Start what? We don’t know!
We are still talking soup here:
- The need to control and the constant presence of fear, stress, and the overzealous effort to do things the right way function as the binding ingredients for this soup (comparable to the function of corn starch). Throw into this pot of soup as herbs-of-the-season some random ingredients like the parental expressions such as:
“All is wasted now” (“We had a pleasant evening, but in the end things turned sour. So all is wasted now.”);
“You are always the one to screw things up” (a too easily made accusation);
“You blew it again”;
“If you are this or that way, everybody will walk out on you”;
“Make sure you are not giving in to others and stay true to yourself, but I guess it is hard when you have no self”; and other similar expressions.
Put this on the fire of the Hidden Agenda (to bring the Ego-Reference to a good end), stir it really well while heating it to a boiling point, and serve it to your loved ones. Do you think they will like this soup?
Principles at Work in Making Soup
Let’s elaborate some more on the analogy of soup so you might get a clearer sense of the mood and mind-set of a person who is dependent on a Substitute SoS for experiencing his or her Self. There are a number of principles at work:
- Dependency on the outcome of an Ego-Reference leads to heavy control.
- Ego-Reference plus Ego-Reference equals Inner Conflict.
- Inner Conflict leads to blaming others, rage, depression, and insomnia. A person’s circumstances spiral downward. The need to repair the circumstances (make up for it by going overboard) and to control others and the circumstances even more in order not to ‘do it again’ increases stress and fear.
- Self-sabotage continuously thwarts a potential good outcome to an Ego-Reference.
- Anger, rage, insomnia, and/or depression due to the thwarting of the Ego-Reference add more stress.
- Stress plus fear equals more need to control.
- Stress plus need to control equals more stress; ultimately there is a point that the body and/or mind can’t handle it anymore and falls ill from exhaustion, fear, and depression.
* original text modified