On insomnia

Do you suffer from severe or ongoing insomnia? Are you ready to consider that the ultimate cause might actually be an unhealthy ‘Sense of Self’ you developed in childhood? That turned out to be true for me. Check it out!

The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep is an occasional problem for some people, and an ongoing problem for others. It impacts one’s life very detrimentally. But we don’t have much knowledge about the causes, and for many people the problem  stays unresolved, and the bad consequences continue: irritability, poor concentration, health damage, etc.

The current medications most often used to treat insomnia are sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety pills. These can be harmful and addictive because they change your brain chemistry.  More importantly, it seems clear that sleeplessness is a symptom of an underlying problem or misconception and by eliminating this symptom these medications merely mask the underlying cause. This way you not only become dependent on the medication but you don’t ever get in touch with what causes it in the first place. Not knowing what is ‘off’ in your behavior or perceptions you can’t work on correcting it and the deeper cause is never truly addressed, leaving room for other ailments and dysfunction.

In my own case of insomnia, which started after the birth of my first child when I was 39 years old, the ‘underlying problem’ also showed up in rage, fear, depression, gum problems, an aching face, and poor concentration. I resisted going to physicians though, because I didn’t want to be sedated or medicated.

Insomnia ruled not only my life, but the lives of my loved ones as well.  I could not hold a job and could not participate in society.  My family of origin would not accept my problem and instead of finding support I encountered rejection. They preferred to pretend ‘all was well in the family’, let alone that there was room for investigation whether and they had any part in causing my problem. And although by now I compassionately understand where they were coming from it was very difficult to be continuously sleep deprived and go through life as if nothing was wrong and honor my own needs to heal my condition.

Since I didn’t accept the typical treatments, I had to develop my own. I suspected that there be a reason to my insomnia and that the way to find a solution would be through soul-searching, self-knowledge, introspection, and getting to know my patterns of behavior. I figured that what manifested in the night time would probably be ‘off’ as well during waking hours. In other words: “What was wrong with my overall concept of being and doing during the day that caused me to be unable to let my self be drifted off into sleep at night.”

I did discover the solution! And it has reduced considerably the number of hours that I would lie awake and it has also greatly improved my overall quality of life. Implementing in myself a Restored Sense of Self is a hard and slow process and the insomnia is tough to turn around. It turned out to be a lifelong process as I am still learning every day but it pays off and besides: there is no other option. I HAD and still have to take the time and put in the effort to restore my Sense of Self.

If you too are suffering from occasional or chronic insomnia, I hope you will find my story useful.

First, I discovered that I had two kinds of motivation operating in my life. There was no problem with the motive of wanting to do things for the ordinary benefit one would expect from doing them. But, I discovered I was often motivated to do things for some reason less obvious. I discovered I had a ‘Hidden Agenda’ for doing these things. Worrying about accomplishing my hidden agenda was what was keeping me lying there staring at the ceiling, instead of healthfully sleeping!

So what was my ‘Hidden Agenda?’ It is described at great length elsewhere (holispsych.com soon to be launched) but in a word, my hidden agenda was that I needed my actions to generate certain particular kinds of results that would make me ‘feel-good-about-myself’ in a very particular kind of way. And I couldn’t sleep because unconsciously there was a continuous ‘flight-or-fight mode’ playing as achieving these goals perceived as being of a life threating importance. How could I sleep if I needed to work on those results…?

What was that particular kind of way? My motivation, my hidden agenda, and my insomnia all revolved around my Sense of Self, namely the lack of a healthy Sense of Myself. I believe it is the same for many others, and that the real and unacknowledged ultimate reason for insomnia is a lack of a healthy normal Sense of Self.  The lack of this Sense of Self is the inability to feel like a real, truly existing, autonomous ‘I’ or ‘me,’ INDEPENDENT from the outcome of one’s achievements or behavior.

Let me explain very briefly here how that all plays out.

If a baby or toddler is related to by their parent or primary caretaker as a pawn in that person’s inner games, rather than as an independent autonomous being, a healthy Sense of Self cannot develop. The child becomes ‘enmeshed’ in the caretaker’s ‘games,’ and the closest the child ever gets to a sense of ‘self’ is the moments of feeling approved of by the caretaker. The child learns to behave, feel and think, in ways whose agenda is getting that approval.

And this is not a casual matter. The alternative to feeling those approval vibes is the feeling of ‘not existing,’ of being a ‘ghost with a body,’ of being invisible to others, not being seen or heard, not having a voice or a face. This feeling is terrifying to a child and we seek to avoid it at all costs. It amounts to feeling ‘annihilated.’  So our motives for doing things to get this approval have life or death importance.  Getting that approval is experienced as a matter of life or death.  Meeting the requirements or conditions we perceive as giving us the approval, becomes the most important thing in life.

It’s a simple step to see how the basic anxiety that comes with this dependency on the outcome of one’s achievement or behavior plus the worrying about the daily specifics of getting this approval – considering what’s at stake in getting or not getting it – could keep one awake at night!!! So much depends on the outcome of one’s actions, choosing the right ones, doing them the right way, pulling the right face at the right moment. We lie awake in fear that the insomnia itself makes that we cannot function adequately, aren’t up to all the challenges. We are terrified to end up feeling as if we don’t really exist because we don’t get the approval we need to feel some semblance of an existing ‘self’.

Meeting the conditions and requirements for getting approval, to feel some kind of ‘existence’ is the ‘Hidden Goal’ of the (Indirect-) Motivation of most of what one does in life. This was true for me, and I suspect is true for many others.

The outcome of my actions, whether they result in approval or disapproval from the caretaker figure, is a primary concern of life, and I must devote waking and should-be-sleeping hours to engineering the right outcome, on penalty of not existing!!!  Without a strong healthy Sense of Self, this is my fate. I live in fear of being annihilated by lack of approval.  No good outcome of behaving, no feeling of existing!

The problem is that most of this fear and the actual motives and agendas, and the unhealthy nature of the Sense of Self, are all subconscious.  If you want to heal from being deprived, as a child, of healthy ‘mirroring’ by your caretaker who didn’t treat you as a separate autonomous being, then you will need to do a lot of getting to know ‘yourself,’ recognizing patterns, and checking out the nature of the way you experience a ‘self.’

The reward is a lot more than better sleep. The reward is a better life!

If you have a healthy natural normally-developed Sense of Self, or a healed Sense of Self (both are described in the chart in the website holispsych.com soon to come in the English language) then your sense of Self does not depend on the outcome of your actions.

While medical attention and medications might be necessary steps for some people, it’s my contention that the insomnia problem gets truly resolved only by doing whatever changes one’s unhealthy complex of motives and needs that generate the insomnia via feeling threats to one’s Sense of Self into healthy (Direct) Motivation.  Not being dependent on the outcome of any action, behavior, or the reflection of others of oneself, but rather standing independently (and ultimately inter-dependently) in the universe, is, I contend, the ultimate and ‘real’ solution to insomnia.


I would like to point out that we have to pay extra attention with a phenomenon that manifests itself as follows: when the parent or caregiver isn’t of real influence anymore, either by relocation or by passing away, her voice has been internalized in the child. It takes a tremendous effort to learn to distinguish what is your own voice and what is your caregivers’ voice. It feels like the voice of the latter is your own and only by emphasizing the question by wondering “is this truly my own opinion?” you may come across some surprises. Even after many years of consciously analyzing my motivation I often was misled believing I voiced my own opinion or judged myself by my own standards whereas it turned out not to be the case: it still was my internalized parent’s voice. I was still judging myself with their criteria!!!

It is vital to one’s health to have a strong and healthy Sense of Self.  As I have experienced it, insomnia is one of many health concerns caused by not having that Sense of Self.  I know it is possible that insomnia can be resolved by fortifying and healing (restoring) one’s Sense of Self, because I did it. A course on how to go about will be offered shortly.

This article is based on the Holistic Psychological method of HolisPsych.com (founder Antoinetta Vogels).

Author Alia Aurami and Antoinetta Vogels