What is a false self

Phenomena and solution strategies in the setting of the initiatic family constellation

The false self
The phenomenon of symbiotic fusion is always associated with a disruption of one's own authentic perception and orientation, and one's own identity. Those affected develop a "false self" (Winnikott).
This "false self" is expressed in the setting of the family constellation by the fact that the client is "in the wrong place". Either he represents missing relatives or those who died prematurely for the parents, or "he knows more about the parents' place than his own", as if he were literally "stuck" in one of the parents, "merged" with them.

If a child cannot be seen as a child by the parents for who he / she is, then he / she identifies with what the parents see in him, what the parents expect from him and thus develops a false identity, a false self, in order to be perceived by the parents, to be significant for them, in order to be able to survive.

Fragile sense of self
This false self is always fragile. The client believes that he has to fill the roles he has taken on and that are not appropriate for a child, but at the same time he finds out over and over again that he cannot fulfill them - "mission impossible".
He vacillates between grandiose overconfidence and a feeling of culpable failure. He loses respect for the parent - and for himself.
As much as the - illusory - grandiosity also complicates later life, maybe it made it possible for the fragile child's ego to survive at a time when the parents could not give real contact and real warmth?

Limited ability to act
Fusion affects the person's ability to act, under two aspects: the client is in the parent like a "stowaway", so that his own boat is without a captain! He sees himself and the world through the eyes of the parent.
At the same time, however, he also experiences that the parent sits inside himself ("introject"), like a stowaway. He hears his comments and remarks and maybe he also has the impression that this stowaway is pressing the controls of his boat as if he could also for this reason not to be "captain on his boat".

Case study "the false self"
W. a strong man, around 35 years old, suffers from a borderline disease, he cannot cope with his life. He has no relationship, has problems with colleagues, with customers, with the tax office, because he has simply missed tax payments for years.
He says of himself that he feels that he is wrong, that he is not right, as if he shouldn't really show himself, as if he had to hide himself.

Family of origin:
The mother's mother threw her husband out of the house for unknown reasons and forbade the children to have contact with him.

Installation picture:
The "mother" (deputy) stands on the edge of the circle of chairs with her face facing outwards. Behind her, looking in her direction, the "father" is about 4 m away, to the side of him the "son", so that he is father and Mother can see.
The client places his "true self" far behind him, outside the circle directly in front of the door with his back to the group.
In the direction of the mother, I provide a representative for her father. She feels drawn to him, after she has "said goodbye" to him, she can turn to the son.
I offer the son to turn to his true self first. He can't even look, expresses violent defense, disgust, even disgust. It is true to sense a deep longing for the self, but the pain would be too great that he would rather despise and devalue it.

The check reveals that he is strongly identified with his mother's despised father, in the sense of a symbiotic amalgamation.
An archaic solution ritual succeeds in dissolving this amalgamation.
Since the grandfather literally "is in him" - not only he in the grandfather! - a special demarcation ritual is required in which he pushes the "grandfather" out of his own inner space - which he had obviously kept occupied - with all his strength .
The consequence of this "melting away" is that he can now turn to himself for the first time, although he may still be hesitant about walking up to it, shaking hands with it, hesitantly embracing it.

With his "true self" by the hand, he can now turn to his mother. Apparently she has manipulated him massively, blackmailed him through threats of suicide.
He can tell her: “I can't forgive you for that. I hated you for it, I stand by it ".
The examination shows that he not only wanted to replace the missing father for the mother but also the partner, her husband, whom she apparently could not have by her side. And that he himself is symbiotically fused with his mother.
After completing the "melting ritual" and the return ritual, the active demarcation ritual is still missing.
Although the sturdy man doesn't have to bother to push the petite "mother" out of "his inner space", he has no success: he feels her again and again right in front of him!
What to do?
I suggest to him to let his "self" return his "soul energy". After the representative of his self has returned soul energy to him in the back and above the sacrum, he feels so "with himself" that he can push the mother out of his area - with lasting success!
Now he can also say to her: Mother, I am myself and I stand by it, regardless of whether it is okay with you. I am right, I am what God wanted me to be!

But his mother's identity-confusing effect seems so threatening that he cannot approach her. For him, the sentences are correct: "I respect the life that I have from you by protecting it from you."
Now there remains the reconciliation with the father, who could not be so present in this family either, he can feel and take his strength and love.

Working with proxy is a dramatic demonstration of how distant the client was from his own self through identification with the outcast grandfather and merging with his mother. And what a violent inner process it took to get closer to oneself and finally to be reconciled with him.

Identifications and symbiotic amalgamations are very common. Perhaps important to the unusual drama of this example is the fact that the client was identified with a person who had been ostracized from the family and thus assumed the fate of being ostracized and rejected. It is also conceivable that the grandfather was guilty and that this family secret was taboo.

This example shows that symbiotic fusion and "false self" necessarily mean that the "true self" must be separated, split off, and sometimes devalued. This corresponds to the deep identity disorder and the massive restriction of self-perception - the perception of one's own authentic feelings, especially one's own anger and aggression!
Clients with this dynamic can therefore not orient themselves according to their own feelings, and the regulation of closeness / distance in relationships is impaired as a result.
They can therefore only orientate themselves via "imagined" feelings, or via outside, via the perception and expectations of others. This explains on the one hand their "top-heaviness", on the other hand their tendency to adapt and merge, their tendency to become dependent or "pseudo-autonomous" over-delimitation.

Working with representatives in system constellations allows these relationships to be made clear on a symbolic level. This symbolic level also makes it possible to use rituals to show solutions that have a direct effect on the non-verbal level of the unconscious and develop a lasting effect.
What was surprising to me - but actually very coherent - in this example was that the client could only come closer to himself when he broke the symbiotic fusion with grandfather and mother. That his "true self" only had a place with him when he had freed his "inner space" from the "blind passengers".

The setting of the family constellation is ideally suited to illustrate the dynamics scenically and to offer solution strategies in a very condensed form that are suitable for bringing about sustainable change.

See also the case studies "I'm wrong" below