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Learn to love yourself first

3 Reasons to Embrace Your “False” Self

Feeling shame about your “real” self may make you feel like you must act “falsely.” Then shame about acting falsely can make you feel even more self-critical, which in turn perpetuates acting and feeling false. Here's how to stop the cycle. Read More

Got a Different Viewpoint!

I agree that one must take the false self positively to learn and improve one's own self. However, at the same time, one needs to tackle with it to get rid of it. Luckily, I learned this by forgiving one own false self every time it exhibits its true face. I learned to forgive from:

IMO, There is a problem with your thesis

I think there is a problem, but first we have to agree that we are talking about the same thing. When I speak of the false self, I am referring to Karen Horney's 1950 description of a false self that is a protective strategy to allay our basic anxiety. Each of us has one because we were all subjected to something of the following list that Dr. Horney provides:

"the people in the environment are too wrapped up in their own neuroses to be able to love the child….In simple words, they may be dominating, overprotective, intimidating, irritable, over-exacting, overindulgent, erratic, partial to other siblings, hypocritical, indifferent, etc. It is never a matter of just a single factor, but always the whole constellation that exerts the untoward influence on a child’s growth. As a result, the child does not develop a feeling of belonging, of ‘we,’ but instead a profound insecurity and vague apprehensiveness, for which I use the term basic anxiety. It is his feeling of being isolated and helpless in a world conceived as potentially hostile. He must (unconsciously) deal with them in ways which do not arouse, or increase, but rather allay his basic anxiety” (p. 18).

When I speak of a false self, I am referring to our protective strategy for dealing with this basic anxiety. As an emergent characteristic of our protection system, it is limited to thinking in the highly constrained modes of the system from which it emerges (modes necessary for responding to short term shocks to the organism). From my perspective, the false self and its short term perspective is dominant in our society and leading us inexorably toward the demise of our species. Acceptance? Of course! But we have to learn the difference between the activated false self and the authentic self. And note to Aaron. Alan Watts described the futility of fixing the false self 50 years ago. I think that Suzanne is exactly right about the need for acceptance, but as a feature of the protection system, it has an either/or perspective and we are seeing in the American Congress how well that works dealing with the complex issues that face us.

Dr Anderson

I don't think we are talking about the same thing, but I am glad we arrived at the same conclusion ;)

Evidence Not Sentiments

The sentiments here are fine and disassociation is a big problem, esp for the women I know. However, we need real pee-reviewed science and evidence for problem-identification and solving.

It appears, that the child-trauma work points to causes for the behavioral problems mentioned. This is being validated with brain research and trauma-informed care clinical work, it appears.

We need problem-solving - not platitudes.


You go right ahead and get evidence, I support you fully. What I write about, however, is not platitudes. It's experiences I have specifically with my patients and others, and the ways these issues manifest, as we'll as my ability to describe these experiences and make them come alive for the audience is what I strive to do for my audience. They are not alone in their experiences, and helping them to realize that's half the battle. Where's the platitudes in that? This is wrenching stuff. I encourage and celebrate research,but helping the people whoare interested in my work be able to use words to describe their experiences and to figure out techniques to help manage what feels unbearable is what I do well. And since many people find my treatment strategies effective, I am sharing them with a broader population. But please feel free to hone in on areas of the brain impacted by trauma so I can continue to infuse that into my work as a clinical psychologist.

Hi Brain Molecule Marketing,

Hi Brain Molecule Marketing, nothing she said was a platitude or sentimental.

Hmm ...

Is a false self unhealthy if it's a manifestation of ego/shadow/inauthenticity?

Is "alternate self" a better term than "false self"?

Is the "self" an illusion?

I have many "alternate selves" and identities, however, I practice unattachment to them. I like the idea that attachment to false self, identity, ego, masks, persona, etc. leads to suffering and deviation from Truth / Highest Self.

It's not about what it is,

It's not about what it is, it's about how people describe it. And they describe it (often) as feeling "false". Obviously, do what works for you, but I am speaking to people who are uncomfortable with aspects of themselves and they are more often than not painfully aware and self conscious when these parts of self emerge.

Repurposing the concept "False Self"

Kevin, false self as healthy or unhealthy? if the false self we are talking about is a protective strategy for dealing with a basic anxiety, then it could be considered valuable as long as the source of the anxiety is real (such as a violent parent). But what if the basic anxiety is rooted in the fear that death is terrible or that we find ourselves separated from the source of life? My experience is that those are illusions and a strategy for dealing with any illusion is wasted energy at the very least.

For me, the concept of the false self is the key to unlocking the puzzle of our predicament. Western society has, for a long time, supported the concept that humans are faulty and need to be controlled or saved or something similar. Imagine how welcome that concept was to the people for whom controlling others presented economic and political opportunities. Freud's preposterous concept of the center of a human being as a mess was also sold to us. See "Century of the Self" on vimeo to understand how Freud's nephew, the father of spin, was instrumental in developing economic strategies for training the false self to become dominant and therefore to endlessly seek the consumption of goods and services that allay its basic anxiety; essentially, to work, consume and be docile.

I am clear that the work Suzanne is doing is great for the people that are suffering from the sense of being false. I am also clear that very few people can afford that luxury.

The false self is sitting on a story that is weaved together with our essential sense of meaning and identity. Attachment to that story leads us to make rigid claims and negate the opinions of others. Democracy does not exist in such an environment. That could be unhealthy...

This is the first good

This is the first good article I've ever read on Psychology Today, very good thanks.

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Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist in NYC specializing in psychotherapy.


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