The Human ConditionFrom Awakening to Wholeness
D – The Human Condition
A human being is not a single entity; we are composed of several different yet fully integrated components. Each component (or body) is an independent consciousness, yet they are all integrated and work in harmony, much like the different parts of a car all work together to get us from A to B. The Self is the driver (or at least it should be) and the mind, heart and body are components of the vehicle that carry us through life.
Figure 16: The Composition of a Human Being
Each component exists and operates on a different level, dimension or plane of reality. Each element has perceptive (yin) qualities that allow us to perceive our environment, and expressive (yang) qualities that allow us to interact with our environment.
The three non-Self components (mind, heart and body) are not “us”, but they are aspects of our being. Because the various aspects of our being are so well integrated, it is very easy for us to become identified with them – which is what usually happens. This mis-identification provides us with a lot of different opportunities for psychological and spiritual growth that we wouldn’t otherwise experience, but it also creates a lot of self-inflicted and unnecessary suffering.
The three non-Self components are highly programmable – once they have learnt a pattern of behaviour they tend to react automatically in similar situations. This is great because it allows us to carry out complex tasks without using all of our conscious attention, but it also encourages us to switch off and miss out on the fullness of life. It can be compared to travelling in a self-driving car – they encourage the owner (Self) to “switch off”. We half open an eye when something major happens (like hitting a metaphorical tree), but most of the time we live our lives on autopilot and wonder why things don’t always go the way we would like.
This book is about awakening from the semi-conscious state that most of us live in most of the time, and the first step of the process is to look at the things that keep us “asleep” and the things that we do when we are “asleep”. The reason I am dedicating a whole chapter to these “negative” aspects of the human condition is so we can identify which ones affect us and understand how they adversely affect our lives. This not only helps us to know ourselves more fully, it also disempowers our subconscious patterns by bringing them into the light of our conscious awareness. This gives us a choice – we can allow them to keep happening or we can consciously stop doing them and free ourselves from a lot of unnecessary suffering.
An average personality is a blend of authentic personality (the true-Self operating through the Mind, Heart & Body centres) and ego personality (the false-self operating through the ego structures). This is depicted graphically in Figure 17.
Our consciousness operates freely and clearly through the authentic aspects of our personality, allowing authentic expression of our true nature. But our true nature is blocked and distorted by the egoic aspects of our personality, resulting in inauthentic, reactive, childish, selfish and even evil behaviour. The proportion of authenticity we express is directly related to our level of development. The two-fold path is about dis-identifying from, disempowering and dissolving the ego personality, and associating with the true-Self to develop the authentic personality.
Note: I am not saying that the ego-personality is inauthentic, just that it isn’t our true nature; it is our conditioning.
Figure 17: The Two Sides of the Personality
As we gradually dissolve our ego structures (through inner work), the balance of power shifts, allowing more of our authentic personality to be expressed. A great personality is not achieved by refining, polishing or re-programming our ego structures – it is achieved by dissolving them. Note: The personality doesn’t disappear when we attain enlightenment, it just becomes more authentic.
Imagine that ego structures are made out of ice… When the ice (ego structure) melts, the structure dissolves and the water (consciousness) is released and reintegrated into our authentic personality. The same applies to exiled parts, which are made out of “frozen” consciousness. When the warmth of our soul merges with an exiled part, the “frozen” consciousness is liberated and reintegrated into the wholeness of our being.
Sub-Personalities (or Parts)
We don’t have one single ego personality – it is a collection of many parts. They are called “parts” because we often say “part of me wants to do it and part of me doesn’t”. In most people, all the parts are somewhat connected and form a single super-structure (the ego personality), which is a big, tangled, knotted mess. Our self can seamlessly move from part to part, when required, but the parts don’t function as a unified whole. In fact, most parts think, feel and act independently, and they often conflict with other parts, so the ego is somewhat dysfunctional.
A localised cluster of related parts is known as a sub-personality. We all have sub-personalities (or sides of our personality) that activate under certain circumstances, e.g. our angry side, lazy side, perfectionist side or depressive side.
Multiple or Split Personalities
The technical term for a “split personality” is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It was previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). People with this condition have created a number of distinct personalities (super-structures) that are totally disconnected from each other. The separation prevents the intense pain, conflict and trauma within each personality from affecting the others. Multiple personalities are our second line of psychological defence:
- The first line of defence is the creation of individual parts and sub-personalities. This limited level of connectivity between our parts is sufficient to protect us from the mild to moderate psychological conflict and trauma that most of us have experienced, while still allowing us to function as a single personality.
- The second line of defence is the creation of separate personalities. This only occurs when severe trauma, intense conflict or persistent abuse causes the ego super-structure to shatter into pieces. Each personality only comes to life when it is inhabited by the ego-self.
The ego-self moves between the different personalities, utilising which-ever one is most appropriate. Since each personality is utilised for a different aspect of life, it is not surprising that different personalities often have very different traits. The treatment of multiple personalities is beyond the scope of this book, but the principles for reintegration are the same as for individual ego structures.
The Wounded “Inner Child”
The ego is largely “constructed” from innocent, immature, inexperienced and impressionable young consciousness, which is why we may behave like a child when things don’t go our way. We try to give the impression of being grown-up and mature, but that is just the outer layers of the ego that were added later in life. Underneath our grown-up façade lies a wounded “inner child”. The “inner child” is not a single entity – it is a collective of many parts that formed during the course of our childhood in response to countless confusing, difficult and distressing events.
During psychological inner work, it is common to encounter (through inner vision or a felt sense) a young version of ourself who is scared and confused. This “inner child” may be an individual part or a cluster of related parts (a sub-personality):
- Individual Parts: Three different types of parts can present as an inner child. They are usually still at the age they were when they were originally created:
- Exiles are pieces of scared, confused and distressed conscious-ness that were exiled (deeply repressed) to protect our ego-self from becoming overwhelmed. This is the most common type of wounded inner child that we are likely to encounter.
- Protective Ego Structures are pieces of consciousness that were programmed to protect our ego-self from an exiled part, by distracting our attention or “physically” preventing access. Distracting parts may present as a younger child having a tantrum, and protecting parts may present as a protective or controlling older child.
- Coping Ego Structures are pieces of consciousness that were programmed to supplement the functionality of undeveloped personal qualities, caused by “lost” contact with our soul’s essential qualities. A coping structure will occasionally present as an inner child, but usually as a responsible and capable, yet somewhat inflexible, older child.
- Cluster of Parts: A cluster of related parts may present as an inner child. If they present as a single entity they must be treated as one and can often be healed as one.
- The Collective: The inner child is the collective consciousness of all the individual parts (inner children), and its age is the average age of all the individual parts. It cannot be healed as a whole because it contains countless un-related traumatised and programmed pieces of consciousness.
I have described the different types of inner child for reference purposes only. In practice, we may not know which type we are dealing with, and we don’t necessarily need to know. Whether we are working with an individual part, a cluster or the collective, each inner child needs to be treated as an individual and needs to be treated with love, compassion, understanding and respect. The “Talking to Parts Technique” in Chapter 5 describes an effective method of healing and reintegrating wounded inner children.
The Repressed “Soul Child” or “Wonder Child”
A soul child is an inner child that isn’t wounded, it is merely repressed.
When we were young (typically 2–4 years old), if one of our newly emerging personal qualities was ignored or not always well-received by our parents, we may have repressed it in order to maintain their love and approval (or keep ourself safe). It is not possible to repress an entire personal quality because they permeate our entire field of personal consciousness, but it is possible to repress the part of our consciousness that most fully embodies, and principally expresses, a particular personal quality. So that is what we did… The part of us that embodied an emerging quality was repressed if our parents didn’t acknowledge it (which made us believe that it was unimportant), or if they actively disliked it (which made us believe that it was unacceptable).
A soul child is basically a non-traumatised exile. It is a piece of our consciousness (which embodies an authentic personal quality) that is encased within an ego structure to repress that quality. A repressing ego structure is not just a containment structure; it may also be programmed with the opposite false-quality to neutralise the effects of the authentic-quality. If, for example, our playfulness was not encouraged we may have encased it in seriousness, which would have caused us to be serious and sensible at times when we should have been playing and having fun.
We didn’t always encase the unwanted part in the opposite false-quality. Sometimes our parents’ misperceptions and misjudgements indirectly determined which false-quality we encased the unwanted part in. In such instances, we encased it in the opposite of what our parents perceived. For example: If they misperceived our openness as weakness, we may have encased it in false strength. If they misperceived our tranquillity as laziness, we may have encased it in striving. If they misperceived our tenderness as neediness, we may have encased it in boisterousness.
No matter what an authentic quality is encased in, it can never be completely contained; some of its energy will always seep out and influence our personality. However, the repressed quality may be tainted by its own frustration at being repressed, and it will be distorted by the ego structure that encases it. For example, if a repressed playful nature is distorted by its own frustration and the seriousness that encases it, it might manifest as playfulness with spiteful undertones.
If we grow up in a repressed environment (e.g. an overbearing parent) many of our authentic personal qualities will be repressed in this way, and lots of repressed parts equals lots of repressed frustration. The repressed frustration continually seeps out and adversely affects other aspects of our personality, which can result in these underlying issues: irritability, impatience, restlessness, general unease, anxiety, insomnia, boredom, discontent, etc. In addition to these underlying issues, the repressed frustration will occasionally erupt as an angry outburst.
Incidentally, you may be wondering why a repressed part of our personal consciousness is called a soul child or wonder child? Well, the unwanted personal quality was still emerging (i.e. being transposed from the soul to the personality) at the time it was repressed. So the soul was merged with the “part” at the time it was encased, which means some soul consciousness was also encased. So a soul child is a wonderful blend of radiant soul consciousness and child-like personal consciousness, hence the term soul child.
During our inner work, we don’t know that we are dealing with a soul child until we make intimate contact with it. Our initial contact is with the encasing ego structure, so we will initially feel its false quality, e.g. seriousness or hatred. It is only when we feel deeply into (and through) the false quality that we discover the wonderful radiance of the soul child that lies within. The “Soul Child Reintegration Technique” in Chapter 5 describes an effective method of liberating and reintegrating repressed soul children.