If we have
grown up more identified with those selves in us that are
associated with personal power, it would be most natural
that we would disown the selves associated with
vulnerability and neediness.
Our acting ego
would be identified with power. This means that in the
course of growing up we have learned that vulnerability is
something bad, something to be mastered. The power side
judges vulnerability as something negative and, with time,
an automatic shut-off valve comes into operation whenever
vulnerability is experienced. When we meet someone who is
more identified with vulnerability, our power side (which is
our acting ego) tends to critically judge or react
negatively to that person although at the same time we might
feel a strong attraction to the person.
Some basic principles of functioning of the inner selves,
especially regarding the disowned ones :
1. For every
primary self with which we are identified, there are one or
more disowned selves of equal and opposite energy.
disowned self is projected onto some person or thing.
3. The people
whom we hate, judge, or have strong negative reactions
toward are direct representations of our disowned selves.
Conversely, the people whom we overvalue emotionally are
also direct representations of our disowned selves.
4. As a corollary to the third principle: each person we judge,
hate, reject, or each person we overvalue, is a potential
teacher for us, if we can step back and see how the basis of
our reaction is a disowned self of our own.
5. So long as a
self is disowned within us, we will continue to repeatedly
attract that particular energy in our life. Thus, the
universe will bring us the people we judge, hate, and resent
over and over again until we finally get the message that
they are reflections of that which is disowned in us.
Conversely, the universe will keep bringing us people whom
we find marvelous and irresistible, and who make us feel
inadequate, inferior and unworthy, until we realize that
these people are showing us aspects of ourselves that we
principles have immense consequences in the realm of human
relationships. Let us look at four examples from our
Voice Dialogue therapy practice to see how they operate.
Jane has grown up in a family where her natural sensuality
had to be disowned. When she was a little girl, her mother
was extremely critical of her whenever she danced in a
sensual way, and especially when she acted sensually in
relationship to her father, with whom she had a particularly
strong bond. Jane eventually married, but she had no
awareness of the degree to which her own sensual nature was
locked away. One evening she and her husband went to a
party. There she saw a woman close to her own age who was a
pure "Aphrodite" type. This woman had had several drinks and
was flirting outrageously with several men, who were happily
flirting back. Jane was revolted by this display and said
to her husband: "That is the most disgusting sight I have
ever seen!" What had happened? Watching this woman activated
those selves in Jane that are related to her sensuality.
Once those impulses began to emerge from within Jane,
another self, based on her mother's rejection of sensuality,
came into operation to suppress them.
The name we give to this inner voice of the mother is the "introjected
The introjected mother blocks these impulses within by
judging or attacking the person outside who carries the
The more powerful the affective reaction we have toward the
other person, the stronger is the power of the disowned
self. In this example, Jane's strong reaction indicated the
presence of a powerful disowned sensual self. If Jane
understood the basis of her strong negative reaction, what a
marvelous opportunity she would have to reclaim this very
basic part of herself.
Sherry works in an office, and she hates her boss. She
describes her as domineering, power hungry, and unfeeling.
Sherry had a mother who fit this same description. Very
early in life, Sherry vowed she would never be this way, and
she began disowning the part of herself that had to do with
power and domination. In their place as primary selves
appeared her very caring and loving nature. Now, whenever
she was around anyone who carried her disowned attributes,
Sherry became unbearably irritable and critical. If Sherry
understood the issue of disowned selves, she could have
realized she was reacting, not to a person, but to a part of
herself buried deep within; she could have used the
opportunity presented by her boss as a challenge for her own
George saw himself as a scrupulously honest businessman, but
he had a strong dishonest streak in him that he had always
denied. This disowned dishonesty led him to become involved
in a business venture with a man who was fundamentally
dishonest and cheated George out of a good deal of money.
His denial of his own “inner psychopath” (and we all possess
such selves) made it very difficult to acknowledge the
reality of this behavior in his business partner. Even after
it happened, George had a difficult time accepting the
reality that he had been cheated. This disowning of one's
own dishonest self is one of the reasons why so many people
get cheated so easily.
Steve was a lawyer who was committed to being a loving human
being at all times. He totally rejected the idea that any
form of darkness existed in the world. In his business life,
he got involved with strong criminal elements that almost
destroyed his career.
The denial of
the dishonest and criminal parts of themselves led both
Steve and George into destructive situations.
That is the
paradox of disowned selves: we are drawn to the very people
who carry these "unacceptable" qualities for us. This holds
true whether the "unacceptable" qualities are good or bad;
it applies to the persons we overvalue as well as those we
Life will constantly bring us face to face with people who
represent our disowned selves, until we begin to reclaim