When I was in my 20’s, people were always telling me I should be a lawyer. They told me I argued well. They told me I used logic well. In reality, I never listened to the other side. I was too busy formulating my response. And when things got heated or it appeared I might lose, I had no problem using manipulation and gaslighting to confuse everyone involved. If I wasn’t going to win the debate, nobody else was going to win. I was a master of all interpersonal tactics that we consider “not cool” by society’s standards. But I was so good at hiding them that very few caught on. If they did catch on, they were left by the wayside wondering what hit them.
I am not saying these things to be cruel to myself. I am saying these things to be honest about myself. I came by these abilities honestly. My mother was a master manipulator. My father was always in control. And in my childhood home, if you lost an argument, there was usually much more at stake than a ding to your pride. All abusive tactics were on the table in an argument, at least for the adults. So I learned to use any tactic available to appear infallible. Manipulation, passive aggression, gaslighting, explosive rage (if safe) and even running away until everyone else had left the house. There was very little peace. I was always walking on egg shells. So yes, it was inevitable that I would become good at the tactics.
I was even rewarded for my honed “skills”. Once my parents were divorced, and I was in my teenage years, the tables started to turn a bit. My mother still had mad skills in manipulation, but she had taught me well. And I could get her twisted up pretty quickly. Since she lied so much, I could sometimes get her to make two completely opposite statements in the same argument. In my house, it was my main form of entertainment. And it translated well to my early work years. In the corporate world, everyone loves a good power-hungry, controlling, overly-logical project manager. I was incredibly good at what I did and I was rewarded for it financially.
The Price I Paid
But there is an unfortunate side effect to those rewards. I started to believe it was the right way to act. I was so convinced that I developed a false self around it. I could be hard core. I could maintain that persona if it kept me safe and ahead of the game. Honestly, it was the safest I had ever felt. I had some power by being someone I wasn’t. I had learned that my true self wasn’t safe, at least not as a child. And I had never had the opportunity to try out my true self as an adult. It was lost, or so I thought.
But deep down inside, the anxiety was building. All that false self behavior went against who I was. My true self was willful. My true self was willing to push through obstacles to get things done. My true self was detail-oriented. But the circumstances were all wrong. There was no empathy for others. There was too much focus on compensation and status. There was no integrity. I wasn’t breaking laws. But there was no integrity to myself. There was a war on the inside. And it was getting out of hand.
When I began the journey of recovery, I unconsciously knew that I would no longer be playing that role and I was relieved. I had held together this fake persona for so long. I was lying to everyone, including myself. And honestly, I was exhausted. I knew this false self was a not a good mother persona. I absolutely knew I could not raise my kids like that.
False Self Removal is No Easy Task
So I have worked to break down this persona and the road hasn’t been easy. As I have observed my false self and how she treats the real inner parts who just wanted to be heard, I have realized this road was not meant to be easy. There was never a chance for them. As they have spoken up, I have seen my false self shut them down with logical arguments and no empathy for their pain. While I know she was created to keep everyone safe and secure, she stopped the healing for many years.
Now I see her blatant attempts to influence my impression of the world. It is as if she is a separate person. Yesterday, when I was at the grocery store, I could hear her judging the people around me until one man asked if he could return my cart for me. He said he wanted to save me a few steps. It jolted her to the core. She was stunned and I could see her take a step back in to the shadows again. I just smiled and acknowledged that sign from the universe.
I think she knows her days are numbered now that my 20-something inner part has released her. And if she was real, I would be concerned about her well-being. But she is not a part to be healed. She is an entity to be released. And while I will be kind, I know that her approach is no longer valid in my life. So I keep taking my steps toward wholeness. And I revel in my newfound authenticity and conscious awareness of my old defenses. Change is here. And I am grateful for it.