False Self, Anxiety and Emotional Pain


The false self is a pseudo self that is created in childhood in families where children feel insecure and unsafe in their close relationships. Children create this false self to protect themselves against anxiety associated with loss, rejection and not being accepted. In these families children feel like they are unable to be themselves and that they need to comply with their families' needs and demands. In doing this, they learn to create this false self in order to belong and be loved. As these children do not feel safe being open about what is really going on within them, they learn to hide how they really feel. They are unconsciously afraid of hurting the ones around them and also getting hurt. Unfortunately, this false self carries on through adulthood and becomes a part of the individual to the extent that he doesn't know who he really is and what he really wants in life. This happens because the adult with a false self lives through a forced compliance rather than a wish to live the way he wants. He/she is usually well mannered, polite and tries to please others. These actions lead to feelings of emptiness, deadness and a feeling of being a fraud.

Different Types of the False self

Co-Dependent Deflated Self:

Children with a co-dependent deflated self use the false self defence to maintain their intimacy with their parents by pleasing and adapting to their parents’ needs. In this way, they feel that they can maintain the conditional love of their parents. They may go against their own wishes and values due to the fear of their parents’ rejection, anger and punishment. To do this they create a co-dependent dynamic with their parents. This will result in the loss of their true self. They feel lost and empty. This will continue through adulthood.

Parents of a Co-dependent Child:

-Can be very controlling and rigid towards their child. They ignore their child's needs and choices. More focus is given to their own needs and what they want rather than their child's needs.

-Do not allow their child to express their opinions and true feelings. If the child shows his/her real feelings, they will be subtly or unsubtly rejected or manipulated. This can be done by giving them silent treatments, physically punishing them, throwing the feeling back at the child among other things.

-Can play the role of a victim and needs their child's protection, making their child responsible for their happiness. Because of this the child feels obliged to take care of the parent, overlooking his/her own needs.

As adults, these children also develop:

-Chronic anger

-Low self-esteem

-Stress and anxiety

-The need to be in control

-The need to please others

-A feeling of not being "good enough"

-A lack of assertiveness

-Blame for themselves

-A lack of trust

-fear of being lonely

-Intimacy problems

-Difficulty making decisions

As adults, these children also lose their sense of autonomy, as they develop a deep fear of separation.

Counter Dependent Inflated Self:

Children who are insecurely attached (refer to my blog about patterns of attachments) to their mothers or caregivers develop a lack of trust towards them and later towards others. This results in the development of avoidant attachments.

Parents of these children are often emotionally unavailable to them. They ignore their child's needs and can be dismissive when the child is hurt or in need. This results in the child's suppression of their neediness for the fear of abandonment and leads to an exaggerated autonomy. As adults they create an inflated false self in order to avoid feeling the underlying depression and sadness of feeling abandoned. Although they appear as strong and independent, they feel very differently inside.

These children as adults:

-Find it Difficult to be close to others

-Find it hard to ask for help

-Expect to be perfect as their self-worth is dependent on being perfect all the time

-Dislike being vulnerable and weak

-Keep themselves busy with work and other activities and find it hard to relax

Unfortunately, these patterns of co-dependency and counter-dependency will continue not only through an individual's adulthood and their relationships but they will also be passed down through generations to their children and grandchildren. This is, unless one decides to break free of these patterns of relating.

Using Therapy to Break Free of the False Self

Therapy helps to challenge the false self and explore one's authentic self and true needs. The therapeutic relationship is very important in facilitating this process. It challenges one's lack of trust and their coping strategies and defences. With this, new ways of relating and healthy habits are created and adopted. Through therapy and the related work, one can begin to feel more secure with themselves and become able in forming healthy relationships.

Please feel free to Contact me if you wish to have a brief chat or to book an appointment.