Other directed sense of self

Lack of a Sense of Identity

If we can’t imagine who we would be without our relationship, chances are we come from a dysfunctional family of origin and have learned co-dependent behavior patterns.

When we lack a sense of our own identity and the boundaries of the self that protect and define us as individuals, we tend to draw our identities, our sense of self worth from our partner or significant other as we did in the earliest stage of our biological growth in our family of origin, drawing our sense of worth from their perceptions of us. The structure of the relationship in this case is not that of equals in a partnership but that of parent and child. Leading in some cases to that most unequal of relationships, master and slave. It is quite possible that children developing in a family where the important relationship of the parents is an unequal one will be forced to take on roles as either surrogate spouse and/or adopt roles that it is hoped will restore dignity to the family and balance to the system. If we can’t imagine who we would be without our relationship, chances are we come from a dysfunctional family of origin and have learned co-dependent behaviour patterns. Unable to find fulfilment within ourselves we look for such fulfilment in others and are willing to do anything it takes to make the relationship work, just as we may have done in our enmeshed family of origin, even if this means giving up our emotional security, friends, integrity, sense of self-respect or worth, independence, or employment. We may even endure objectification, (an attitude in which we are no longer perceived as feeling human-being but just an object, a part of the family system), in the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse just to save the relationship.

 

The more rational alternative is to find out who we are and what makes us unique, and we will rejoice in the freedom of this discovery. We will come to realise that our value and worth as a person is not necessarily dependent on having a significant other in our life, that we can function well as an independent person in our own right. When we move into accepting ourselves for who we really are warts and all, we will be able to accept others for who they are; our relationships and ourselves will actually have a chance to grow into emotionally mature adults able to give freely out of choice and flourish in our new found freedom. This journey of self-discovery can be challenging and painful but highly rewarding. Working with a trained therapist or as part of a support group or a combination of both can provide the structure and support we need to take on this task. But whatever way we may choose the first step is to acknowledge to ourselves, God and possibly another person that our lives as we have tried to control and manage them have become unmanageable. The second is to give ourselves over to the cleansing and renewal processes.

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