Overcoming The Real Pain of Living A False Life

By Dr. Jay Kantor, Ph.D.

Ridgewood, NJ -- 201-461-7347

Copyright Jay Kantor 2000, All rights reserved.

Each of us is born a unique individual with a unique potential. Unfortunately, parents too often use their children to satisfy their own unmet childhood needs, and fail to help them develop their own potential. The nature of human consciousness is such that children can be conditioned to serve their parents, but at a great mental, emotional, and spiritual cost. In this article, Dr. Jay Kantor discusses how we can throw off the effect of destructive conditioning and end the suffering it creates.

For many people, the desire for a happy and peaceful life remains unfulfilled. Instead of happiness, many of us find ourselves frequently disturbed by anger, fear or sadness, or the feeling of being disconnected and separate from life. We seek love, but we cannot find love or cannot sustain the love we find.

Unhappy Parents, Unhappy Children

When we look back at our family and the society we come from, it is often easy to see that we come from parents and ancestors who also had problems finding happiness. For those of us who are plagued by painful emotions and troubled relationships, it is probably hard to find healthy and mature caregivers in our past. Instead, we find parents who were neglected, abused, or abandoned by their parents, who didn't value themselves, who couldn't cope with their feelings of sadness or their shame or their anger, and acted more like children than adults. When immature parents don't want to parent us, they often force us to grow up too soon, so that they will not need to parent us. In a cruel and desperate twist, they may even try to make us into the parents they never had.

The Destructive Power Of Conditional Love

    One of the most critical things we get from our childhoods is a sense of self-worth which is often called our self-esteem. The dictionary defines self-esteem as, "pride in oneself", and pride means, "a sense of one's own proper dignity or value; self-respect". The primary source of our self-esteem is how we are esteemed by our caregivers. Unfortunately, when we are brought up by people who have not been valued by their parents, they do not value or respect us either. So we come away from childhood, to a lesser or greater degree, undervalued and disrespected.
In everyday language, we say that the people who esteem, value, and respect us are the ones who love us. And our parents are supposed to love us and we are supposed to love them. Yet, what does it mean to love? There is so much pressure to love and be seen as a loving person that we profess our love as a matter of course, at the drop of a hat. Only a "bad" parent doesn't love her child, and only a "rotten" child doesn't love her mother.
Yet, the truth is, were we to tell it, that we may hate the people we're supposed to love. But we pretend to love them anyway, so that we don't have to feel that we're bad, ungrateful people. We'd rather be liars than commit the "sin" of being unloving. Society insists so strongly that we be loving, and we so much want to be loved, that we compromise the truth of our hearts for other people's support and for our own survival.
In our immature and sick society, love has become, "If you don't love me and give me what I want, I'll hate you, and you'll pay!" It is love under the threat of abandonment, which is, in the final analysis, not love at all. It is conditional love. It's using love as a weapon -- using our withdrawal, our withholding of love, as a selfish means of control.
And so our self-esteem, our self-worth, has been made conditional, dependent upon the whims of the ones called our parents. There is no better way to gain control over a person than to make him believe he is bad and worthless, and that you can make him feel good and worthy, if only he will do "the right things". They say to us, "You'd be lovable and praiseworthy only if....", to which the love starved child in us says, "Just tell me what I have to do".

Adopting A False Solution

    It is from these painful, unfulfilling relationships with the adult children who were our parents that we learned that relationships are not safe. Having been hurt, we learned that we needed to protect ourselves from being hurt again. In order to do this, children are forced to give up being open, vulnerable, loving and connected. They are forced to give up the way they naturally are. Overall, we protect ourselves by separating from the things that cause us pain: our parents, our real needs and desires, our real feelings, our thoughts, our actions, and our bodies. We become separate from ourselves and what really is.
Rather than living our lives out of who we really are and what we really feel, we begin to construct a false, but safer, more socially acceptable persona based on the demands of those upon whom we depend. When we operate out of our false self, our natural response to a situation is blocked by our need to make the right response -- the response acceptable to those we depend on. We have been conditioned to avoid the wrong response -- acting in accordance to how we feel at the core of our being -- by the punishment we receive when we do act authentically.
After being conditioned, we no longer need to have the punishing authority figures physically present because they have taken up residence inside our minds, such that, even in their absence, we anticipate and fear their negative reactions. The effect of our false consciousness is so powerful that strangers who share a resemblance to the authority figures who conditioned us acquire the power to trigger our conditioned responses and control our behavior.

The Problems With Being False

    Sooner or later, we discover that living as a false self involves at least three serious problems. First, we can never be happy living a life designed to please someone else. Second, our real needs for nurturing and healing go entirely unmet. The third problem, which is really a blessing in disguise, is that we are not capable of living such a false existence and we cannot keep the lid on the turbulent emotions seething under our calculated exterior.
The previously disowned thoughts, feelings, and actions, which belong to the suffering child deep within our consciousness, breaks through into our daily lives. In spite of the previous hurt we have suffered and our carefully made plans to avoid future hurt, the child manages to take us on a journey in search of the love it never had. Having been denied love, our inner child searches for love everywhere -- at work, at school, at church, with friends, and with family. While we may wish to portray our painful relationships as something we can either "take or leave", the truth of our emotional involvement is revealed when the relationship is not working, is threatened, or ends. The pain we experience reveals our real need for love, previously hidden from others and even ourselves, but now frightfully exposed for all to see.

Creating A Life That Works

    It is a person's inability to maintain a false self, the breakthrough of the disabling feelings of the wounded inner child, and the pain of being unloved and unloving that brings many people into therapy. This crisis and the need to get help is a frightening prospect for most people. As we begin to seek the help we need, our own history of mistrust, self-protection, and our desire to hide works against us. We are scared of the feelings raging inside, which we can no longer control. There is no one we feel comfortable being our troubled selves with -- no one we can share our feelings with. We blame ourselves for our problems. We hate and judge ourselves for our pain. We hate others for hurting us. We don't want to talk about our relationships or lack thereof. We envy people who have even a little happiness. Yet, it has become painfully clear that something must change in our lives. The question is, "How can that change take place?"

What Has To Change?

    It should be clear by now that we are talking about the need for major change, and one component of that change is gaining practical knowledge about overcoming our conditioning. We spend a reasonable amount of time in our lives learning math, reading, and history, but most people have never been taught anything like Human Development 101, Emotions 101, Relationships 101, or Happy Family 101. Effective therapy requires that each of us become somewhat of an expert on the mind and its tricks, and how we can become the driver of our own bus, instead of just a passenger being taken on a wild ride. The courses we really need are Controlling Our Own Minds 101 or Knowing Our True Self 101.
The long and short of what I have said so far is that we have been conditioned by our caretakers, and we can't get out. You have to marvel at the human ability to learn, to be conditioned, and to carry out behaviors without conscious thought. Our lives depend on such an ability. The child's needs and emotions further accelerate our learning. The fear of the child and the need for love are powerful motivators for learning our lessons, for getting things right, no matter how destructive the lessons ultimately prove to be.
Unfortunately, while our equipment works just fine, you have to shriek in horror at what we have been programmed to do. An old computer term for this is, "GIGO", or "Garbage In, Garbage Out!" We have such a beautiful ability to learn, but we've been programmed for self-destruction.
Another amazing thing to keep in mind about the mind is that we can be conditioned to believe things which are completely untrue. In terms of our survival, it is critical that we absorb the ways of the world -- beliefs about the world and how things work-- from our elders. So we take in beliefs, understandings, and meanings a long time before we have any ability to evaluate them or question their truth. If we learn from people whose beliefs are faulty and whose lives don't work well, when we follow those beliefs, our lives fail to work properly also.
What is worse is that our caretakers can instill beliefs in us for their own selfish purposes, rather than to help us survive and thrive. Our need for love, information, and skills -- our dependency -- can be used by others to get what they want for themselves. If an authority figure in our life tells us something is true, we're likely to believe it, even if we've just been told that we are the worst child in the universe and that we are responsible for daddy's drinking and our parent's divorce. Parent's can use our belief in our badness, which they have given us, to control us through our own angry self judgments which lead to feelings of shame and guilt. The child, trying to be good, wanting to be loved -- i.e. rewarded for being obedient -- takes what the parent says as true and then makes it true for herself by punishing herself with negative emotions, which make her feel bad.

Unloving Caretakers, Unloving Minds

    In many ways, our minds are just like computers that execute programs of thoughts, feelings, and actions without regard for value and truth. In our society, we develop our minds and thinking as tools for gaining advantage over others, as a technology of domination, often without ethics. The misuse of power -- exploitation of the weak, vulnerable, and immature -- is commonplace. Humanity, having created such a mind, should not be surprised when the mind takes on a life of its own.
In this way, to our own minds, each of us becomes just another object to exploit and control. We have been programmed to control ourselves with emotional cruelty, to the point where we become emotionally disabled. Our own mind, which has internalized the abusive drama enacted by our caretakers, has become our biggest enemy. To regain control of our lives, we must first regain control of our minds. We cannot know ourselves, see what really is, and make a nurturing choice, when we are lost in the pain we've learned to create inside ourselves.

Changing Our Mind

    The method I use to help people change is a synthesis of psychological, energy, and spiritual healing known as Rohun Therapy. Rohun Therapy was developed 15 years ago by psychic Patricia Hayes, who is the co-founder of Delphi Institute in McCaysville, Georgia. Rohun systematizes the healing process with regard to working on all levels of the person as represented in the chakra system and the aura -- spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical levels -- and in working at all levels of development, from the emotionally overwhelmed state of someone first working with childhood issues, through working with higher levels of development, such as healing the shadow aspect of the personality, integrating the levels of being, integrating male and female aspects, and uncovering our fundamental illusions.
Breaking down disabling mental-emotional-spiritual conditioning which imprisons our true potential is a primary goal in Rohun. I want to give you an image which might help me to communicate how I see the process of deconditioning.
Imagine that there is one big you and lots of little you's, and that the big you is a prison guard and the little you's are prisoners -- each locked in a cell. They're locked in there because they make trouble for other people. The trouble they make is that they have a mind of their own and refuse to do everything they are told to do without question. The prison guard is your false self who doesn't want any trouble from the prisoners -- your wounded child parts -- and has to answer to the wardens -- your parents, the ones in authority -- for any disturbance.
Each of the prisoners have emotional problems and have become emotionally disabled. They have been driven mad by not being allowed to be who they really are. Trapped in their own madness, they have not been able to change themselves. The prison guard cannot help them, does not have the training to do so, and does all he can to keep them in their cells and survive for himself. When the prisoners really act up and the guard gets worried that the wardens will get annoyed, the guard will abuse the prisoners to get them to stop.
The prisoners, the prison, the guard, and the wardens are in each of us. To heal, we must see clearly the parts of ourselves that have been imprisoned. We must see the cell and the guard -- the psychological mechanism which imprisons us. We must see the wardens, the sentence they have imposed, and the means they use to carry it out.

To Heal Is To Be Nurtured

    I believe that the key to healing is understanding the difference between what it means to nurture someone and what it means to condition them. Conditioning impersonally creates prisoners and prison cells. When we condition someone, we do it from our own selfish perspective in order to get them to comply by becoming what we want them to be. We do not care about their uniqueness, their individuality, for that only gets in the way of them serving us. It would be better that they have no individuality -- no needs, no wants, no desires.
Yet, we know, you know, that everyone is different, everyone is unique. I would argue that, in order for us to be happy, we have to express that uniqueness, our individuality, and it is our individuality that suffers under parents who are insecure with themselves. Parents who do not know themselves, and who were programmed not to know themselves, cannot help their children to know themselves either.
By the rules our parents grew up with, knowing yourself, having a self, is selfish. They were supposed to sacrifice themselves for the common good, and it's a lot easier to do that when you don't really know who you are as a unique individual.
For the most part, when people enter therapy, they are struggling to have a unique, positive identity of their own choosing. In the past, they were not allowed or helped to exercise their free will in the creation of their life.
In the extreme, their identity -- who they are socially, who they believe themselves to be -- is as their mother's and father's suffering, dysfunctional, worthless son or daughter. They know that they are not what they are supposed to be, otherwise, wouldn't they be loved, wouldn't they feel valuable, wouldn't they be happy? Since they feel so much pain, they have come to believe that pain is part of their essence, part of their identity. They have come to believe, "I AM pain", "I AM suffering", "I AM a failure". Their continuing recreation and re-experiencing of the abused, stifled child makes this very believable.
I want to add that even conditioning that is done through positive feedback, though rewards rather than punishment, can shape the formation of a personality at odds with a person's true potentials.
How, then, do we relate to a child so as not to condition them, but, instead, to nurture them? To transform, to decondition, a person's inner reality, both the therapist and the client themselves must engage in an effective, cooperative, systematic program of nurturing the client.

What Does It Mean To Nurture?

    To nurture means to feed for the purpose of growth. Growth to the limit of each person's individual potential is not a goal of the society we have grown up in. However, if we hope to be happy in our own lives, we must make it an important priority for us.
Imagine for a second that this individual potential is a beautiful, delicate, rare flower, one that requires the utmost care and tenderness in its growth. Imagine that when it blooms, it gives out the most heavenly scent and brilliant, pure colors. Imagine that such a flower blesses and uplifts each person who experiences it. This flower is who you are. No less.
The natural child, the newly born, is such a flower, such a precious flower. He or she is here to uplift humanity by his or her very nature. We do not ask what we should do with a flower to get it to serve us. It serves us by its existence, by being what it is. We cannot improve upon it. We are incapable of that. We can benefit from the flower by appreciating it -- by simply taking in what it is.
If we want to help it, we can do so by insuring that it has what is needs to sustain itself, what it needs to flourish. We nurture the flower when we serve it, when we dedicate ourselves to supplying its needs.

We Are Not Our Minds

    How do we do this for ourselves? We must start with the understanding that we are not our minds, we are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings. While we are normally one with our thoughts and feelings, fused with them, inseparable from them, we are also capable of being aware of them. The fact that we can observe our thoughts and feelings proves that we are essentially different from them. If there were no difference between thoughts, feelings, and us, we could never tell them apart. So, we are the observer, not the observed. We are consciousness itself. Yet, for most of us, self-awareness exists more as a potential than an actuality, but it is a potential we must develop.
To develop ourselves as an observer, we must give ourselves the opportunity to observe. We must develop our capacity to observe.
Our problem with observing ourselves is that we cannot be neutral. Instead of observing, staying with bare attention, when we try to just look at ourselves, we judge ourselves instead. We always label what is "good" or "bad" about ourselves. We're always comparing ourselves to some standard created in the past. We're always coming from that past, and telling ourselves the same old story.
And the story is that we are bad, worthless, undeserving, stupid, weak, etc., etc., etc. The message we've gotten from our parents directly or indirectly, and the one we continue to give to ourselves, is that we're unacceptable and unlovable. Because we look with eyes made angry by hurt, to look at ourselves is to judge ourselves and to hurt and suffer. For this reason, we must develop in ourselves an observer, a consciousness, which is not identified with our conditioned thought and feelings, which is beyond the sad drama of our lives, and so is capable of seeing through the illusions which imprison us.

Rohun Teaches Self-Nurturing

    In a Rohun session, we learn to use our own consciousness as a tool for self-healing. Initially, it is a poor tool. Because we come to therapy angry, afraid, and hurting, we have little ability to see things as they are or to be compassionate. This is to be expected. It is no wonder why it is difficult for us to look at ourselves. Yet, to heal, we must not only look at ourselves, but learn to love and support ourselves in the true sense of those words. To look at ourselves with angry eyes keeps our prison cells locked tight.
Most people don't appreciate that we have a relationship with ourselves that matters. Not only does it matter, but it is the most important relationship we have. Most commonly we focus on other people's opinions of us. We look for love from them to make us feel valuable.
The wounded child parts of ourselves will stay in their cells until it is safe to come out, and we cannot heal them until they do. But, trust me, they're not stupid. They're staying inside until the weather outside is fair. They've learned that they can't count on us, let alone anyone else. We've got to prove them wrong, and they're hard to fool.
In Rohun, when we value ourselves, make a commitment to ourselves, and create a safe, supportive emotional environment, we can bring forward the parts of our consciousness that need healing. Honesty and courage, self acceptance and love are keys to the process, and as we practice Rohun, we increase our capacity for these healing qualities.
We can observe the state of our consciousness as we experience how we relate to ourselves -- how we respond to our own inner images, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors -- how judgmental or accepting we are to these expressions of ourselves. What we want to see and to work with is the nature and quality of our "relating", which mirrors aspects of how we were related to by our parents.
When we have prepared a suitably safe, relaxed therapy environment, we can invite the pained parts of ourselves to come into our bodies and minds -- by allowing feelings into our bodies, and thoughts and images into our minds.
These thoughts, feelings, and images are coming into us all the time, and we are responding to them all the time, but we are not consciously aware of what's happening within us. We are on automatic, and the process is outside of our conscious control.
What we begin to experience when we focus inwardly and slow down the action are the pained parts of ourselves and our refusal and inability to deal with them. We pushed these hurting parts of ourselves, these hurt children, out of our lives, out of our bodies and minds, long ago, and we still don't know what to do with them and the experiences they've had. They frighten us. Also, we still prohibit ourselves from fully acknowledging how we were hurt by the people who were supposed to love us. We can begin to see how all avenues to healing, all exits, have been blocked.
Yet, we come to learn in Rohun that there is a natural path to healing when we open the gates to the truth of our experiences. We have spent our childhoods protecting and pretending -- afraid to admit the truth, to feel what we must feel, and to grow in our capacity to accept and forgive and let go. To some extent, we still want to be children, and that child still wants the pain to magically go away, and the good mommy and daddy to appear.
What we learn instead is that the pain goes when we release the pain we stuffed inside, when we stop creating pain in our daily lives, and when we stop choosing situations in our lives which recreate our pain. We learn how to release the anger, sadness, fear, and shame which, up until now, had no outlet, except to turn inward and hurt ourselves. And we find that, having released these destructive emotions, our mind becomes increasingly capable of seeing things without distortion.
As we stick with such a process, we develop openness and contact and awareness. We become present, instead of absent. Given this treatment, the inner child parts of ourselves are no longer alone, isolated, neglected, or abandoned. They have a shoulder to lean on, and a body to cry through. They can convert what is now is frozen pain into an energetic release of the pain. Reconnecting with permission to feel, to grieve, the negative emotional energies we have stored over the years can be let go of, and the negative beliefs about ourselves can be revised.
Bringing consciousness and light to an area of ourselves where there was only darkness before is a truly spiritual event, for in it, we are freeing ourselves to know and love ourselves, and to set ourselves on a path of real personal meaning and deep satisfaction. As we finally go deep inside ourselves, we find that there is actually someone there of great beauty and value, a uniqueness that is us.

Rohun: An Example

    I want to share with you part of a recent Rohun session. In it, I was helping a client expand his awareness about an event that had caused him pain. He had recently cut off his relationship with his father which had been a constant source of bad feelings for him. His father could never allow him to feel good about himself, and always dominated their conversations with how good he, the father, was while refusing to give any importance to his son. The client finally decided he wanted no relationship with his father if his father could not respect him and acknowledge him as a person in his own right.
The painful feelings were triggered when my client's father sent him a holiday gift signed, "Love, Dad", rather than respecting his son's wish for separation, and rather than addressing the underlying issue of how he had treated his son. The gift was seen as just one more instance of his father making himself happy, while effectively ignoring this client's real feelings and the painful step he had taken to end his relationship.
I asked the client to go inside himself and recall the disturbing event, to feel the way he felt then in his body now. Having allowed the feelings into his body, I asked him to tune into what he was thinking, and what images came to his mind. Doing this, he began to observe how his natural response of anger was blocked from expression by his fear of his fathers typically belittling, pain-inducing response to him. Because he could not express his anger directly and authentically, he expressed it instead, in his mind, as a scathing negative judgment about his father. The fact that he judged his father bothered him because it was exactly what his father would have done, a behavior he hated. So he judged himself for judging his father, which made him feel guilty for doing so. Underneath the whole exchange, you could sense how, in spite of the fact that he had chosen to withdraw from the relationship, the client still had a child part of himself who still yearned for the possibility of real love and respect from his father.
What we can see from this real example is that when our natural responses are blocked, we quickly become disabled by the reverberations of the unexpressed and unreleased negative emotions in our body-mind. Rather than giving permission for emotions to be communicated -- to become a shared or common experience -- parents can easily control their child by refusing to listen to him, and judging, threatening, and shaming him for having such feelings, which in the long run becomes the child's response to his own emotions.

A False Self Gets False Love

    In our attempt to maintain the false self, which at best gets us false love, we allow ourselves to be controlled by what we falsely believe is in our best interests. We have been taught that to ignore our real feelings and say nothing about them is in our best interest. We have been forced to believe lies. We have been forced to believe that expressions of hate and the frustration of our parents is what it means to be loved, a love we still need deeply.
The key point in our individual healing is to take the responsibility for creating a safe, loving space within our own hearts. We can no longer afford a cold-hearted relationship with our true selves, one in which aloofness, distance, denial, and disdain are passed off as love. Without knowing how to love ourselves, without knowing what love really is, we are unable to tell real love from a convincing counterfeit. Without beginning to fill the vast emptiness inside ourselves with real love, we can easily fall victim to our own neediness, and find ourselves, once again, living behind our walls with other people who live behind theirs.
Beyond the issue of individual therapy, we need to support each other and create a community of the heart where it is safe to be ourselves. The time has come for all of us who have been wounded to join together, not to stay as we are and curse those that put us there, but to explore what it is like to be in relationships based on speaking the truth, based on openness and caring and trust, and based on an abundance of love and nurturing. As we come to love ourselves, and become accepting and whole within ourselves, I believe we will find that our relationships will be about each person's growth toward their soul's unique potentials.

Ro-Hun Therapist Jay Kantor, Ph.D., holds a Doctorate degree in Psychology from Columbia University and has studied healing for over 18 years with the country's best healers, including Patricia Hayes (Founder of Ro-Hun Therapy), Barbara Brennan (Hands of Light), Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, Dr. Robert Jaffe (Advanced Energy Healing), Dr, Bill Baldwin (Spirit Releasement Therapy), Dolores Krieger (Therapeutic Touch) & Victoria Merkle (Energy Healing). He is Director of the Ro-Hun Center of New Jersey, located at 145 Ayers Ct. in Teaneck. He may be reached at (201) 461-7347.