The absence of a secure sense of self, is at the very least, a deep ache at every moment in one’s life. There is nothing more painful than the feeling of complete separation between one’s core-self, and the self they show to the world. This kind of schism not only creates chronic confusion throughout one’s life, because one is not anchored from within, but it nurtures low self-esteem. It acts as a vicious cycle of one begetting the other; the split from the core creates low self-esteem, and then low self-esteem causes greater disconnection from one’s core-self. It can at times look as though there are two specific, yet different selves in one. Often, one self is not overtly aware of the other hidden self, hiding from each other like two sides of a coin.
I have been working with a client for 6 months who has fooled himself repeatedly.
He has told himself, and others, a story, a fictitious story about himself as a soft- hearted, generous, person with lots of money. He’s told himself that he’d be of value if he could rescue people from their mistakes.
His story goes like this. Upon first meeting over the telephone, Johnny alluded to being a wealthy man, a generous, philanthropist type. He has a soft heart, he says, for those people who are in difficult financial situations, particularly women. In fact, he told me he didn’t like men because they were generally jealous of him and his success.
As he divulged these beliefs and aspects of his personality, I saw another side of him underneath that was small; a wounded boy is whom I saw. The wounded boy could rescue people, needy women, and thereby make himself a hero in both their eyes. More importantly, it would make him their indispensable hero. He was aware that he was attracted to needy women with sad stories, he told me that. But he believed that he was simply giving to those who were in need, until I pointed out the obvious facts that he didn’t want to see. He was hiding from himself, hiding from his make believe persona in order to feel secure in the world, secure within his imaginary, personal world.
He had been loaning money to women who approached him with sad stories on dating websites. He’d get a rush from feeling like he was rescuing them from hard times, a rush from feeling that they liked him, that they thought of him as a good, generous, man. All fantasies that he manufactured within, that gave him energy and hormone rushes. Energy and hormone rushes, a powerful combination that kept him coming back for more.
Part of their stories that hooked him, was that he would earn a double pay back if he jumped certain additional financial hoops for them. This was attractive because he thought, much like a gambler would, that he could earn back what he’d previously lost.
One such loan was to a woman, who was going to Nigeria to pick up money she had there in a bank. She got stranded. She ran out of money for food she claimed. If he would loan her more money, and still more for the purchase of some antiquities that she would bring back, and sell for him, she assured him that he would make a handsome profit. Johnny tricked himself. He pretended that she was telling him a true sad story. He pretended that he was helping her. He pretended he was a rich man. He pretended that he’d re-coup his lost money if he only did this one more time. His intuition was telling him otherwise. He was ignoring that information, and choosing to be caught up with believing her string of lies, that successfully fueled Johnny’s dream.
His fantasies formed a veil over the truth, protecting him from having to see the truth, and then feel the feelings of his self-betrayal, and ultimately dealing with the loss of his money and his self-trust. All big losses, the most devastating of them all though, was the self-betrayal, the loss of knowing he could trust himself.
In the 6 months I’d been working with him he’d invested, as he called it, in 3 different sad story schemes. He’d lost all that he’d loaned including the additional moneys they’d asked him for, all 3 times. Each time he would fall for the same trick, then minimize, skew, and leave out details purposely, when telling me about the scam. He was running from the truth, trying to trick himself and obviously me too.
When I looked at his latest investment, the “sad story” woman he told me about. I saw it wasn’t a woman at all, but a man. I also saw the other loan situations were connected to this man, it was a ring of thieves, Johnny had become their target, their easy target. I felt his defenses fall away. I felt him hear me finally. I asked him how much money he’d lost. He said he’d lost all his retirement. My suspicions were validated at that moment; he was not the high roller he had pretended to be.
He went silent. I could feel him sinking with regret, shame, and embarrassment. He was exposed. I could see him. He knew I was seeing him, and he could no longer hide from me, or hide from himself. That day, that moment, was the beginning of his healing. I’d been working towards this moment, where he would be stripped of his secure hiding spaces for several months.
I could see his spirit all along. His spirit wanted to change; he needed the right help. With the guidance of his spirit, and his desire, I was able to give him that help. Now he’s looking in the mirror, he’s seeing who he really is. Now he’s working on building his self-trust account. He’s making deposits by following through with his commitments to his self-care, and by saying what he means, and meaning what he says. He’s not trying to be someone else now. With vigilance, intention, and conviction, the man he’s always wanted to be, an honorable, authentic, trustworthy man; that “real” man, is who he can become.