Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

Comparison: Typical Behavioral
Traits of True and False Selves

Signs of who controls your life

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/compare.htm

  Updated  02-01-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles on Lesson 1 in this Web site - free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and reduce significant false-self wounds. This article provides a quick way to estimate whether a person is controlled by their true Self or ''someone else'' (a "false self"). 

      This article assumes you're familiar with...

      This brief YouTube video introduces the concept of true Self and false self. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons. I've rescued that to seven.


      Many philosophers and everyday people propose that we each have a self. There has been rich and raucous debate across centuries and cultures about what that is. After 16 years' professional study I propose there are two types of self which regulate your personality and behaviors every day.

      If our early-childhood nurturing is wholistically-healthy enough, we seem to automatically develop a  personality subself which acts like a naturally-talented orchestra leader, athletic coach, or chairperson. This subself has clear, realistic wide-angle, long-range vision. S/He consistently makes healthy, balanced minor and major decisions based on the dynamic input of our five or six senses and vocal other subselves.

      In this best case, our evolving brain and body is directed and coordinated each moment by this highly-skilled true Self (capital "S"). When that happens, kids and adults report feeling a mix of grounded, calm, purposeful, focused, optimistic, strong, "up," content, alert, aware, alive, resilient, centered, resilient, secure, potent, and compassionate. Remember the last time you felt a blend of these?

Enter the Protective "False" Self

      But... if very young kids experience significant lack of wholistic nurturance, their personalities (brains) seem to develop a different kind of self (small "s"). Their true Self seems overwhelmed or blocked from developing and directing their actions by other well-meaning but limited, impulsive Inner Kids and Guardian personality subselves who want to "run the show." When Inner Kids and Guardians distrust and disable the resident true Self, they form a "false self."

      False-self dominance is normal, widespread, and promotes survival vs. growth. It's like a distrustful, disgruntled violinist, tuba player, and lead tenor pushing their talented conductor off the podium and fighting over who will lead the orchestra. False-self dominance promotes up to five more psychological 'wounds.'

      People who are used to being controlled by a false self experience that as normal. The idea that there is another subself in them that - if allowed to - can consistently make wiser, healthier life decisions is unbelievable. Do you relate?

      We kids and adults range between "a little wounded" or "very wounded," depending on (a) any early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma), (b) how many subselves are vying to control us, and (c) how often they disable our true Self.

reminder.gif (128 bytes) Note: A common first-reaction to "personality subselves" is anxiety about being crazy or having a "multiple personality." Since about 1980, psychiatrists and sociologists have guesstimated that about 5% of  Americans seems to have extreme personality fragmenting. That was called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), and is now dubbed "Dissociative Identity Disorder" (DID) by psychiatrists. The common clinical term for "personality splitting" (false-self formation and dominance) is dissociation

      Research repeatedly suggests that such massively fragmented people survived extreme abuse and psycho-spiritual trauma as young children. The great majority of us, probably including you, do not have anywhere close to this DID degree of personality fragmenting - but we do have some.

       In this site, a Grown Wounded Child (GWC) is an adult who's personality is "significantly" ruled by a false self, according to someone. Before wound-reduction, we're usually unaware of false-self dominance and its impacts - though we're adept at spotting false-self symptoms in other people! 

      The bad news: Being significantly controlled by a false self has powerful personal, marital, parental, and social implications. In my experience, the high majority of troubled, divorcing, and re/married Americans (and others?) are GWCs in major denial.

      The good news: Once understood and admitted, false-self dominance and psychological wounds can be significantly reduced over time (and true Selves empowered) via self-motivated personal recovery. Self-improvement Lesson 1 in this site is devoted to assessing for and reducing, significant false-self dominance. See this unique Lesson 1 guidebook .

 Trait Comparison

      Here's a way to sense who's leading someone's personality (like yours) locally or chronically. Option - use this as a worksheet to profile yourself or someone else

Common True Self Behavioral Traits Common False-self Behavioral Traits

__ Alert, awake, aware

__ Generally "up" and "light," (mood)

__ Usually realistically optimistic

__ Focused, clear, and centered

__ Compassionate, kind, forgiving

__ Firm, strong, confidant, purposeful

__ Calm, serene, peaceful

__ Usually has a wide-angle, long-range  focus - accepts delayed gratification

__ Balances long and short-term payoffs

__ Usually patient, persistent, committed

__ Appreciative, grateful, "glass half-full"

__ Empathic, sensitive, genuinely respectful

__ Spiritually open,  aware, "connected,"  receptive, growing

__ Consistently self-nurturing without egotism

__ Genuine, honest, open, direct

__ Respectfully assertive

__ Socially engaged and active

__ Physically healthy: balanced diet, exercise, work and rest; gets preventive checkups

__ Spontaneously expressive of all emotions real-time, without major anxiety or guilt

__ Able to form genuine bonds with others

__ Able to judge who to dis/trust with what

__ Realistically self-responsible

__ Usually realistic about life and situations

__ Spontaneously able to exchange love

__ Comfortable receiving merited praise

__ Often able to forgive self and others

__ Frequently maintains a two-person "awareness bubble"

__ Seldom gives double messages

__ Able to grieve losses spontaneously

__ Seeks Self-guided people and high-nurturance settings

__ Evolving and living a clear life purpose

__ Work, play, and rest are generally balanced

__ Fuzzy, distracted, confused, numb

__ Often "heavy," "down," gloomy, manic

__ Usually pessimistic or idealistic

__ Confused, vague, unable to stay focused

__ Blaming, critical, bigoted

__ Indecisive, worried, cautious, doubtful

__ "Upset," scared, angry, guilty, ashamed

__ Usually has a narrow, short-term focus

__ Usually seeks immediate gratification

__ Often impatient, impulsive, uncommitted

__ Bitter, jealous, resentful, "glass half empty"

__ Selfish, arrogant, disrespectful

__ Spiritually unaware, skeptical, closed, scornful, or uninterested

__ Consistently self-neglectful

__ Dishonest, indirect, sly, controlling

__ Timid and apologetic, or aggressive

__ Isolated or compulsively social

__ Physically unhealthy; relies on prescribed drugs or self-medication 

__ Anxious, guilty, or blocked about feeling and/or expressing some or all emotions

__ Difficulty forming true (vs. pseudo) bonds

__ Difficulty discerning who to trust with what

__ Notably over- or under-responsible

__ Frequent distortions and denials

__ Difficulty giving and/or receiving real love

__ Uncomfortable receiving merited praise

__ Difficulty forgiving self and/or others

__ Often focuses only on her/himself or a conversational partner - 1-person "bubble"

__ Often gives double messages

__ Difficulty grieving on one to three levels 

__ Unconsciously prefers wounded people and low-nurturance settings

__ Unclear on or indifferent to a life purpose

__ Work, play, and rest are often unbalanced

      Pause, breathe, and notice your thoughts and feelings. Which column of traits do you identify with? Do you see each of your parents here? Your grandparents? Your partner? A child? A former lover? A hero/ine or mentor?

  Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll..

      If you're skeptical about personality subselves, read this letter to you. and experiencing this safe, interesting exercise. Option: assess whether you and/or another adult or child are significantly ruled by a false self. For options on preventing  psychological wounds in your family, community, church, state, or nation, see this article after you finish here.

For more perspective, read this research summary on "bad habits" and these real-life news examples of people unaware of being controlled by false selves.


      This Lesson-1 article and nonprofit Web site propose that normal personalities (like yours) are composed of talented ''subselves'' and are controlled by a wise true Self (capital S) or ''false selves.'' Observable behaviors indicate which of these is true, situationally and over time.

      From my 36 years' clinical research and observation, the article provides brief background on this premise, and describes common behavioral traits of a typical true Self and false selves.

      People often controlled by false selves are usually survivors of major childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) who don't (want to) know about their resulting psychological wounds and what they usually mean. 

      Assessing whether another person is currently or regularly controlled by a false self can empower you to choose whether to maintain a relationship with them, and the best way to relate to them.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or someone else? Would you answer the poll at the top of the article the same way now?

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