Most of the behaviour we exhibit in adulthood is often a result of behavioural adaption, and we often tend to adapt to retain a sense of belonging. Additionally, the improved behaviour often is connected with a fear of being excluded from one’s community, which would most likely leave the individual to themselves. As a result of the exclusion, the individual would have to survive on their own, which decreases their survivability immensely. The argument I will attempt to make is that behavioural adaption might cause feelings of inadequacies, which most individuals struggle with daily.
According to Winnicott (1996), the false Self is often further developed when the environment surrounding an individual is non-accepting or excessively demanding, which leads the individual to suppress their authentic feelings and personality. On the other hand, the true Self can be described as the full potential of an individual’s personality but is mainly allowed to develop in a caring and supportive environment. Additionally, if an individual continuously experiences a hostile or non-conforming environment, feelings of inadequacies and false Self continue to develop. The consequence of a highly developed false Self is often a lack of authenticity, which the majority often describes as numbness, apathy, or lack of aliveness. Besides, the false Self is often constructed by identifications with the external figures in their environment and often attempts to present itself as polite and well-mannered.
The false Self is not entirely harmful, and it has to be developed in order to function in daily living. On the other hand, if an individual’s case is at an extreme identification with the false Self, often the individual perceives it to be genuine, which can have severe ramifications. The leading cause behind the development of a false Self is often based on defences to protect and hide the true Self, often due to an experience of being unaccepted by one’s environment. As a result, the individual attempts to develop a false Self to receive the affection they require or desire. The main issue is that the false Self continues to develop and can lead to the destruction of the complete Self, and is mainly caused due to an inability to express their true Self (Winnicott, 1996). In other words, an individual who has experienced an environment that has continuously rejected their attempts to express their complete personality might exhibit suicidal behaviour or attempt suicide.
The suicidal behaviour or attempts at suicide are mainly noticeable in severe cases, and the individual might unconsciously believe there are limited options. Besides, the destruction of the complete Self is often organised by the false Self to avoid obliteration of the true Self. Besides, the destruction of the complete Self also entails the annihilation of both the false and authentic Self. However, suicidal attempts are often believed to be the only method to prevent the continued existence of the false Self and might be due to a failure to protect the true Self from insult (Winnicott, 1996). In other words, if an individual continuously experiences rejection from their environment when they attempt to express themselves genuinely, they will most likely develop an ingenuine personality that can lead to self-harm.
The development of the false self is often due to the environment being unable to adapt to the individual, which often leads to individual adjustment. On the other hand, these continuous behaviour adaptions might lead to the individual experiencing feelings of inadequacy due to extreme encounters with rejection when attempting to express themselves authentically. Additionally, the individual might perceive that they are only accepted, cared for, supported, and loved when they behave in a specific manner that might have gained their environment’s approval. However, the experience of being cared for or supported when behaving in a specific manner might lead to severe feelings of inadequacies or, eventually, mental illnesses.
The issue with experiencing approval, support, affection, or love only when we behave acceptably is that we are forced to identify with the persona, which is not entirely negative and has benefits in operating in social settings. Nevertheless, an over-emphasis on the development of the persona often leaves us with a lack of acceptance, affection, and love for ourselves. Hence, we learn that the only aspect of us worthy of love is the persona, and we forget that love is not supposed to be conditional or limited to specifics. On the other hand, love is supposed to be unconditional and should especially be experienced when we demonstrate other aspects of our personality or Self. Hence, an increase in self-acceptance might lead us to develop a more authentic Self, which can help combat feelings of inadequacies but, most importantly, aliveness.
Last of all, we are supposed to experience affection, support, and love for the aspects we might consider faulty or inadequate. For example, suppose an individual is challenged by some mental disorder, physical disorder, or self-esteem issues. In that case, they should be taught to increase their level of self-acceptance, which might combat a continuous need for external validation through rigorous self-development. Hence, the individual might develop a capacity for self-compassion but simultaneously be capable of providing some of the support, affection, and love they might desire.
Winnicott, D.W. (1990). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. London: Routledge.