Issue 75 –
DISOWNED SELVES – Our Lost Heritage
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
We humans are a most delightful mélange of energy patterns or selves. Some of these energies are familiar and comfortable, some are curious or unfamiliar, and some are downright distasteful. In this series of articles we will examine the development of the latter energies – our disowned selves – and their effect on our lives.
Disowned selves are energy patterns that have been partially or totally excluded from our lives. They can range from being angelically spiritual, creative, and mystical to being lustful, selfish, and even demonic.
Our disowned selves can be detected by the intense, often uncharacteristic emotional reaction we have to others. The following examples will illustrate this:
- a man who was an honest, sincere, and faithful husband for thirty years was outraged by a woman he encountered who “had no sense of loyalty or commitment, whose idea of a relationship was a two-day sexual involvement with someone whom she would never see again.”
- a dreamy, spiritually oriented young man perceived his financially successful older brother as “almost demonic in his pursuit of money, power, and women.”
- a thoughtful, gentle, and kind woman couldn’t bear her boss who was “cruel, selfish, and only interested in results.”
- a tough self-made man couldn’t “stand wimps or victims. They make me want to puke!”
These examples clearly convey the intense emotions attached to the disowned self. These emotions are the result of the tremendous energy in the disowned energy pattern itself, as well as the energy utilized in keeping it disowned. It is no wonder that intense feelings come into play whenever we see a disowned self reflected in someone else.
Before we explore our disowned selves further, one important distinction needs to be made: In general, the term for a self that is not conscious is an unconscious self, but not all unconscious selves are necessarily disowned . An unconscious self is simply unconscious – no energy is holding it down or maintaining its unconscious status.
However, every disowned self has an opposite energy with which the ego and the protector/controller are identified. For example, a woman who has buried a disowned self associated with uninhibited sexuality may, in fact, consider herself to be a morally upright, highly disciplined person. This opposite, morally upright energy, in conjunction with the protector/controller, is constantly holding the disowned self at bay. Ultimately, however, we have no way of knowing that a self is disowned until we become aware of it.
The Development of the Disowned Selves
The disowned self is an energy pattern that has been punished every time it has emerged. These punishments might have been subtle – a raised eyebrow, the withdrawal of attention, a “that’s rather unattractive, don’t you think?” – or they may have been powerful punishments such as beatings or public humiliation. Whatever the nature of these repressive environmental forces, the result is the same: A set of energy patterns is deemed totally unacceptable and is, therefore, repressed but not totally destroyed. These energy patterns live on in our unconscious.
In Jungian terms, our disowned selves are a part of our shadow. When we see them reflected in others – when we see someone unashamedly living out an energy pattern similar to one we have disowned – we feel this disowned pattern resonate within ourselves. However, this pattern has been associated with pain and punishment in the past, so we want it to go away as soon as possible.
In order to quiet our internal discomfort we must rid ourselves of the corresponding external stimulus. We must kill off the person who is so audaciously living out our disowned self, whether we do it literally – as in a Jack-the-Ripper-style murder or symbolically – such as sitting in judgment of someone. Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter painfully but clearly illustrated the price paid for living out the adulterous disowned self belonging to the Puritan community in which she lived.
One woman we worked with, Jane, had been taught to disown her sexuality: From an early age, she was punished for any evidence of flirtatiousness or sexuality. She learned to bury her sexuality, and this energy pattern then became a disowned self. By the time she reached adulthood she had learned to dress soberly; value her objectivity, rationality, and independence; and perceive her sexuality as an incidental part of life. Nevertheless, her sexuality did exist someplace in her unconscious.
One evening Jane went to a party where she encountered a woman – flirting outrageously, dressed in a very revealing décolletage, and surrounded by men – who personified Jane’s disowned self. An interesting thing happened: Jane’s disowned self began to vibrate sympathetically with this woman’s. Jane had always been punished for behaving like this woman, so she became acutely uncomfortable as their two energy patterns vibrated with one another – the one unashamed and flamboyant, the other a hidden and unrecognized echo of what it might have been.
To remove the source of her discomfort Jane judged “the other woman”: “I’ve never seen such a disgusting, vulgar exhibition in my entire life! Isn’t she ashamed to walk around like that? I’d think her husband would be embarrassed to death!” Just as Jane expressed herself with great vehemence and self-righteousness, so do we use judgment to eliminate the vibrating energy of our disowned selves.