The False Core Belief and False Self Pattern
In order to find out who you are you must first find out who you are not. Nisargadatta Maharaj
In order to get out of jail you must first know you are in one.
The journey of becoming fully human begins with taking form. This paper maps the journey’s trajectory with particular emphasis on what happens to us when we arrive and how it contributes to our case of “mistaken identity.” It is based on the work of Stephen Wolinsky Ph.D. and Kathleen Dowling Singh Ph.D., both psychologists and spiritual practitioners/teachers.
Leaving the timeless, eternal Ground of Being to take human form is a shocking experience. In fact, it is called the First Shock of Separation. Our entry into the world is mitigated somewhat by the fact that we are fused with our caregivers, not knowing where we end, and they begin. However, babies grow rapidly and soon we began to move, to explore and draw boundaries, which is the inevitable trajectory for becoming a separate self. The move away from the Ground of Being is supported by our mind’s binary capacity.
The realization, happening between five and twelve months, that we are separate from those around us draws the primary boundary, or duality, between the self and the not self. When we experience this boundary, it is also a shock to our system, which is why it is called the Second Shock of Separation.
While we don’t remember these experiences consciously, leaving the spaciousness of the Ground of Being, coupled with the loss of fusion with our caregivers, creates fear and anxiety within. The transition from the timeless, eternal into separate human form engenders a profound sense of loss.
This seeming loss of our core is experienced by the nervous system as chaos. Something is terribly wrong. In order to make sense of what is being experienced and calm the chaos, we each draw a conclusion/interpretation. For example, “I have no core because I am worthless” or “I am all alone.” This conclusion/interpretation is called the False
Core Belief. These conclusions were left as impressions rather than literal sentences, as it happens when we are pre-verbal. Nevertheless, these deeply ingrained impressions influence our reality and affect our way of being even as we grow into fully developed adults.
Our loss and longing to reconnect with the essential core of ourselves get pushed into the recesses of our consciousness and we see it as yet another “not me.” Spaciousness is no longer our home, rather it feels like a void within . . . something is missing and it’s because I’m inadequate or alone or stupid.
Here are some additional classic False Core Beliefs . . . I am imperfect. I am powerless. I am invisible. I am not safe. I am weak. I am in pain. I will never make it. I don’t exist. I am a burden. I am too much. I’m unlovable. I am nothing. I’m not enough. I don’t deserve more. I’m not wanted. I’m wrong.
This False Core Belief also gets pushed into the background as we set about the “identity project” of creating a False Self Pattern which is also called by many the Persona. We forget both who we really are and the false conclusion we drew about why we are no longer connected to the Ground of Being. Assisted by the external influences and experiences in which we are raised, we develop ways of thinking, feeling, posturing and behaving that help us cover up our False Core Belief. This is called a “fixation of attention” as we come to view ourselves as a static being. In reality this fixation is at best a partial picture of who we are.
Deep down these two Shocks of Separation feel like a betrayal rather than the natural process of becoming that it actually is. The motivation, energy and drive of the cover up are all about helping us survive the seeming betrayal.
There are a variety of ways we do this. For example if
the conclusion you drew amidst the chaos of separation
was “I am not safe,” you may hide by pretending you are fearless, deny by not letting yourself admit fear at all, compensate by creating safety or verify by taking unnecessary risks that result in problems, hence validating that you are not safe. However, the False Self is configured, it feels like it is “who you are.” In reality it is a distorted version because it was built on the lie of the False Core Belief.
Because the False Core Belief/False Self Pattern develops so that you can survive in the world, it continually reinforces itself and will resist whatever threatens its existence. This is why change is so difficult. Your deeply embedded way of being that seems like “you” is threatened by your desire to discover “who you really are.” This desire to stay where you are is every bit as strong if not stronger than the desire to change, which is why the process is often described as “one foot on the brake” (FCB/FSP) and “one foot on the accelerator” (desire to change). No wonder Dr. Robert Kegan, author of the book Immunity to Change, calls these two desires “competing commitments.”
Sadly, we spend many years living the False Self Pattern and assuaging the void inside in various unhealthy ways . . . eating, drinking, shopping, working to name just a few. Because at some deep level we know our identity is built on false scaffolding, we feel like an imposter. And though we have tastes of our Essence or True Self, it can never become a permanent part of our awareness until the FCB/FSP is dismantled. It is imperative to remember that the False Self configuration cannot be resolved, healed or transformed. The key is to see it clearly as “not you.” With that realization your pattern begins to crumble allowing the full range of your own qualities/characteristics to emerge and opening the way to drop deeply into who you really are, an
expression of Essence.
Looking back at the journey one can see that becoming a human is facilitated by the repression of the pain of separation. Becoming fully human requires facing and integrating that pain. As we do, the desire to resist that from which we came dissipates and we come to know that we are part of the seamless coat of the universe and feel deeply sourced by it.