Who or what brings out the best in you?
What have been important people or moments in your life? Who did you see as an example? Were they your parents or caretakers? Was it someone from your family, a school teacher? Who made you feel seen, heard or appreciated? And what was this like when you got older. Do you remember people, events or situations that you admired, respected and appreciated? People or situations you thought, this is what I want? And what about this moment in your life. Are there people around you right now who see you and appreciate you for who you are? Take a moment to reflect on the answers that are within you to these questions.
She was always there
I myself have fond memories of my grandmother’s sister on my mother’s side. I grew up in a middle class family. My father was a milkman and peddled a mobile shop in the village. In addition to the family with 5 children, my mother also ran the shop at home. A busy family and a developing business where both parents were quite ‘busy’ and had little time for a ‘normal’ family life. My father was most concerned with the company and its customers. My mother was really on her own when it comes to upbringing. I am the second youngest in the family. My grandmother’s sister, who had no children, had just become a widow when I was born. I have always experienced her as a kind of second mother. When I came home from school I always went to her first and then went home. She had time and attention, she was always there. My children’s drawings hung on her wall instead of our house. I was seen by her. She was an important person in this first period of my life.
I belong, unless ….
Later on, the church, education, and work were important places where I could experience, to belong somewhere. That desire to belong has always been an important impulse in my life. I think it is a natural and vital impulse that is important to be able to develop as a person in a healthy way. An impulse that has suffered the necessary ‘damage’ in the family where I grew up. In Psychosynthesis we call the ‘damage’ you incur when you lose the connection with who you really are ‘Primal Wounding’. As a child you have the need to be confirmed that you belong. That you are confirmed in your right to exist. This is confirmed by the experiences of being seen, heard and appreciated in who you are. As I got older and discovered my gay identity, that sense of belonging was only reinforced by an environment where being gay was not accepted. I didn’t belong unless …..
Autonomy and identity
Unless I followed the rules and expectations of this community. So the sense of belonging and being a member of the community came at a high price. Namely giving up one’s own autonomy and identity. It took me a long time to realize that I had surrendered part of who I was to avoid losing my place. I had not yet developed a strong sense of I am-ness to face that pain of rejection, not being seen and not being heard for who I am. It was as if I had still remained the little child who did not feel at home in the family and was looking for ways to belong. Adapt, focus on the needs of the other. It was only when I became seriously ill and all survival strategies were no longer able to maintain the ‘false self’ that I could begin to learn to let go. A process that took years.
“Here what is crucial in development is that one is recognized, acknowledged, and understood. That is, one needs to be seen as the unique, individual human being one is, rather than as something to meet the purposes and plans of others. I must be seen as ‘me’ by my parents, and not as, for example, ‘the one who will grow up and make us proud,’ or ‘the one who will save our marriage.’ Only if I am seen as uniquely ‘me’ – and not an object of someone else’s desires, fantasies, and plans – can I have a sense of myself as a unique person living my own life.”Source: Psychosynthesis, A Psychology of the Spirit, John Firman and Ann Gila
To be confirmed in our right to exist
So it is important that we are seen in who we are. In fact, it is so important to the young child that he would not survive the lack thereof. As humans we need to be confirmed in our right to exist. And that being confirmed starts from the moment of conception. From birth we are mirrored by our parents and / or caretakers, and the blueprint of our personality as it will develop, is shaped by the environment. And in my opinion that does not stop after these first years. This development continues and we also need ‘mirrors’ later on that show us what we can grow and learn about.
Psychosynthesis uses the term ‘Unifying Center’ for this. Every human being has such a unifying center within them, which can be active and conscious as well as ‘dormant’ and unconscious. It is the core of who we are. Our authentic self. A unifying center of pure self-awareness and of Will, which is also called the I-Self relationship. This unifying center of pure consciousness, love, and will, which is within each of us, can also be mirrored and represented by something outside of ourselves. When something outside of us is connected within itself, with its own authenticity and wholeness, it can act as a mirror and ‘awaken’ the authenticity and wholeness in ourselves.
In addition to persons, pets, meaningful objects, professional disciplines (such as, for example, a counselor or therapist), political and business organizations, nature and Religious or Philosophical beliefs can also function as an External Unifying Center.
“It stands to reason, therefore, that these mirroring others in our lives, so crucial to the blossoming of personal being, are somehow conduits, channels, or manifestations of this I-Self connection. In Assagioli’s terms, these empathically attuned others would be called external unifying centers.”Source: Psychosynthesis, A Psychology of the Spirit, John Firman and Ann Gila
Personal growth and awareness is a lifelong process
It is therefore not only important in the first period of our life that we are ‘mirrored’ by the other or by our environment for healthy development, but also in all other phases of our life. We continue to develop as humans. Some are aware of this and enter the process of personal growth and awareness very consciously and look for ‘external unifying centers’ where they can grow and learn. Others are not so aware of it.
“As each stage of life is supported and held by the appropriate, empathic, external unifying center, the active interaction with that external unifying center conditions the formation of an inner representation or inner model of that center – an internal unifying center. That is, the experience with the external center would condition the development of an inner center capable of serving many of the same functions fulfilled by the external one.”Source: Psychosynthesis, A Psychology of the Spirit, John Firman and Ann Gila
Psychosynthesis as a way to individual growth and awareness
For me, Psychosynthesis training and my contact with other Psychosynthesis colleagues is such a unifying center where I grow and develop further. Through them it brings me more and more in connection with myself in who I am and who I could be. It brings out the best in me and makes me aware that we as humans have the need to belong and to connect with others. When that other person is able, sincere, involved, loving and willing to see me in who I am, then I am mirrored and invited in my own sincerity, involvement, love and willingness to see the other as well as myself. We are talking about an External Authentic Unifying Center outside myself, which can lead me to the Authentic Unifying Center within myself, my own I-Self relationship. Which ultimately leads to a personality with a strong and healthy I and a strong and healthy Will. Able to connect with both my inner world and outside world. With both depth and height, its own drawbacks and its own possibilities and talents.
The Oak and the Acorn
This relationship with so-called External Unifying Centers ensures that we can become who we are. Psychosynthesis often uses the metaphor of the Oak that is already present as a tree in the acorn. When we know how to surround ourselves with people and an environment that sees us and accepts us in who we are, then the acorn can sprout and grow into the tree it potentially already is. Who or what brings out the best in you? With whom or where can you further develop and become who you are? Who sees you as you really are and want to be?
Psychosynthesis can be such an External unifying center through its offer in education and training and through the empathic relationships with coaches, counselors and therapists. A ‘true link’ to a healing relationship with yourself. Would you like to investigate this? Feel free and welcome to discuss this with me and exchange thoughts or experiences. You are very welcome in the practice on the Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam or Online.
If you would like to delve further into the theoretical background of the concepts “Unifying Center” and “Primal Wounding”, I would like to refer you to the work of John Firman and Ann Gila, both trained in Psychosynthesis.