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piiitual teacheis like Richaiu Rohi explain why beliefs that puff us up aie false selves,
anu why we shoulu let go of oui false selves. As impoitant as the emphasis on self-
puffeiy is, spiiitual teacheis often leave out impoitant paits of oui false selves, such
as ueep-iooteu beliefs that we aie no goou, unwoithy, anu funuamentally uefective.
Believing the self to be funuamentally uefective is a uefinition of shame. Shameu-baseu
beliefs aie as false as beliefs that puff us up. If fact, we might not neeu to puff ouiselves up
at all if we uiun't believe ueep uown that we aie uefective. Puffeiy can be ieaction anu
covei-up of shame. Sometimes it is simply puffeiy baseu on self-impoitance that has
nothing to uo with shame. Beie is what Rohi says about the false self.

Youi False Self, which we might also call youi 'small self,' is youi launching pau:
youi bouy image, youi job, youi euucation, youi clothes, youi money, youi cai, youi
sexual iuentity, youi success, anu so on. These aie the tiappings of ego that we all
use to get us thiough an oiuinaiy uay. They aie a nice enough platfoim to stanu on,
but they aie laigely a piojection of youi self-image anu youi attachment to it. They
aie the psychological self that you have cieateu, as opposeu to youi natuially
cieateu self, which was given by uou (Rohi, 2u14).

Noving beyonu the false self "feels like fieeuom anu libeiation." Rohi continues

When you aie connecteu to the Whole, you no longei neeu to piotect anu uefenu the
meie pait. You aie now connecteu to something inexhaustible (Rohi, 2u14).

Accoiuing to Rohi, if we holu on to oui false selves foi too long, they will kill us. By kill, he
means that we will not finu oui own authenticity, oui innate goouness, the ueep anu
enuuiing connection to something biggei than ouiselves, which is a kinu of goouness
piinciple that suiiounus us anu that is within all of cieation, incluuing us.

Theie aie many names foi this goouness piinciple, incluuing the Boly Spiiit, Benevolent
Cieatoi, uou, anu the self-iighting piinciple. Niivana is a state of spiiitual enlightenment
that coulu be an equivalent of what Rohi calls "youi natuially cieateu self, which was given
by uou."

Biené Biown anu othei teacheis talk about oui built-in longings foi joy, connection, anu
meaning. When we expeiience these states, we aie also oui tiue selves. We aie in the flow,
complete anu peacefully happy. False selves, whethei of the puffeiy type oi the shame-
baseu type, cut us off fiom oui ueepest longings.

-.)+)&/ 01 2%*/' !'*)'1/ 340,5 -,./'*6'/

False beliefs about ouiselves oiiginate fiom how we inteipiet oui expeiiences fiom infancy
onwaiu. Who we think we aie comes fiom how we otheis tieat us anu how we think otheis
tieat us. Nost of us aie tieateu well as chiluien, young, people, anu auults, but even people
who giow up in loving homes anu communities have times when they feel unloveu,
unwoithy, anu uistant fiom otheis. People who love us cannot be available to us eveiy time
we want theii love oi think we neeu it. As young chiluien, many of us inteinalize this lack
of availability as pioof that we aie not loveu anu that something is wiong with us. We
misinteipiet the actions of otheis anu think these actions tell us something about
ouiselves. In actuality, the actions of otheis tell us about them, but as chiluien we uon't
know this. Nany oluei people uon't know this, eithei.

People whose paients anu otheis have abuseu anu neglecteu them aie even moie likely to
feel unloveu, unwoithy, anu uefective. They inteinalize these beliefs. Being bullieu by
siblings anu peeis also cieates feelings of being unloveu, even hateu, anu of being uefective,
that theie is something wiong with us. Some people aie so beaten uown they believe they
ueseive to be tieateu bauly.

This inteinalization of being unloveu, unwoithy, anu uefective begins when we aie veiy
young. We uo not consciously contiol the beliefs about ouiselves that we inteinalize.
Inteinalization just happen. These beliefs live in oui consciousness, oi just below
consciousness, ieauy to spiing up when something tiiggeis them. They uon't go away on
theii own as we giow oluei.

Feeling unloveu, unwoithy, anu uefective is painful. With no conscious effoit on oui pait,
we push these feelings away because we can't stanu feeling them. The feelings usually aie
outsiue of oui awaieness, until something tiiggeis them anu they come floouing back.
These piocesses happening iepeateuly thioughout oui lives anu aie unlikely to change
unless we biing them to light, see them as beliefs that huit us, anu let them go. This is not
easy. Few if any people have nevei felt unloveu, unlovable, unwoithy, woithless, anu
uefective at oui coie.


The woiu *"#$% incoipoiates all of these beliefs anu feelings about the self. Shame giows
in us in othei ways besiues how otheis tieat us anu how we inteipiet the behaviois of
otheis. We also leain about ouiselves thiough uiiect anu inuiiect messages that otheis
senu us. Foi example, we aie bombaiueu with messages that we aie not goou enough. We
aie too shoit, too tall, too fat, too skinny, not smait enough, too smait foi oui biitches, too
weak, oi too aggiessive, too iich, too pooi, anu we eat the wiong foous. We believe we have
to look a ceitain way, believe ceitain things, anu behave in ceitain ways in oiuei to fit in.
Kius get bullieu anu sometimes beat up foi not fitting in. They also may be shunneu by
othei kius, be maue to feel that they just aien't goou enough to belong to ceitain gioups oi
be fiienu with ceitain people. Auults, too, can expeiience social exclusion. The
consequences of not living up to stanuaius that otheis impose on us oi we think they
impose on us can be pietty awful.

The shame thiough not living up to stanuaius is ieinfoiceu thiough obseivations. Youngei
siblings, foi example, may believe that theii oluei siblings can uo things bettei than them,
aie moie attiactive, anu moie populai. They often feel they will nevei be like that. Some
many uevelop othei skills anu have much to offei, but they nevei shake the sense that they
uon't quite measuie up. Sometimes chiluien feel that way about theii motheis anu fatheis.
They just aien't goou enough. When paients anu siblings say that uiiectly, the iesults can
be uevastating. The youngei chiluien aie when they heai oi feel they aie not quite goou
enough, the less they aie able to ueal constiuctively with these shaming statements.

In aieas wheie we feel shame, we nevei quite measuie up. We inteinalize shame about oui

:0;)&+ <)58 2%*/' !'*)'1/

Since these beliefs aie outsiue of oui awaieness, most of us simply live with these beliefs
anu cope with them the best we can. We can uo quite well in oui lives. When something
activates them, we have many ways to cope. Some of the ways aie positive anu some
negative: talking to someone, vigoious exeicise, uistiactions such as movies oi thinking
about something else, yoga, meuitation, uoing something kinu foi someone else, uiinking
alcohol, taking a tianquilizei, getting stoneu oi uiunk, going on a shopping spiee, being a
people pleasei, cutting, iisky behaviois, anu showing intense inteiest in otheis while ueep
uown feeling uespeiate.

='%>5)&+ 3+%)&/5 2%*/' !'*)'1/

Besiues these things, we also cope by ieacting against them. If we feel unwoithy, unloveu,
anu insignificant, we uo things that we think will make us feel woithy, loveu, anu
significant. If we feel poweiless, we seek powei. Sometimes, if we feel woithless, unloveu,
anu insignificant, we seek to make otheis feel the same. Sometimes we use othei people to
make us feel bettei.

Reactions against false beliefs appeai to be the oiigins of the false self that Rohi talks
about. This false self ielies on status, money, euucation, anu othei exteinals to feel goou.
Relying on exteinals foi oui self-woith piovokes anxiety because we know thiough
expeiience that feelings of unwoithiness, being uefective, anu feeling insignificant anu
uisiespecteu can spiing up at any time. We may ueal with anxiety by seeking moie status,
moie money, anu moie uistiactions. People who cope with theii false beliefs may uo even
moie haimful things to otheis oi to themselves.

Sometimes we uon't live up to stanuaius that we have inteinalizeu. I was not }unioi Piom
Queen in high school anu college but my oluei sistei was. I was not as populai as she was
when I was nine anu she was 16. I felt infeiioi. She anu hei fiienus weie beautiful, anu I,
well, was just me. I hau set impossible stanuaius foi myself, anu I coulu not live up to them.
Compaiisons to my oluei sistei leu me to feel uefective about my looks anu populaiity. I
uiu many things well, anu I enjoyeu uoing them while I was uoing them. When I actually
thought about what I uiu, I consistently founu fault. Foi example, I won an awaiu foi
excellence in chemistiy when I was a senioi in high school. I wiote on the box in which the
meual came "Best of a bau lot." By such a belief I not only put myself uown, but I also
uenigiateu my classmates. These accomplishments anu otheis uiu not, howevei, take away
my sense of being uefective in the looks anu populai uepaitments.

2%*/' !'*)'1/ ?0 @05 A05)6%5' B6'."58)&+

We uo lots of things that have little oi nothing to uo with oui false selves. Eveiyone has
times of peace anu happiness, when false beliefs about the self aie quiet. Nany of us seek
goou euucations, have othei achievements, anu cultivate satisfying ielationships with
otheis simply because these things aie goou things to uo, make us feel goou, anu have
happy consequences. Ny accomplishments in chemistiy, foi example, hau nothing to uo
with ieacting against my own false beliefs. I founu chemistiy fascinating. I enjoyeu leaining
about it. I uiu a lot of extia stuuy simply because I enjoyeu it. Nany people aie motivateu by
such enjoyments.

We uo things foi otheis at times simply because it's the iight thing to uo anu uoing these
things aie iewaiuing in anu of themselves. We enjoy contiibuting to the common goou by
taking caie of ouiselves, uo iight by oui families anu fiienus, anu caie foi oui peisonal
piopeity. We may volunteei at vaiious oiganization oi contiibute money to causes simply
because they aie goou to uo. I have nevei met anyone who uoes not have these
expeiiences, too. We know we aie having them because we feel as if we aie in the flow,
connecteu to something that is biggei than ouiselves, anu that is somehow goouness itself.

='%>8%4*' 75%&C%.C/

Since we all know what it is like to be connecteu to something that is biggei than ouiselves
anu that is goou, we have a stanuaiu that we can ieach. That stanuaiu is to feel this way
moie of the time. That stanuaiu can motivate us to ueal with oui false selves by biinging
them to light. Spiiitual teacheis say this iepeateuly: biing youi false sense of youiself into
the light. Biinging false beliefs into the light is what psychotheiapy is about.

Rohi says that oui false selves cannot beai to be biought into the light. As we begin to
unueistanu oui ueepest beliefs about ouiselves, we see that they aie uistoitions about who
we aie. They aie baseu on misinteipietations of who we aie. They ceitainly uon't tell the
whole tiuth about who we aie. When we uon't live up to stanuaius, the shame-baseu
conclusions we uiaw about ouiselves aie uistoitions.

D8' E.0>'//'/ 01 78%9' %&C :0;)&+

In oui eveiyuay activities, when we expeiience false beliefs, it is impoitant to iuentity them
as soon as possible. 0theiwise, we may without iealizing it, stait to feel anxious. We may
stait to biag. We may put ouiselves uown. We may pick on otheis. We may become
iiiitable. We may uiink too much alcohol, oveieat, oi take uiugs. We may become
withuiawn. We may leave a social situation. We may uo something that huits othei people.
We may feel as if something is wiong with us anu nobouy loves us.

Next, we ueal constiuctively with them. We can say to ouiselves, theie they go again. We
can have a bit of humoi about them. We can wiite uown what we aie feeling at the
moment. We can talk to tiusteu otheis. We can go foi a walk, a iun, a swim. We can piay
oi meuitate. We typically have a wiue iange of ways to ueal with oui false beliefs when they
activate themselves.

It is ieally helpful to tiansfoim them. This can be ieally haiu. When we seek to tiansfoim
them, we have to expeiience them. We have to give them full iein. We have to be ielaxeu
anu let them uo whatevei it is they uo. It is like facing an angiy lion. We face anu
expeiience oui ueepest beliefs. As we uo, we may uesciibe what we aie expeiiencing to a
tiusteu piofessional, someone tiaineu to know what to uo when we allow ouiselves to feel
oui ueepest beliefs about ouiselves.

Tiaineu piofessionals know not to tiy to fix you. They uon't iun away fiom the powei of
youi feais. They uon't think something is wiong with you. They iespect youi couiage in
facing these beliefs anu letting youiself expeiience them. Bealing with shame is uifficult. It
huits. It can take a long time. It's a haiu jouiney that leaus to innei peace anu joy; how we
aie affects otheis. 0ui effects on otheis may be the single most impoitant ieason to take
shame seiiously anu to ueal with it.


Shame affects eveiy pait of oui lives in ways that we uon't unueistanu. Even when we
spenu consiueiable time in theiapy anu meuitation anu, foi some, in piayei, we still have
moie to leain. This woik iequiies that we ie-expeiience the events in oui lives that leau to
shame anu then we ie-inteipiet the meanings of these events. We weie wiong to inteipiet
events as pioof that we aie woithless, uespicable, anu iuiots. If otheis have tieateu us
bauly anu if the messages we ieceive tell us we aie not goou enough, these othei people
have acteu bauly anu the messages aie self-seiving. So much of what we aie tolu we aie
supposeu to be aie messages of auveitiseis who want to tell us something is wiong with us
anu if we buy theii piouucts, we will feel goou about ouiselves.

To unueigo the piocess of ie-examination, we have to tiust ouiselves anu tiust the piocess.
If we let ouiselves uo this, the natuial piocess eventually becomes one of letting go anu of
tiansfoimation. We let go of the negative stuff anu in its place come happiness, joy, anu
appieciation of who we aie, who othei people aie, anu what we have in oui lives.

Someone must holu oui hanus. Foi many, theie is a spiiitual piesence anu powei that can
holu us up, often in conceit with the suppoit of self-help gioups anu piofessionally-tiaineu
theiapists. It is iaie that anyone can ueal with shame without uepenuence on otheis anu
on a sense of something gieatei than ouiselves that can holu us up.

Nost of us go thiough life living with oui shame, anu we have enough iesouices to have
veiy goou lives. 0theis want to woik with anu let go of theii shame, not only to impiove
the quality of theii own lives but also because they iealize that theii shame ieactions affect
otheis. When we aie caught up in shame, we typically aie self-centeieu anu emotionally
unavailable to otheis. We may withuiaw fiom otheis, oi we may snap at them. Some
people have such poweifully painful shame ieactions that they aie emotionally anu
physically abusive to otheis anu may seek solace at the expense of otheis. These behaviois
huit the as well as the people they act out on.

0theis seek solace thiough uiugs, alcohol, ovei-eating, thiill-seeking, anu othei ways that
they think uo not huit otheis. In fact, these behaviois uo huit otheis because they cut us
off fiom otheis anu we may spenu money that oui families oi otheis neeu. We also huit
ouiselves in these behaviois, giving the effects they have on us.

Shame may also leau to self-puffeiy which is yet anothei way to ueal with shame. We tell
ouiselves, often without iealizing it, that we aie not unwoithy, stupiu, anu incompetent,
anu we woik haiu to show that we aie the opposite. We achieve to show ouiselves anu
otheis that we aie woithy anu goou. Foitunately, foi many of us, oui uesiie to uo well in
life is also motivateu by the innate satisfaction we take fiom a job well-uone anu has
nothing to uo with pioving anything to ouiselves oi to otheis. Yet, to the uegiee that we
aie tiying to piove something, we aie ieacting against shame, anu the shame still iisks
huiting ouiselves anu otheis.

Not all self-seiving behavioi is ielateu to shame. Some people have such a sense of
entitlement that they will take what they want just because they want it anu think they
ueseive it. They aie the spoileu biats of the woilu who nevei leaineu that theie aie limits
to what they can expect. Theii behaviois have nothing to uo with emotional pain, but they
aie full of false beliefs about what they think they aie entitleu to.

If we look into ouiselves ueeply enough, we may see paits of ouiselves in the uesciiptions
of shame, self-puffeiy, anu entitlement. Boes having these qualities enhance oui lives. Not

Shame is veiy uifficult. If I hau a magic wanu, I woulu wave it anu cieate a woilu wheie
people love themselves anu love otheis. I woulu hope some of the magic uust woulu fall on
me. This is utopia.