Most of us are walking around believing that we are one primary personality, one person within the context of a human form. But this is a false construct– we are actually composed of many different selves. Some of these selves are former versions of us within the context of this lifetime- an infant self, a six year old self, a teenager self, and so forth…
Some of these selves are quite different. A woman will have an inner male self, for example. A devout Christian a self that is self-destructive and likes anarchy. We all have selves that have different personalities, sexes, races, and cultures… as well as different needs.
Although I realize the above is a complex subject, we can think of ourselves as a dominant personality, our outer personality… and then a crowd of sub-personalities and selves that have a wide range of beliefs, desires, and feelings about varying subjects.
The difficulty of this, however, is that we really like the idea of the constancy of self, and can get quite judgmental about our other “selves”. If we, for example, are a new-age “love and light-er” and we run across a self that is dark, primal, and sexually driven, we are not likely to welcome that self as a part of us.
Likewise, we may be a woman who has had to take on the male warrior personality, and so we may not feel it is safe to be feminine, or express femininity because we no longer believe ourselves capable of being soft, nurturing, and yielding (the energetic principles of the feminine).
Although this can be a long subject to discuss, I will focus on a particular theme that emerges here… that of the wounded infant personality and the mother.
As mentioned, we are all a mix of different personalities, but we are also a mix of different “stops” in our own timeline. Although time is not linear, for the sake of expressing this sentiment I will express it as such. If we are to consider our timeline as a simple rope– from in utero to our current self/time– we would have different “knots” at ages in which we experienced trauma, or our needs were not met. We tend to have a lot of these from when we were quite young– such as in infancy. We also tend to have a lot of these in our teenager years, as well… but they can be from any age. Any age where you did not have health, happiness, and your needs met is acting as a separate “self” within you.
As you can imagine, this is a lot of Selves.
The difficulty of this is that most of us do not act as our current age, our current adult self. We act from the place of the wounded infant who did not get its needs met. We act from the place of the stubborn teenager, defying authority. We act from a place of a younger self– wounded and in pain. Most of us are simply not conscious (or adult enough, as the case may be) to realize that we are acting from a place that is much younger than our current years.
This is quite evident in the outer world, by the way. Although there are different patterns at play, the need for celebrity gossip, the tearing down of everyone and everything on the internet, the abuse we feel that we can shower on one another… this is all coming from an infant self screaming out in pain. Last week I wrote about a woman who contacted me who was throwing a temper tantrum through her infant self. This pattern is obvious in individuals, and the world at large. Once we become aware of this pattern it is readily visible in others, and since it is really widespread (it is a huge, common pattern), we can understand a lot about the world and the people in it by doing so.
Most of us are not conscious of the fact that we react in a stagnated infancy to the world around us. If we were to have the proper amount of nourishment, love, and support that we needed in utero and through our formative years (basically from birth through about age six) we would not have a “knot” in our life line, and we would not have a separated infant self to contend with.
Similarly, if we experienced a formative “knot” in our infant selves, this means that we also formed a knot, or to throw in some other imagery, that we have separated ourselves from the web of life. We are intended to be supported by others, to be nurtured by one another. If we experienced a mothering wound in which our mother was simply not available to us, or was unable to provide the nourishment and love that we needed as an infant, we not only stagnate in that place, but we remove ourselves from the capacity to experience that web of life.
I will explain a bit more simply. Basically what I am saying is that our mother on a spiritual level shows us the energetics of the world. If she was not present, not supportive, or was someone who “took” instead of “gave” for whatever reason, the infant reacts, not only stagnating in that infancy (likely for the rest of its life, unfortunately), but also constructs the belief that the world is an exact mirror of its relationship to its mother.
This means that for those of us who have experienced this mother wound (and there are so many who have) that we do not believe that the world at large can support and nurture us.
Pattern #1 is the infant looking for the rest of its life for a new mother, essentially for someone to take care of it. It will only find the representation of its mother, though, and will bounce from relationship to relationship, until this wound is healed. This is a big pattern in the spiritual community, by the way… A lot of people seeking gurus are acting from the wounded infant place, and will find gurus/teachers who also have this same pattern… who will be more than happy to further enact the part of the mother. This doesn’t heal anything, by the way, it tends to further stagnate the infant pattern, so that the adult self never grows but constantly looks for the next source of mothering
The second really common pattern is an eschewing of any sort of perceived authority, such as teachers, gurus, or anyone that could possibly nurture or support. This infant is so hurt and stuck in its belief that the world is a place that cannot nurture it, that it refuses or is too stubborn to see sources of nurturing energy in the world. This infant will also have other “selves” that support this theory, such as people who have had bad experiences with other teachers. And while I am the first to admit that there are some wounded (or just plain stupid, terrible, or infantile- exactly what we are talking about) teachers out there, this pattern tends to manifest in a way in which all teachings are rejected, all teachers are rejected, and the infantile self screams out about any perceived flaw in a teacher or organization as a way to back away from the nurturing that it so desperately needs.
In both cases, the infant is really looking to heal, and to feel support. But it may not feel safe to do so. It also may be so far back in the subconscious that the conscious adult does not wish to look at it or understand it, or may not have the tools to do so.
To work with this infant is not to brush it aside, or to tell it how silly or stupid it is. It is not to suggest to yourself that this infant self and its needs are wrong because you are an adult now.
It is so important to realize that this wound can be healed. Realizing this infant is an act of courage. It is rare that someone will want to look at themselves and realize that they are acting, or reacting, to the world in such a way that expresses this wound. When this wound is healed, the entire matrix, or belief system (or web, if we are going back to the prior imagery) can be rewoven and worked with so that the adult Self, as well as many of the other Selves within the adult, can accept nurturing from the world in an appropriate way.
It is by being compassionate towards this infantile self and its mothering wound that we can understand its needs. By understanding its needs, receiving healing for this wound, and reconnecting to the world in that state (as an infant, or in utero) we can experience the world as a place that can be nurturing towards us, and we can stop acting out the wounds of the infant in our daily lives and interactions.
We can become integrated, or in touch with our different selves. We can accept them, love them, and give them what we need instead of pretending they do not exist, or chastising ourselves (or them) that we have parts of ourselves that want different things. As we understand our “selves” we become coherent, clear, and cohesive. We transcend having so many different multiple parts and just accept ourselves, even if we have completely contrary instincts and realizations at the same time. We become light, and as complex and multi-faceted as we allow ourselves to be. We are not just one thing, or one personality, or one urge. The more of our “selves” we accept, the more we can accept ourselves with the complexity that we deserve.
Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author. You can find out more about a body-based approach to healing the mother wound and in utero patterns in her book, The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body.