The Root of Core Pain - "I am suffering and separate from love because..."
Often without knowing it, each of us has such devastating negative beliefs about ourselves we cannot bear to acknowledge them. And, we each have an opposite set of compensating behaviours designed to deny these beliefs. This denial forms the architecture of the false, idealized mask that we show to the world.
My quest to understand my own emotional pain has taken me down the road of studying transpersonal, depth-oriented psychology. Popular psychology does not explain how to fully heal our core wound pain. Conventional therapy seeks to repair the masked self (ego) that compensates for our deepest fear that we are unworthy of love.
Our core pain is often invisible to us because it was formed when we were babies. Our degree of separation away from unconditional love is our "normal" emotional set-point. Our presenting personality denies the core pain of separation and relegates it to the unconscious part of our mind, sometimes never to be understood during our life span.
Our "normal" emotional set-point is so deeply integrated into our biology; rarely do we investigate the possibility of feeling differently. Our habitual emotions are the water that we swim in. And, our core wound pain drives nearly everything that we do in our lives, from our most troublesome addictions to our darkest depressions, to our greatest achievements.
The Separation Trauma
We first experience our core wound when we realize we are separate from unconditional love. In psychological terms, this is called the "narcissistic wound." Popular psychology points to the first time a child is shamed as the cause of the narcissistic wound. From a transpersonal perspective, we actually organize our entire being around a feeling of lack much earlier in infancy - when we first feel the vulnerability of being separated away from the unconditional love of our primary caregiver.
Our core negative belief - which is the very worst of what we feel about ourselves - organizes our entire compensating social mask. Discovering our core pain beliefs, and dismantling their unconscious hold on nearly every aspect of our behaviour, is the task of spiritual transformation. To discover our core wounds, we can look for ongoing themes of frustration, listen to the self-negating words we think, and take note of recurring dreams of lack.
*I am informed by and offer my own personal understanding of psychologist Stephen Wolinsky's depth perspective on healing the root of core pain below. For a fuller picture of his work see his book "The Way of the Human - Volume II.
Core Wound Pain
We each have our own recipe for separating away from love. Our particular way of contracting away from love creates the root of our emotional pain. In fear, we contract our body, mind and emotions down in systematic, repetitive ways that say, "I am not enough."
Nine Inner Child Core Wounds
1. I am Imperfect
Negative Core Belief: "There seems to be something wrong with me."
Compensating Personality: "I must be perfect. I must prove there is not something wrong with me." Seeking internal and/or external perfection, this personality appears distant but is actually inwardly clingy and controlling - wanting to perfect self or others. "If I do it perfectly enough, I will be healed."
2. I am Worthless
Negative Core Belief: "I have no value."
Compensating Personality: "I must prove I am not worthless. I must prove that I have worth and value." This personality caretakes and over-gives to get value. This personality also needs flattery from self and others. This personality struggles with dependence and the need to appear overly independent. "If I give to others enough, I will be healed."
3. I Cannot Do or I Cannot Do Enough
Negative Core Belief: "I cannot do, decide or act. Or, I cannot do enough. I must have done something bad and that is why I am separate from love. Therefore, it is better not to do - or else something bad will happen."
Compensating Personality: "I must prove that I can do, decide and act by becoming an over-doer or an overachiever." This personality becomes grandiose - about what it can do - to the point of self-deceit. This personality struggles with over-efficiency and vanity. "If I accomplish enough, I will be healed."
4. I am Inadequate
Negative Core Belief: "I am inadequate. I am stupid. I do not know enough."
Compensating Personality: "I must prove that I am not inadequate. I must prove that I am adequate and smart." This personality struggles between feeling stupid and tries to be overly adequate by being over-analytic and over-reasonable. "If I am smart enough, I will be healed."
5. I am Non-Existent
Negative Core Belief: "I don't exist. I am nothing. I have nothing." This false core develops earlier than others - often in utero - and is more deeply embedded in the body than any of the other False Core Selves. This False Core believes, "I am nothing. I am empty. I don't know." This type of person is unsuitable for Buddhist (no-self) and non-dual spiritual practices because they reinforce the False Core assumptions.
Compensating Personality: "I must prove that I am something, have something, and that I exist." This personality "thinks" feelings and does not feel them. This could be because of rejection from the mother in utero. This personality dissociates from feelings early and becomes an over-observer as a defense. "If I disappear enough, I will be healed."
6. I am Alone
Negative Core Belief: "I am alone. I fear being shunned."
Compensating Personality: "I must not be alone. I must connect with people." This personality is an over-connector. At the time of connection, there is a "high" and relief from "I am alone" however, like a drug addict, the False Self Compensator needs more and more connection to get the same high. "If I connect to others enough, I will be healed."
7. I am Incomplete
Negative Core Belief: "I am incomplete. There must be something missing. I am not enough."
Compensating Personality: "I must get whole, complete, completed or full through having many varied, extraordinary experiences." "If I have enough extraordinary experiences, I will be healed."
8. I am Powerless
Negative Core Belief: "I am powerless. I am powerless because I have no force, no influence, got screwed over, etc."
Compensating Personality: "I must prove I am not powerless by acting as if I am overly powerful." This compensating personality has such unacknowledged powerlessness it can have psychopathic tendencies or can compensate by acting overly blown-up, imagining themselves to be much more powerful than they actually are. "If I am powerful enough, I will be healed."
9. I am Loveless
Negative Core Belief: "I am loveless. There is no love."
Compensating Personality: "I must prove I am not loveless by appearing as if I am overly loving and accepting of what is happening." Underneath this loving, accepting mask lies a passive-aggressive coat of armour that is difficult to penetrate because of the insistence on appearing loving. This type seeks to act loving but as with all roles played, it cannot receive the love that it wants. The "loveless" struggle with repressed anger for this reason. "If I am loving enough, I will be healed."
From Unconditional Love to Separation
It is rare to meet a completely authentic person. We live in a world that seems separate from love. Most people are lying about who they are to some degree, wearing compensating masks, pretending that they do not feel lacking in love.
If we think of ourselves as souls coming into the dense experience of human bodies in order to grow, purify and learn, we can imagine what a shock it would be to come from an unconditionally loving spiritual realm to a place where most people have forgotten who they are.
We live in a world of crystallized egos. This rigidifying of self happens when we compensate for false fears that we are lacking: unwhole, inadequate, loveless, powerless, incomplete, alone, non-existent, worthless, imperfect and not enough to be unconditionally loved as we really are.
The Birth of Core Wounds
Our core wound expresses the shock of our original separation away from unconditional love. The separation from love happens with our primary caregiver at age 5-12 months, or in some cases in utero. Biologically speaking, our first separation away from love is a traumatic shock to our nervous system. This early "shock" of separation happens preverbally. The core wound explanation is only an idea that comes later. At a later more verbal age, the "newer" level of our brain makes up a real-seeming story to explain why we are "not enough" to be worthy of unconditional love.
Our core wound pain organizes our ego identification. Our ego identification guides our reality so we do not become emotionally overwhelmed like we were in the past. Re-experiencing the pain of our original separation away from unconditional love feels unbearable to our nervous system. Our ego structure seeks to control the emotional chaos of our life but it also limits the spontaneous surrender to love, freedom, creativity and sexuality.
Our nervous system so vehemently resists emotional chaos, many of us do not ever feel safe enough to encompass our spiritual essence. Overcoming the resistance to chaos often requires that we hit "rock bottom" to find out that we can survive emotional pain. For many people, a severe loss or crisis needs to occur before unconditional self-love can feel important enough to become stabilized in awareness.
The Inevitable Failure of the False Self
Most of us rarely meet our core wound. Left unexamined, our core wound pain operates in our nervous system automatically. Because our core wound pain is created pre-verbally, it is biologically embedded and unconscious. Many of us live our entire life as our mask personality, compensating for our darkest but untrue fear that we are not sufficient enough to be loved for who we authentically are.
Fear is always more powerful than our compensating attempts to appear positive. Fearfully resisting our core wounds can occupy us for a lifetime of psychological work and self-help programs. Yet, our compensating personality is doomed to fail at "winning" love from other people. The need for the compensating personality to try to prove its positive qualities as true is always weaker than the negative false core's unconscious desire to prove its fear of lack.
The chaos of letting go into the unknown structure of unconditional love feels unbearable to the ego. Most of us tenaciously hold onto fear as a way of organizing our inner world. In simple terms, our fear of unorganized emotional chaos cuts us off from the unconditional love we crave. The ego's way of trying to change our core pain into something more positive in the midst of primal fear only reinforces it. To stabilize unconditional love in our awareness we need to see the organizing beliefs of our core pain.
Fearful beliefs help you to feel familiar and protected. Your compensating personality desires the repetition of its false conclusions as a biological organizing principle. The organizing principle of your nervous system does not trust the holding container of unconditional love. The obsessive-compulsive tendency of your ego-mask self is to strive to prove that your core wound pain is wrong.
Core Wound Healing Process
When you stop trying to make your core wound pain wrong, you will become more willing to feel the pain of your original separation away from love. Your lack of love will manifest as an "aching hole" in some part of your body. As you sit wordlessly in presence with the lack of love in your body, you will open up a portal to reestablish unconditional love inside.
To heal your core wound, I offer my understanding of the biological conflict between love and fear:
1. Trace the belief: Be aware of the belief that drives your core wound. (See above descriptions for the common core wound beliefs.)
2. Notice your belief in lack in your body: Find where your core wound pain is located in your body. Look for the particular "hole" or the location of the lack in your body when you are feeling emotional pain.
3. Without believing in it, feel your fear: Notice exactly how you close your body down in fear of feeling your core wound pain. Strengthen your ability to stay present with the fear without trying to change it. Come to know your fear as a protective, biological part of yourself.
4. Experience your vulnerability: Underneath your fear, feel the vulnerability of your core wound fully, without any labels. Experience the intensity of your core wound pain as energy, staying as open to it as you possibly can.
6. Invite in unconditional love: As you witness your core wound pain, sense into the larger quality of your spiritual essence that existed prior to your fearful beliefs and your core wound. Surround your fear and core pain with the powerful comfort of your soul's unconditional love.
The Biological Fear of Your True Self
"As soon as you begin to sense your unity with the real Self, the psychological identity is going to rise up for its biggest fight; a fight to protect its very survival. It will not give up its illusory hold on beingness that easily. It will use every trick to prevent you from discovering your real nature.
But don’t be afraid. You have the real power on your side, and it is important to remember this when the mind attacks. You can transcend its influence by remaining as the formless and unmoving Witness."
We originally closed our bodies down around our vulnerability as children. As mature adults, we can learn how to hold a loving space for our emotional vulnerability. Our biology triggers fear whenever we feel emotionally vulnerable as adults. When we fear our core wound pain, our "inner work" can take on a repeating pattern that seems to have no end.
Our fear arises again and again as a biological organizing principle until we remember that it is no longer necessary to resist our emotional vulnerability. It is important to know that fear biologically asserts itself when we get close to our spiritual essence because there seems to be no safe organization within its vast emptiness. Many people fear that if they let go of their defended personality structure they would not exist. Repetitive personal development work gives our ego something to do.
Our Desire to Remain Separate
Forever working like a machine, our core wound continues to keep us separate from unconditional self-love, ever seeking it from other people. Our ego-self has a great desire to survive, as it is the foundation of our biological organizing system. Our ego survival system aims to prove our fear true in order to remain feeling psychologically stable.
I desire and want to prove there is something wrong with me. I desire or want to prove that I am worthless. I desire and want to prove I cannot do. I desire and want to prove I am inadequate. I desire and want to prove I do not exist. I desire and want to prove I am alone. I desire and want to prove I am incomplete. I desire and want to prove I am powerless. I desire and want to prove I am loveless. I desire and want to prove I am not safe. I desire and want to prove I am crazy. I desire and want to prove I am out of control, etc.
The Innate Dignity of Spiritual Essence
Our spiritual essence is what we were born with, and the biological organizing principle of our ego identity is what we acquire later. With great determination, we can become present for our emotional pain in order to allow the larger organizing principle of unconditional love to come to the foreground of our life.
Our core pain's fear that we are lacking and unworthy of love is biologically driven, and it arises whenever we feel vulnerable. As we grow more grounded in our real spiritual core, the false core self will stay in the background of our awareness. When unconditional love comes forward as our new organizing principle, spiritual dignity arises.
When our attention is relaxed, open and unconditionally loving, we no longer believe in the more primitive organizing framework of our ego. When our larger spiritual field of attention has been restored, it outshines the powerful pain of our core wound and its ego compensations.
Why Does it Take So Long to Heal?
We cannot rush our emotional healing. Our soul essence must cooperate with our human nervous system. Our nervous system is the map of our human history, and our body holds the imprint of all of our human experiences. When we are psychologically strong enough, we can turn back the way we came, and gradually, be unconditionally present for everything that has hurt and harmed us in the past.
On the journey back to our authentic selves we must accustom ourselves to staying open to our difficult emotions. Every emotional imprint has its own life span within our biology. Each layer of emotion waits until we feel psychologically strong enough to stay lovingly present with it. Painful emotions are the seeds planted and grown from the challenges of our life experiences. When we water our difficult emotions with loving attention, they will complete their life cycle in their own time.