Chapter 7b of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult
The mission of the Rebel is to claim certain feelings, beliefs, and practices as my own, distinct from others. It establishes the boundaries of the Self and assiduously patrols them. It guards my individuality and protects me from losing my identity.
Before I go on, let me say the concept of the Self is problematic and people have used the word to mean different things. As I’m using the term, now at least, the “Self” would more accurately be called the Self-Concept, a collection of beliefs about my Self. The true Self is larger than the Self-Concept, except the Self-Concept doesn’t know it yet; so, it still calls itself the “Self”. It has no conception of any qualities not included in its conception of itself.
The Rebel is a major contributor to the Self-Concept, which it also calls the “Self”, to set in opposition to the various Simulations and Inner Critics. The Rebel calls on the “Self” to claim a sovereign authority against outside influences. It claims the simulated others and critics are foreign invaders, interlopers who seek to influence the “Self”. It would build a wall and expel them if it could.
In my view, simulated others and critics are beings of my own creation, even if they do represent figures from the outside world. Therefore, the real Self is an all-encompassing Self, which includes the very parts the Self-Concept doesn’t want to acknowledge. But I’m getting ahead of myself. At earlier developmental stages, the Self-Concept is the only Self I could know.
There once was a boy who grew up in a family of athletes. All they wanted to do was run, shoot, jump, throw, catch things, and score, but he was the youngest and smallest, so he couldn’t do any of that as well as they. His Rebel declared he shouldn’t have to play basketball if he didn’t want to, he’d rather read a book. He said he was a bookworm, not an athlete. That is to say, his Self-Concept held that he was a bookworm and denied being athletic.
Being a bookworm has its benefits, so the boy grew up and went to Harvard. One day his friends invited him to play Ultimate Frisbee in Harvard Yard. He said he couldn’t because he wasn’t athletic. Well, he went anyway, convinced by a girl. There, freed from the comparison to his older brothers and wanting to show off to the girl, he discovered he was the most athletic one around.
The problem with the Self-Concept is that it’s limiting, it refuses to entertain the possibility there are unknown parts. Also, it only knows you in contrast to others. The Self-Concept is a simulated version of yourself and is subject to all the errors of any simulation. Your mental representation of yourself can be inaccurate. The Self-Concept is formed in childhood, so it is a child’s version of the Self and lacks the subtlety and compassion that a grownup’s version would have.
I’ll have a lot more to say about the Self-Concept later; but for now, let’s return to the Rebel and what makes him tick.