The Making Of An Empowered Self
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
- Martha Graham
We can only pursue actualisation when our core needs are sufficiently met, and it is the role of a higher power to provide a structure for those needs. The higher power is not the destination, but rather the lighthouse which guides us while we come of age. As children, our guardians are our higher power, while family is our vessel. The purpose of family is to love and empower us, and give us a sense of belonging. It is intended to remain in place until we are old enough to differentiate and follow our chosen path. The result of an ideal upbringing is a battle-tested, resourceful Self which can hold its own. Rather than relying purely on others, we draw on the Self as a source of yin and yang energy which sustains and guides us from within.
The five developmental forces of the Self
Who we are, how we should live, our limits, and how capable we are; these are a web of stories we pick up over a lifetime. Fuelling these stories, however, is a realm beyond the mind, where personality is shaped by energy. This comes in the form of five developmental forces; security, vitality, tenacity, divinity and wisdom.
Figure 4: The five developmental forces of the Self.
The developmental forces emerge at various phases of early life, with each one accompanied by a governing emotion. Fear is the first to arise during the prenatal stage, where the child draws security from the womb and gauges the safety of the outside world via the mother. After birth, a push-pull dynamic of love and hate establishes itself as soon as the child identifies their loved ones i.e. the mother and father. When the parent meets the child’s needs and is warm and attentive, the child loves them openly, and the bond can deepen. When the parents do not meet the child’s needs or are cold and neglectful, the child’s hate bubbles up in the form of rage to compel the parents to engage the child how it wants. Prideand shame arise next, coming into play when the child’s ego emerges, where the child gains the ability to ‘conceptualise’ themselves as an individual in the world who has status, value and agency. The child begins to experiment with grandiosity, hungry to grow in social stature and to influence the people around them. Where they hit roadblocks, shame brings them down a peg and reminds them of their limits.
Developing the True Self is a dynamic process, where the foundational emotions flood our system and shape us in unique ways. Learning to work with these energies is critical to confident living, as is understanding how they can be turned against us. Anyone who has suffered narcissistic abuse knows that love can entrap you, or set you free. Shame can be a force which crushes you, or it can instil in you the humility and discipline to achieve your goals. Like Icarus, pride can be your downfall, or it can awaken your potential. When used to set boundaries, hate can free you from perpetual people-pleasing and resentment.
These five, interconnected forces are crucial for empowerment. If any of them is compromised, the remainder will suffer, and compensation strategies must come into play to re-establish balance. For example, a lack of tenacity leaves a person in a passive state, making them reliant on the whims of others to get what they need. A lack of pride leaves a person doubtful about their place in the world, and shame seeps in to fill the void, halting progress behind a wall of self-doubt and despair. A lack of any of the five forces impacts not only a person’s relationships, but also their belief system, their body, their capacity to assert themselves and connect with others, and their self-esteem. How these forces develop can be the difference between a life of perpetual suffering and frustration, or one of prosperity and abundance.