Four Pillars of Self-love

Uploaded 5/12/2020, approx. 25 minute read

Self-love is simply when you regard yourself, when you see yourself, in a healthy way, not in a sick or in a pathological way, not that you see yourself in an inflated way, like the narcissist.

The narcissist sees himself in a grandiose way. He doesn't have a good reality testing. He doesn't see himself realistically. He thinks that he is perfect. He thinks he's brilliant. He thinks he's godlike. He thinks he knows everything. He thinks he's all powerful.

That's not a healthy way of viewing yourself, because it's wrong. It's not realistic. It's grandiose. Other people see themselves exactly the opposite. They see themselves as not talented, stupid, dangerous, crazy.

So this is the inferior way of seeing yourself. Both ways are pathological. Both ways are wrong.

You need to see yourself as you are. That's a critical point to get a realistic assessment of yourself. We'll come to it in a minute, but you need to see yourself as you are.

Then once you see yourself as you are, you need to pursue your happiness and you need to pursue favorable outcomes, favorable outcomes or beneficial outcomes are results of your behavior, which are good for you. Good for you in the short term, good for you in the long term.

So the first test is, do you have a realistic view of yourself?

The second test is, are you pursuing your happiness? Are you maximizing your happiness?

Because believe it or not, many people, they don't pursue their happiness. They pursue exactly the opposite. They make themselves miserable. They destroy their own lives. They are very self-destructive and self-defeating. They are pursuing the opposite of happiness.

And the third question is, do you pursue favorable outcomes? Do you act in ways, behave in ways that always generate the optimal, the best possible results for you?

Again, believe it or not, many people act exactly the opposite way. They, for example, they work very hard on a project and the last minute they destroy it. Or they work very hard on a relationship and they have a stupid fight and the relationship is over. They are self-sabotaging, self-destructive, self-defeating.

And so these are the three tests of proper, appropriate, well healthy self-love.

Now, there are four conditions for healthy self-love and you need to satisfy all these four.

It's not possible to satisfy only three of the four, two of the four, but you need to satisfy all these four.

Why do we need self-love to start with? Why do we need to satisfy these four conditions?

Because if we don't have self-love, we have two problems in life.

First of all, our life becomes worse and worse. We become less and less happy and we become less and less effective. So we don't achieve results as often as we used to and less and less so.

And so finally we end up in a very bad place and in very bad shape.

So self-love is a condition for living life in a proper way.

And the second problem when you don't have self-love, no one can love you. A condition for being loved is to help self-love. If you don't have self-love, you broadcast, you tell other people actually with your behavior, with your choices, with your language, you're telling other people that you don't love yourself. And of course it immediately raises the question, if she doesn't love herself, why should I love her? If she doesn't love herself, she knows something that I don't know. She doesn't love herself for good reason. So why should I love her?

It's dangerous, it's stupid to love someone who doesn't love herself.

So also if you don't have self-love, that means you don't have experience with loving.

Because the first love we have, the first love we have is a love of mother. And the second love we have is a love of self. And the third love we have is a love of others.

That is the process.

But at the very, very beginning when you are a baby, one month old, two months old, six months old, up to two years, you don't know that there is any difference between mother and you. Mother and you is the same. You're the same organism. You're one entity, one unit.

So actually even loving mother is self-love. So the first love we have is self-love.

Only after that we can love others.

We actually practice with self-love how to love. We learn how to love by loving ourselves. And if we fail to love ourselves, then we don't know how to love. We don't have the skill of loving.

So we can't love in this case.

And this is the second problem with the lack of self-love. Inability to love others and inability of others to love us.

In other words, we live in a loveless environment. The minute we don't have self-love, we commit ourselves for life to a loveless environment. And of course that's a very sad existence. And in the long run, it's a deadly existence.

For example, people who are not married die much earlier. People who don't experience touch, physical touch on the skin, die much earlier. People who don't have love affairs or meaningful relationships commit suicide at a much higher rate than people who do. People who are unable to maintain long-term relationships, even though they try very hard, for example, people with borderline personality disorders, 10% of them die by suicide. 10% of people with borderline personality disorder commit suicide.

So not being able to love and not being able to be loved is deadly, dangerous to your health.

So that's why self-love is a critical condition for survival.

Forget other things, just survival. Without self-love, there's no survival. It's very dangerous.

And so we need, there are four conditions to develop proper self-love, functional self-love.

The first condition is self-awareness.

Self-awareness has several components.

First of all, that you are intimate with yourself. Intimacy with yourself.

In other words, you don't lie to yourself. You don't delude yourself. You don't live in fantasy. You don't have defense mechanisms that distort self-knowledge, that affect self-knowledge. You really know who you are. You're intimate with yourself. You don't lie to yourself about yourself.

So this is intimacy.

The second thing, your self-awareness must be detailed. In other words, there are no parts of you. There are no areas of your experience. There are no domains or territories of your mind that you don't go to, that are repressed, that are suppressed, that are forgotten, that are dissociated. Everything is open. You have full access to 100% of you, 100% of your mind, 100% of your life, 100% of your motivations, of your wishes, of your fears, of your emotions, of your feelings, of your sensations, of your textures, of your self-awareness must be, your access must be unlimited, and your knowledge must be detailed. That is also a condition for intimacy, of course.

And finally, another condition for self-awareness is that it is compassionate. In other words, it's not the kind of self-awareness that is sadistic, that is critical. Not the kind of self-awareness that says, look how stupid you are, look how corrupt you are, look how evil you are, look how insane you are. That's not the right kind of self-awareness. And it's also usually not self-awareness at all.

These are voices that are internalized, usually from early childhood. Voices that are known as introjects. These voices are foreign voices. They are the voices of bad parents, narcissistic parents, evil parents, dysfunctional parents. They are the voices of teachers sometimes, peers, peers who abused you, humiliated you, and so on. Or at times, these are the voices of society.

But these voices are not you. They are foreign voices. They are important voices. You internalize these voices from the outside, and they are misleading you into thinking that they are part of you, but they are not part of you. So their own true self-awareness is compassionate. It's a self-awareness that treats you gently and tenderly, and loves you, and is compassionate, and is empathic, empathizes with you.

If you have voices that tell you such things, you are crazy, you are stupid, this is not part of self-awareness.

So the first condition for self-love is the kind of self-awareness that I just described. Intimate, detailed, compassionate knowledge of yourself. And it goes together with a realistic assessment of yourself.

Because if you love yourself as a piece of fiction, if you love yourself in a way that doesn't correspond to who you really are, then of course you're not loving yourself. You're loving a movie, you're loving a story, you're loving a novel, but you're loving Anna Karenina. I don't know who you're loving, but you're not loving yourself.

To love yourself, you need to know yourself. The good sides, the bad sides, the skills, the talents, the limitations, the shortcomings, what you do wrong usually, what you do right usually, you need to have what we call reality testing. You need to really know yourself. And you need to really know yourself. To really know yourself, you need to make an analysis.

So you need to do what I call SWOT analysis. S-W-O-T analysis. S, strengths. W, weaknesses. O, others. Others' roles, others' place in your life, others' motivations, others' input, etc. A realistic assessment of other people and how they form a part of your life.

And finally, T is threats. You need to know your strengths, you need to know your weaknesses, you need to know the roles of other people in your life, and you need to appraise realistically the threats you're facing. This is the first pillar, and it's a pillar of self-awareness.

The second pillar is self-acceptance.

These are chronological stages.

First, you need to be self-aware in order to accept yourself. If you're not self-aware, how can you accept yourself? You cannot.

Once you're self-aware, sometimes, after you have gained self-awareness, you don't like what you have learned about yourself. You dislike yourself. You reject yourself. You wish you were someone else.

We call this egodystonic. Egodystonic is very common, for example, in therapy, where we come face-to-face with ourselves.

The main role of the therapist is to put a mirror to you so that you can finally see yourself realistically in the mirror.

And many, many people, when they see themselves in the mirror, they don't like what they see. It could be such a crisis that it even has a technical name, abreaction, or narcissistic mortification. It's a situation where getting to know yourself constitutes a major crisis because you have been lying to yourself about yourself for a very long time.

You have been living in a delusion, in a fantasy, in an illusion, in a story, in a narrative about yourself that has very little to do with yourself.

So finally, when you come to know yourself, you're disappointed, you're heartbroken, you're mad, you are intensely displeased, you are ill at ease, you are discomforted, and maybe even you hate yourself. You dislike yourself. You can't live with yourself, so to speak.

So self-awareness sometimes can lead to self-rejection. If this happens, self-love is sabotage.

So we need to teach you, after you became self-aware, we need to teach you to accept yourself.

What is self-acceptance?

Acceptance, first of all, is unconditional. If you accept yourself by saying, I accept myself if, the minute you say if, or I accept myself but, the minute you say but, that is not self-acceptance. That is conditional love. And there is nothing more destructive than conditional love.

When children receive conditional love from parents, they are pathologized and deformed for life. The parents should give the child unconditional love.

And the whole process of developing self-love is a process of re-parenting, is a process of being your own mother, your own father, your own parents. You become your own parent. And as a parent, you should give yourself unconditional love. Love that is not conditioned on who you are. Love that is not conditioned on what you do. Love that is not conditioned on performance. If it is conditioned, it is a pathologized form of love. And it pushes you further away from yourself because you are likely to disappoint yourself.

Imagine that you love yourself only if you are rich. Then when you are not rich, you will not love yourself. So you are likely to disappoint yourself. It is not stable self-love. It is not self-love at all. It is not yourself that you love. But it is the money. If you love yourself only when you are rich, you do not love yourself. You love the money.

So self-love is unconditional the same way a mother should, properly and the healthy way, love the child.

The second thing, it is an embrace. You embrace your core identity. You embrace who you truly are.

Now we must distinguish between core identity and peripheral identity.

Core identity is the part of you that never changes. Never mind what happens. Never mind the circumstances. Never mind who you are interacting with. Never mind what happens to you. Never mind what you have learned. Never mind that part remains immutable.

In other words, unchangeable. Always absolutely the same. It is a rock. It is a nucleus. It is a stone. Never changes.

And there is peripheral identity or peripheral. So this peripheral identity changes.

Peripheral identity is reactive. It changes according to changes in environment, challenges, opportunities, threats, fears. All the time it changes.

Now when we get in touch with other people, we usually get in touch with their peripheral identities. Only when we fall in love with someone else and we spend time with him, we become more and more intimate.

Intimacy is the way leading from the peripheral identity to the core identity.

Once you reach the core identity, you can either accept it or reject it.

When you develop self-love, you need to reach your core identity.

Once you have reached it and you find out who you truly are, regardless of what happens, you need to embrace it. You need to accept it. Embrace it almost physically. Hug it.

Like hugging. You need to accept your personality, your character, your temperament, your relationships, your experiences, your life circumstances. You need to accept that there is a core. And this core is strong, reliable, never changing and will not be affected by everything that is happening to you.

So you can embrace it. It is a little like being in a sea. Imagine that your shipwrecked, your ship sunk down, you are in Titanic and you are in the sea. And suddenly you find a rock. What are you going to do? You are going to cling to the rock. You are going to hug the rock in order not to drown. That is your core identity.

The core identity is a rock in a stormy sea. And if you want to not drown, you need to hug it. You need to embrace it. Because all the rest is a storm. All the rest is changing.

Because it is a perfect storm. Like right now with the pandemic. You can't meet people. You can't see people. So there is not much going outside.

You need to have something inside that prevents you from drowning. And that is your core identity.

The third pillar.

So the first pillar is self-awareness.

Second pillar, self-acceptance.

Now the third pillar.

The third pillar is self-trust. Many, many people don't trust themselves. They don't trust themselves because experience, life experience has shown them that they are making the wrong choices. That they are choosing the wrong partners, selecting the wrong mates. That they had two options, they chose the wrong one.

And so they don't trust themselves. They don't trust themselves because they don't believe, they are beginning to believe that they don't have their own best interests in mind.

In other words, you need to have a conviction. You need to trust that you have your own best interests in mind. That you are pursuing your own best interests.

But life hands you so many defeats and so many failures that you sometimes begin to be convinced that you are self-destructive. That you don't have your best interests in mind.

On the contrary, that you hate yourself and that you are out to destroy yourself and that you are out to hurt yourself and that you will damage yourself.

Given the opportunity, you will damage yourself.

You can't trust yourself to pursue your best interests because you are your own worst enemy.

So this perception, I have seen the enemy and it is I, this perception prevents you from trusting yourself.

You don't believe, for example, that you are watching your own back.

In other words, you don't trust yourself, that you will be alert, that you will be warned if there is a threat.

You don't trust yourself to identify threats. You don't trust yourself when you identify threats, to avoid them, to act appropriately. You don't trust yourself.

You think that you are driven towards destruction by your own, by your very self.

You feel that you have no agency, no autonomy. It feels like someone inside you is stronger than you and that someone is alien.

It doesn't feel exactly like you. It feels like some entity, some invader, some body's nature, some extraterrestrial entered your body, some monster, I don't know how you want to call it, entered your body and took possession of it.

And it is this alien thing, which is not exactly you, that is pushing you to sabotage yourself, undermine yourself, hurt yourself, damage yourself, make wrong choices, choose wrong partners and end up in very bad places, doing very bad things that you didn't want to do and that cause you great discomfort or worse.

So this is a critical phase.

You need to make peace with yourself and you need to trust yourself that you are your own best friend, not that you are your worst enemy.

Now, usually this goes, this lack of self-trust goes with two other phenomena.

The first phenomena is external locus of control.

External locus of control is the belief that your life is not under your control, that it is determined by others from the outside, that whatever happens to you is not your fault, but also not your intention, not a result of your planning, not goal-oriented, not under your control.

You had very little to do with it. Other people, stronger people, richer people or people who are in the right place at the right time, these people decide your life for you. They push you around, you're like a pinball in a billiard table, they push you around.

You feel that you have no agency in the sense that you don't make decisions about your life. You feel that you have no autonomy in the sense that you have no control even when you do make decisions.

So this external locus of control is critical because without it, when you have it, you cannot trust yourself because yourself is not relevant. Only other people are relevant.

So instead of investing in yourself, instead of investigating yourself, instead of getting to know yourself better, instead of turning inward, you turn outward.

These kind of people, people who do not trust themselves, people who believe themselves to be self-destructive, self-defeating, stupid. Some people think they're stupid, too stupid to make decisions or too weak or too disempowered or too poor. Poor people have this.

Mereities, members of minorities, black Africans, for example, African Americans, Jews, they have this kind of thing because they feel powerless. They feel helpless. They feel they always depend on the outside. So these kind of people don't have self-love because they don't have self-trust. Instead of investing in themselves, getting to know themselves, loving themselves and accepting themselves, what they do, they invest all this energy in others. So they would tend to become the slaves and the agents of other people.

Because their lives depend on other people, they pay attention to other people. What other people do? What are they thinking? What are they likely to do to us? What decisions they are likely to make? How these decisions will affect us?

They are constantly focused on other people, their state of mind, their possible decisions, their effect and impact on their lives and so on.

So if you, for example, are dependent or you perceive yourself more appropriately, you perceive yourself to be totally dependent on another person and that other person's mood, that other person's emotions, state of mind, financial condition and so on have 100% impact on your life, you would not trust yourself. You have zero control over your life and zero effect on your life.

Why would you invest in yourself? It's irrational. It's much more rational to pay attention to that other person because that other person determines your life.

So you need to know everything about this other person. What is he thinking? What is he feeling? What is he about to do? What has he already done? What will be the effect? What will be the impact? How to manipulate him? How to control him? How to help him? How to satisfy him? How to gratify him? Everything is about him, him, him.

Of course, when all of you is invested in another person, you don't exist. You have no energy for yourself.

It is a suspension of existence. It is disappearing into the other person and we call this merger infusion.

This is very common in mental health pathologies like dependent personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. It's a pathology.

So self-trust is very critical because you need to develop the belief that you actually are not controlled and are not dependent on other people in a way that compromises you. You can be dependent on other people. We are all dependent on other people to some extent. And we can even be controlled by other people.

For example, if you have a job, to some extent you are controlled by your boss. If you live in a country, to some extent you are controlled by the ruling elite and by the law enforcement police. We are all controlled to some extent.

No one has total freedom, total independence and total autonomy.

But you need to believe that the extent of the control is not such that it compromises who you are. Your actions can be affected. It's okay. Your behaviors can be changed. It's okay. But not your core identity.

The minute you are controlled from the outside, the minute you are dependent on someone to the point that your core identity disappears or is beginning to change, then you don't exist anymore.

It's a problem because you are dependent on someone else. So you're letting someone else control you for your own good.

Supposedly you're doing this for yourself. But if the price is to not be, then who are you doing it for?

You're doing it for yourself.

But if there is no self, who are you doing it for?

Sometimes we lose sight. Sometimes we ignore the fact that by trying to satisfy our needs, our wishes, our dreams, our fantasies, we are actually sacrificing ourselves.

And so these needs, these wishes, these fantasies, even when they are fulfilled, they feel empty because no one is left there to enjoy them.

By killing yourself, you also kill the only person who can enjoy the fantasy. By disappearing yourself, you also vanished or disappeared. The only person who can enjoy the wish when it is fulfilled or the dream when it is realized. Dreams, fantasies and wishes, even when they are realized and fulfilled, they depend on you existing. If you don't exist as a condition for realizing these dreams, fantasies and wishes, then what are they for?

And the final pillar, the last one is known as self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is a belief. It's what we call a cognitive belief. It's a belief that you are capable of, first of all, setting, setting goals. You're capable of setting goals.

Many people say, I cannot set goals. I cannot decide on goals. I cannot decide on aims, on purposes. I cannot make plans. I cannot make plans. I cannot decide on goals because my life is chaotic. Chaotic, it's chaos. I don't control my life. It's a bloody mess. I just prefer to sit at home and drink alcohol or do drugs or have sex.

And that's it because it's pointless to make goals, to settle on goals and to make plans.

So the first part of self-efficacy is the belief that you are capable of setting rational, realistic and beneficial goals.

And the second part is that you possess the capacity that were with you to realize, to realize in reality, outcomes that are commensurate, that are reflected by these goals, by these aims, commensurate with the aims.

So in other words, you should develop the belief that you can set goals and then that you can pursue them and realize it. And that the results in reality, the outcomes will reflect these goals, will somehow be connected to these goals. In other words, that you can accomplish these goals. And these goals must always be rational, realistic and beneficial.

And how do you develop this belief in self-efficacy?

You develop it when you look back at your life and you realize that actually your experience is that you do set goals and that you do accomplish them. In other words, when you look back at your life, you discover that you are self-efficacious. Now all people are self-efficacious. Well, with very few exceptions. The vast majority of people are self-efficacious because the vast majority of people survive. To survive, you need to be self-efficacious. You need to set goals, even minimal goals. I'm going to the grocery store to get bread. That's a goal. I'm going to buy food. That's a goal. I'm going to take a shower. That's a goal. You need to set goals in order to survive. So everyone is setting goals and everyone is realizing them. There's no person who is not self-efficacious and alive. If you're alive, you're self-efficacious. So when you look back at your life, you discovered that actually 99% of your goals, you set them and 99% of the time you succeed to realize them. And in some cases, you set very complicated goals, very far-reaching and fantastic goals, and you realize them also.

The minute you understand this, you suddenly feel a lot of power. You feel empowered because you realize that actually you're very good at manipulating your environment, human environment and inanimate environment. You're very good at setting goals that are good for you, that are beneficial, and you're very good at realizing them.

You suddenly gain self-confidence, self-esteem. You suddenly gain trust.

And indeed, it's a form of narcissism known as healthy narcissism. It's the belief that you're okay. You're a very efficient machine. You're okay. You can trust yourself in your own.

So these are the last two pillars of self-love.

Now, why do we need self-love at all?

Well, can't we survive without self-love? Why is self-love so needed? It's needed because in life, it's the only reliable guide. It's the only reliable compass.

People will say, but wait a minute, you don't need self-love. If you have enough experience in life, you know everything you need to know.

Self-love doesn't help, doesn't add. It's a nuisance.

Or at least it's not needed.

You can not love yourself, but still have so much experience that you can achieve goals.

You can be very practical, very efficient, get where you want, get what you want, even without self-love. You can hate your guts yourself and still be very successful men or women.

And that is, of course, not true because experience is very problematic. The vast majority of experience comes too late. When we finally get the experience, the lessons of the experience can no longer be implemented.

It's the majority of cases.

If you look back at your life, you learned many things. You have learned many things from experience, but can you implement them? 99% of the time, the answer is no.

Experience teaches you many lessons, unfortunately, about the past. Very few of these lessons can be implemented in the future because of old age, because of lost opportunities, because of changed circumstances, because of many things.

But experience is pretty useless, actually.

And not two people, not two situations are the same.

Compare this, for example, to self-love.

Self-love is like a rock. It's stable, it's reliable, it's immovable, it's immutable, unchangeable. It's a guide. It's a loyal friend, the truest loyal friend.

The only concern of self-love is your welfare, your happiness, your contentment. You can trust your self-love. It will guide you to the right places, prevent you from doing stupid things or crazy things, dangerous things.

If you truly self-love, you're never reckless, you're never addictive, you never compromise your boundaries, you never go to bad or dangerous places. If you truly self-love.

Experience alone without self-love can take you any place. Very, very, very experienced people end up in jail. Very, very, very experienced people end up being assassinated or murdered. And very, very, very experienced people end up making seriously stupid decisions, seriously self-destructive decisions.

Experience is not enough without self-love. Self-love is the condition for living the right and the proper life.

Now I would ask you to stop the recording. You did? Just a second.

No, no, wait, wait, wait, just a second. Okay, stop recording.

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Addicted to Trauma Bonding? WATCH TO THE END! (with Stephanie Carinia, Trauma Expert)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses trauma bonding with Stephanie Carina, a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma and personality. Trauma bonding involves an extreme, one-sided attachment where the abused is attached to the abuser, but not vice versa. It is fostered by unpredictable, intermittent reinforcement and involves a power asymmetry. The abused often confuses intensity with truth and attention with love, leading to a fear of loneliness and self-deception. Trauma bonding is a collaborative form of self-mutilation and self-harm, serving to numb emotions, make the victim feel alive through pain, and punish themselves. Vaknin emphasizes that the abuser uses the victim to fulfill their own needs, and the victim is often addicted to the drama and intensity of the relationship. He suggests that society should teach people to cope with being alone, as many will not have relationships, and that therapy for trauma bonding must be carefully managed to avoid creating new dependencies.

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