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  • Writer's pictureKrystal Ying, LMFT, LPCC, LPC

Unearthing Your True Self: Peeling Back the Layers to Reconnect with Your Essential Self

Updated: 2 days ago

How Connecting with Your True Self Is Possible Despite Trauma and the Complexities of Life

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

What comes to mind when you hear the words"true self" or "essential self?" You might feel comforted by these phrases, but for many people who have experienced relational traumas, such as sexual assault, there is a feeling of disconnect, confusion, anger, sadness, or loss from self. Whatever it is that comes up - emotion, thought, memory, or nothing at all - it is possible to return to who you are and always have been: your true self.

This post speaks to the natural severing from self that occurs after trauma, and offers gentle ways to reconnect with your true self. Beyond the deep walls/barriers and personas constructed as adaptive responses to trauma, there exists your authentic self - the part of you that remains untouched by society, the stories and messaging received and retold, the conditioning, the hurt. Unearthing the protective layers constructed over years, you can get in touch with the true essence of who you really are.

Connecting with Your True Self

Photo by Daniel Diesenreither on Unsplash

What is your true self?

  • Also known as the essential self, authentic self, higher self

  • The part of you that exists untouched by life events

  • Who you have always been in your core and is your true nature

  • The inner you before you start your day and face the world - before you have to mask or put on your persona(s)

  • The part of you in your happiest or most peaceful moments

  • Freedom from limiting beliefs, survival mindset, fears, and stories

The path doesn’t go from here to there, it goes from there to here. It takes us from being lost, to coming back to the freedom of wisdom and love just where we are. --- Jack Kornfield
true self, reconnect, healing, essential self

Healing is not about going from here to there, but rather from there to here - back home to who you really are and have been all along. Learn about why we develop protective parts that sever us from true self, and how to reconnect .

The Intelligence of Disconnecting from Self

We develop adaptive strategies in the wake of and in response to traumatic events. In order to survive the threat or danger - whether it be abuse, rejection, abandonment, hunger, or something else - our brains and bodies will create a buffer from the overwhelming pain by severing connection to what's happening. It is an intelligent and life-preserving ability!

Distancing from self happens automatically and to varying degrees. For some, it can be that a part of you gets activated when triggered (e.g. anger in response to criticism, people-pleasing when faced with conflict). For others, it can be a profound sense of disconnection or numbing from emotions, body, and identity.

We develop limiting beliefs as a response to adaptation and survival - mindsets that can become rigid and inflexible over repeated (and often necessary) use. These limiting beliefs can shift our worldview, which over time blurs our connection to our essential self.

Examples of limiting beliefs*

  • I am not worthy

  • I can only rely on myself

  • There's something wrong with me

  • I don't belong anywhere

  • No one understands me

  • It is not ok to rest

*Remember, limiting beliefs are adaptive responses to trauma or adversity

You might have become distant from yourself out of necessity, but it does not mean you need to forever be a stranger to your home, your true self.

fragmentation, dissociation, parts, adaptive strategies, trauma response, trauma, complex trauma, survival response
Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

I hope it is now understandable how, over time, we learn to section ourselves off from the inner, essential self that existed long before all the "life stuff" started piling on.

With a curious attitude, I invite you to reflect on what comes up when asked to connect with your true self. As you take a moment to notice, you might see what thoughts, stories, voices, emotions, images, physical movements, or sensations arise. Now, a second invitation awaits: are you open to connecting with your true self? If so, keep reading to learn how.

Suddenly, after years of rain, the truth comes like sunlight pouring through that open window. It takes a long time to get here, but it all comes full circle...This home is what I came into this world with; was the first home, will be the last home. --- Rupi Kaur

Steps to Connect With Your True Self

Please be gentle, kind, patient with yourself as you practice accessing your core self. Be aware that this exercise can bring up both pleasant and unpleasant experiences; whatever arises is a hint and message that conveys your relationship to your true self. There is no wrong way to do this, as whatever happens is insightful information to learn and grow from.

  1. Take a moment to center to the present moment by taking mindful breaths

  2. Think about a time when you were most at peace, happiest, or at ease.

  3. As the memory arises (even if it's faded or distant), try to bring in all your senses to bring yourself there - the picture in your mind, sights, smells, sounds, touch, colors. Take your time with this, as it can take many times to redirect your brain's attention.

  4. Notice how accessing this memory opens up the senses, as well as your emotions, physical sensations, bodily movements and sounds, thoughts. [For example, I hear myself giggle as a soft smile sweeps across my face as I picture a memory]

  5. Lean in and seep into this experience - noticing what pleasurable feelings (physical, mental, or emotional) arise or what unexpected things occur.

  6. Feel and reflect on who you are in this memory, how you feel connected to yourself and perhaps something greater than you - the earth, universe, spirit, ancestors...

  7. Notice, as you connect with your essential self, how you move through the world, how you respond and think, the way you appear and the energy you exude. Stay with how it feels to be in touch with your true self.

  8. Practice this as often as you can or want.

We all move through life differently with different childhoods, different privileges, different adversities, and different adaptive strategies. Despite what happened in your life, there remains an untouched part of you that continues to exist underneath the accumulated armor that was necessary to survive. Is there any part of you now that is curious about retracing your steps down that dusty dirt road to discover, or unearth, the true, authentic you that's always been with you all along? The invitation awaits and your essential self will always be there, whenever you are ready. With love, Krystal

universe, grounding, connection, true self, essential self
Photo by Krystal Ying

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