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The Struggle for Self
A common struggle in women is the struggle for Self – for being seen, and acknowledged for who we are at the very heart of us. Being an individual inherently implies embracing one’s uniqueness. Throughout history, countless narratives recount how individuals with artistic or literary talents had to overcome their challenging childhood experiences to ultimately achieve success. However, this journey of Self-discovery can often resemble the essence of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling, reflecting the protagonist’s own life experiences.
The Ugly Duckling serves as an allegory for the rejection faced by a child who is deemed to have been ‘born in the wrong nest’, or who possesses abilities different from those of their peers or siblings. Their caregivers may struggle to comprehend or accept these differences, leaving the child feeling isolated and disconnected from their surroundings. This sense of being different from their siblings or playmates can lead them to feel misplaced and misunderstood, resulting in certain aspects or parts of their true self being concealed or lost. This can cause lifelong effects that can be either something the child embraces as strengths, or rejects, with Parts becoming hidden in the shadow of Self. And the struggle for Self is pushed to the background or comes to the surface to be recognised and for a way through to be found.
Embracing individuality demands embracing one’s differences and recognising the potential for greatness that lies within those unique qualities. Like the journey of the Ugly Duckling, it requires patience traversing the path of Self-discovery and acceptance. There is an inner conflict. However, only by embracing their own uniqueness can individuals fully realise their potential and find their place in the world, much like the beautiful swan that emerges from the awkward ‘duckling’. Each person’s journey of reclaiming in the struggle for Self includes self-realization discovered within a tale of growth, resilience, and finding one’s true identity in a world that may not always understand or appreciate their differences.
Children instinctively adapt to their surroundings to ensure survival. In the tale of the Ugly Duckling, the protagonist conceals their true Self and emotions, almost entering a state of hibernation or dissociation, all in the pursuit of pleasing others and securing their own well-being. As they mature, they begin to reflect on their life, yearning for something more profound – to be acknowledged, understood, and validated as their genuine selves, without being confined by others’ expectations or perceptions.
Regrettably, in reality, many individuals ignore the struggle for Self and suppress their inherent abilities or talents to conform and be accepted by their families or society. They bury their unique qualities, and these ‘differences’ remain hidden from the world. However, there comes a point when these repressed talents or abilities demand to be recognised and acknowledged. This inner conflict arises because a part of them, akin to soul loss – or Parts/Soul loss – has been disregarded or forgotten, patiently awaiting reclamation and restoration.
The intriguing aspect depicted in this story is that such a situation need not solely result from significant trauma; it can emerge from not being perceived or acknowledged as an individual with their own distinct gifts, skills or abilities, and worth.
For many women, there is not only the struggle to succeed in business or in life but also the struggle to be seen as who they really, truly are. The struggle for Self-restoration and reclamation is real. And if this does not happen, then they feel that something is missing from their life – either consciously or unconsciously. Life continues to be a struggle.
This narrative of The Ugly Duckling emphasizes the human struggle to want to be authentically seen as who they are, to break free from the masks taken on for survival and societal acceptance. It speaks to the profound importance of Self-discovery and the recognition of one’s true essence, even when it might challenge the status quo or elicit discomfort. Ultimately, the journey towards
Self-realization and Self-acceptance is an essential part of our growth and fulfillment. And that can only occur from within and a sense of surrendering to finding Self. No one can do it for us.
In the journey to Reclamation of the Self, the Soul undergoes a struggle to reclaim the fragmented aspects that have either been lost due to a traumatic event, taken away or intentionally safeguarded—often by the individuals themselves.
There are a number of different ways that this may happen. The person senses an emptiness within themselves. They hear faint whispers, echoes of their former Self as a child, compelling them to explore further. They embark on a journey of remembrance, seeking to reunite with those fragmented parts they had hidden away or sent into safekeeping, with the intent of becoming whole once more. And, dear reader, anything is possible when the Self feels restored.
The inner journey is a journey less traveled, to re-claim and re-store Self. But the wondrous benefits could include:
– a sense of fulfillment
– a sense of knowing one’s true purpose
– steady confidence in one-Self
– the ability to recognise synchronicities
– the ability to access creative solutions as needed
– an inner sense of hope
– a further sense of empowerment
May you enjoy the journey!
Read about Lowenfeld’s Contribution to the understanding of trauma in Sandplay here.
About the Author
Name: Karen Curran
Professional Title: Transpersonal Therapist & Artist
Bio: Karen is a transpersonal therapist, artist, and storyteller, based in Australia. Karen helps women and children access their innate gifts and abilities in order to self-empower, inner heal, and find creative possibilities in solutions. Karen’s aim is to inspire and encourage. Having spent decades in denial of who she really was due to trauma, Karen uses her lived experience and hones her knowledge and skills to help others to go forward. A creative at heart.
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