Structure Training and Self-care

German Version >>
Translation: Anne Verena Groß

Self-care is a central point for mental health. The base of it is like the quote on self- love: “Love the other as yourself!“

Our clients often have problems with both aspects of love.
In addition, there is a very personal confusion: self-love is often defamed as egoism. And at the same time “selfless” care for others is glorified as a high virtue.

By using the structure training according to Langlotz with including the “TRUE SELF” it is possible to set the conditions for the development of self-care. The disturbances through maladaptive stored trauma introjects become visible and can be examined by testing certain interventions. The reactions of a client help to make a conclusion of working dynamics, so the interventions can become more and more precise.

To explain it more detailed:

Self and Structure

The SELF has the function of a central control unit.
It has the potential to create congruence – self-connection- through the formation of a structure. Congruence, in turn, is the prerequisite for autonomy – self- determination instead of being externally determined. Self and structure are mutually reinforcing. This has a self-stabilizing effect.

The following aspects of structure become clear:
Central is the awareness of a true self that has its value in itself – intrinsic self esteem.
This self is also the source of the working forces:
a healthy aggression (“elemental force”) that can recognize what is alien to the self and remove it from one’s own space. And
an unconditional love for the other, unintentional and without regard to benefit.

The awareness of this self makes it possible to recognize alien elements (people, beliefs, feelings, trauma) as alien to me and – with all due respect – to remove them from one’s own space. This distinction between Me and not Me creates boundaries. This creates different rooms: a separate room in which only you are responsible. And other rooms in which one – without an “assignment” – is not responsible. And finally, the space of the past, in which everything that has passed belongs.

This structure is a prerequisite for self-connection, for congruence. And it is also a prerequisite for self-care.

Self and self-care

In constellations based on the concept of systemic self-integration, it has proven useful to assume two different parts of the self: an adult self and a child self. This also makes it possible to examine the phenomenon of self-care more closely. The adult self includes the ability to take responsibility, to protect and care for someone.

The child’s self includes, among other things, the need for recognition, protection and care – in addition, fantasy, curiosity and the joy of play and fun.
If a person has integrated both self-aspects, then they perceive their own needs and can look after themselves in an adult way, defend themselves and protect themselves. This “self-care” is part of their autonomy and makes them independent and free.

If one can look after oneself in this way, one can decide to give recognition, protection and care to other people – e.g. in one’s family – e.g. a child, a partner or a parent, if they are due to illness or old age can no longer take care of themselves.

Relationship trauma

If, however, the integration of the self parts is blocked by early traumatic relationships with the first caregiver, then the coordination of these two parts in the sense of self-care is very difficult.
Parents who are traumatized themselves cannot connect to a child. Since they are not connected to their own core being, to their SELF, they cannot perceive the self of their child either. And they cannot give him the unintentional love that the child needs so that his own core being is “awakened” in him, his true self, which “is worth being loved simply because it is there.”

If parents cannot show a child their own true self, but only their “false selves” confused by the trauma, then the child conforms to this “reality”. However, it cannot develop healthy (intrinsic) self-esteem. In order to survive, it develops a false self-concept with an extrinsic self-esteem. It develops the illusion that it is valuable because it senses the unspoken needs of the parents without being asked and feels responsible for them.

And that is mistaken for selfless love by the child and the parents!

At the same time, the child cannot experience that his or her own needs are perceived and taken into account by the parents. Without this role model, however, it is not able to perceive and express its own needs.

These two aspects mean that it cannot learn to use its own ability to care for its own needs. It cannot develop self-care.
This affects the choice of partner and the relationship pattern.

Relationship trauma and the symbiosis pattern

Without congruence – without the connection with their own self – those affected cannot show themselves to the other person as they really are. They cannot be real
and authentic and with that they lose their attraction. And they don’t feel drawn to the authenticity of their counterparts. They are not able to experience an I-you encounter with attachment through mutual attraction.

Is there an alternative form of attachment for them?
If these two aspects of care and need cannot be related to each other within the person as a result of trauma-induced self-alienation, then they can at least serve to create a bond.
Those affected have “learned” to see their (extrinsic) self-esteem in the fact that, without being asked, they sense the needs of another and feel responsible for them. Therefore, they are attracted to people who are needy, who depend on their care.
And they mistakenly think of that as selfless love!
And they also expect this “love” from their counterparts!
Because in their own neediness they too are attractive to others who are in a similar mode.

However, this bond is symbiotic. Since the client is no longer connected to his own self, because he lacks this “intrinsic orientation”, he or she is more oriented towards the other persons and their needs than towards their own.
Instead of a healthy congruence with the self, he or she seeks an “illusionary congruence” with the other person. That explains the need for harmony and harmonization. Differences and anger should not be perceived at all, but are suppressed because they could endanger the dependent relationship.

And the healthy elemental force, whose task it is to distinguish and to recognize and remove that which is alien to the self, is blocked by the introject. It accumulates and is directed destructively against the self – doubts about self- esteem, self-devaluation, depression, fear, illness – or destructively against others. These are aspects of a symbiotic pattern. It can therefore be understood as an attempt to compensate trauma-related self-alienation.

The symbiosis pattern has a self-reinforcing dynamic. It becomes a trap from which those affected can rarely free themselves. A transformation to more congruence with self-care and congruent partner relationships is difficult. Because it demands the almost impossible from those affected: At the same time (!) to break away from the familiar illusionary extrinsic self-esteem and to trust one’s own self, which has been rejected and devalued up to now, from the environment – and from the person itself.

The solving process of the self-integrating trauma constellation

The understanding of trauma and structure outlined here, of true and false selves, of unintentional and manipulative love enables a solution process through a series of targeted interventions.
The sequence of these interventions has emerged from practical work over the past 20 years and has proven to be very effective. At the same time, this sequence corresponds to an inner logic that has its own beauty.
That makes it very precious to me.

The process first makes the client aware of the following “distortions” in the structure, which were triggered by an early relationship trauma:

1. Confusion about boundaries and responsibilities.
2. The conglomerate, consisting of one’s own trauma, the caregivers involved and the traumas they have taken over, literally became the basis for a self-construct.
3. Associated with this is going “to a higher level” – a rational, a spiritual level or withdrawal into fantasy worlds – in order not to let pain and suffering get in.
4. Tendencies towards control, towards perfectionism and towards a responsibility for others, which inevitably lead to experiences of insufficiency or failure
5. Division between a “false self” with fantasies of grandeur and the “true self” that was ignored, rejected or condemned by the environment – but also by the client himself.
6. The healthy elemental force – which recognizes what is alien to me and removes it from one’s own space – is blocked. The client feels paralyzed. The blocked power is directed destructively against one’s own or against strangers.
7. The reality of emotional abandonment and being overwhelmed – and sometimes violence as well – was “internalized” by the client, as if it were part of their own reality: excessive demands on themselves, ignoring and neglecting their own needs.

This results in the following steps:

1. Training in awareness of boundaries and responsibilities – as a prerequisite for being able to be the captain of your own boat.
2. Perception of the elements of the conglomerate and demarcation, as here and now no longer part of one’s own identity.
3. Arriving back on the “ground”: feel the earth that carries us unconditionally because it has produced us.
4. Approaching the sovereign “adult” self that has its worth and dignity in itself, „like a rose” through appreciation. So that
5. the false self with its fantasies of grandeur and its “extrinsic” (one-sidedly determined by performance) self-esteem can be recognized and delimited as dispensable and as a hindrance.
6. The blocked elemental force can again be used in a directed manner for differentiation, removal and delimitation of the I-alien. The client feels able to act again.
7. Through the strengthening connection with the adult self, the client can get closer to the “child-like self”, which wants to be perceived and protected, but also “wants to play”.

This structure training must be applied in a temporal context – that is, in a session. Then it not only promotes congruence, self-determination and resilience, but also the ability to care for oneself (“self-mothering” or self-care).
Because all of these skills require a differentiated structure.