Towards the Real Self
In Chapter Three we dealt with certain aspects of trauma, integration of the hemispheres and remedying the misuse of inner space. Work in these three dimensions will significantly reduce background tension and the general disabilities arising from neurosis, and enhance an individual's abilities both in comprehension and in the capacity for action. Although this constitutes a very effective course, the new freedoms are freedoms within a reality bound by constricting belief systems. In short, one may become a better businessman, or a better housewife, but may still not have questioned the validity of these roles.
In contrast, work on the upper levels of Maslow's hierarchy is concerned with shifting the paradigm and acquiring greater potential freedom within an unbounded reality. The aim is to achieve independence in the unified field of life, rather than dependence on it; to be knowing creator of one's beliefs rather than unknowing effect of imposed beliefs (the cultural trance). It involves repairing the mind-body split - integrating the thinking, feeling, emoting, sensing and moving aspects of the Self.
This can be illustrated in the context of remembering a previous state of consciousness. If that previous state in a student's past had permitted enhanced performance, and if it could be re-created, this would be a valuable resource. By remembering it fully, the original state can be rehabilitated.
For this to be meaningful and stable, however, the whole of the personality of that state needs to be contacted, re-experienced and re-installed in the present moment: the cognitive aspects (thoughts, attitudes, decisions, beliefs, motives, memories, imagination); the emotional aspects (emotions, felt needs and desires); and behavioral aspects (perceptions that are external - actions, communications and events of self and others, whether seen, heard, tasted, smelt or touched; and perceptions that are internal - kinesthetic body image, sensations, sexuality, tensions, pains, movement). When student's have worked successfully with Transformational Psychology they will have this ability - what Gurdjieff called the 'Self-remembering Man'.
Having learnt to remember and fully integrate an ego-state, the student is prepared for the next major step in Transformational Psychology. This involves integrating the range of different ego states, or 'sub-personalities' that relate to particular roles the person must play in life, in order to survive and prosper in different circumstances. To the extent that these roles are unknowingly enacted in reaction to differing circumstances or environmental 'fields', the person is field-dependent, living in a bounded or blinkered reality.
In this thesis we have previously examined the process of 'identification'. For example, a particular person can be any of the following at different times: a father, a stockbroker, a Londoner, a Roman Catholic, and so on. He may also introject behavior modeled on powerful figures from his childhood - such as his father, mother, teachers and peers. Every hero figure inspires imitation. Persons to whom sympathy was given or to whom wrong was done, become identified with. Plus there is the whole archetypal structure of the deep unconscious. The typical student therefore has a considerable number of ego-states or sub-personalities, displaying considerable modifications of behavior, under the control of Subconscious programs of great power. They may be unknown to each other or they may conflict or interact. Each may have their own separate memories and as a sub-personality have components of Parent, Adult and Child based on the life experience when they were created and when they have since been re-enacted. Some ego-states may never get the chance to play at all, being blocked by the dictates of parental voices; and some may only speak indirectly through moods, dreams, illnesses and compulsions.
How does a sub-personality develop? As far as we know how to make any kind of tests, we find that babies are making sense of the world, not just responding to it blindly or automatically. In doing this, they soon find that certain ways of relating seem to work for them; they may be about getting what they want, or about how not to care if they don't get it, and so on. As time goes on, the infant finds that it has to relate differently in different circumstances; what works with one person does not work with another, or in another setting. Meanwhile, processes of identification are going on - different approaches and ways of being are invented, imitated, instructed or instinctively re-enacted - and these are internalized in sub-compartments of the personality or 'Persona'. In all of this, there is a powerful element of fantasy - that of a panicky person with a rich imagination, very willing to make up stories and paint pictures, to exaggerate, ignore, make assumptions and pretend.
Karen Horney states that the major determining factor is our need for security - the first bio-survival program. The most basic sub-personalities are created early in childhood to serve security needs. Later we may press these sub-personalities into service to gain acceptance and self-esteem needs also, which may involve adopting various manipulative strategies, such as the exploitive use of eroticism, help-seeking, ingratiation and threats.
So by about four years old the child has made some very important decisions about the world and his relationships within it, and split off various regions within his Persona to deal with the people and situations that have been noticed. As Gurdjieff explained: 'A man is divided into a multiplicity of small I's, and each separate small I is able to call itself by the name of the man, to agree or disagree, to make promises or decisions, for which another small I will have to take responsibility. This explains why people so seldom do as they have said'. The degree of isolation between sub-personalities is directly related to the person's field dependency.
We can start to see how our sub-personalities play into each other's hands, and often how little they know each other. Once they are identified and their motives are clear, they can no longer be re-enacted in a reactive, unknowing way. When light falls on the Shadow, it reveals new and valuable territory. There is also a great sense of relief; for example, if I say 'I am jealous', that describes the whole of me, and that is overwhelming in its implications. But if I respect the plurality in myself and no longer see the jealous identity as the whole of me, then I have gained the distance I need to observe it and to see how the identity was acquired, and why it is still being used.
At this stage of mental development one is adopting a 'Caretaker Self' and this is used as a nodal point, or center of observation and control. Physiologically speaking, this involves creating a stable center in the forebrain that is capable of high arousal without anxiety or defenses being reactivated. This remains in charge of operations, but is continually modified and enlarged as more and more of the real Self becomes apparent, until eventually it becomes the real Self that encompasses all selves. As sub-personalities are viewed and charge falls away from them, there is a greater degree of cross-remembering between them, and they are more easily accessed by the Caretaker Self, instead of being field-dependent. Whereas before the individual may have been almost a number of separate people, now he is less likely to lose hold of the string that can jerk him back to the Caretaker self - he is like an actor knowingly playing a number of different roles without totally identifying with them.
The core Self guides, unfolds and regulates our development. It knows, as does a seed, its eventual destiny. This is what is meant by individuation - growing into what we are meant to become. We define 'who I am' by our roles in life; yet even when we lose some of these roles as a result of changed circumstances, we still exist - we still are. This is the Real Self, our true undistorted nature, a reflection on the physical, manifested level of our implicate, spiritual Higher Self. At times of great crisis in life - when a home is burnt down, loved ones are lost, or facing death - when our roles have disintegrated, this transformative realization can come upon us.
If there is this understanding about oneself, then perceiving others, one equally can see that an aspect of someone's behavior is not the whole person. We are able to listen to one sub-personality and do justice to that, without being forced into a judgment that the person actually is that behavior. We can wait for the dialectical movement that brings the next sub-personality out into play - maybe a directly opposed one. This makes listening and understanding much easier, because we have not been given the impossible task of understanding a person better than the person themselves.
Whatever model of psychology we go in for, we almost always come across sub-personalities in some form or other. It may be Freud's Ego, Id and Superego; or Jung's complexes and archetypes; or Berne's Parent, Adult and Child; or Perl's top-dog and under-dog; or Klein's internal objects; or Horney's idealizms; or Leary's circuits; or Hubbard's sympathy identities and emotional tone scale; or Gurdjieff's higher and lower intellectual and emotional centers; or the motivational states of Apter's reversal theory; or Mumford's goal conflict structures. The names change but the reality remains the same. Even Skinner's behaviorism has its version - 'repertoires of behavior'. The concept of roles that you move in and out of freely, is familiar to everyone who identifies with characters in a film, play or movie, who sees a painting with the painter's eyes, who takes the side of a sportsman, or who can see another's point of view in a discussion: it's a universal phenomenon - the game of life. In addressing sub-personalities we are uncovering character roles that became adopted insidiously and have become stuck - like an actor unknowingly continuing to dramatize previous roles he has played.
Now it often happens that one of these sub-personalities becomes a general functionary, and gets more and more jobs to do. This is usually the most highly socialized of the sub-personalities and is often closely tied with the male or female role - the one that most people in the person's circle will call forth by their expectations, by rewards and punishments, by reference to cultural norms. It is probably the one identified with the fourth program of the socio-sexual system imprinted at late puberty, producing a characteristic sexual and social role. It is the Persona that we feel safest in, whoever we actually are in essence. When people praise us and try to raise our self-esteem, or when we try to please others, it is often this way of being and achieving that is boosted. At the same time there will be Shadow aspects to this substitute personality that we have not owned - they will be obvious to others but blind spots to the person.
The tragic thing is that we can easily be taken in by this, to think that this substitute beingness is our Real Self: it is what everybody knows and relates to, why shouldn't it be who we really are? But it is for somebody else's benefit and we survived better because we produced it. To the extent that we feel firmly identified with this false personality, it will be dangerous to entertain notions of self-actualization, for what that would mean is a form of ego-boosting, an inflation of this identity. It will just magnify our existing faults and impose them more fully on other people. We are likely to have incredible difficulties reconciling our imagined sainthood with our humanity. As Perls said, it is the difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization. It will lead to the desperate straits of the man who says, 'I think I've got this spiritual thing pretty good now, but I still can't get on with the wife'.
This 'Substitute Persona' must be located and thoroughly discharged. A Caretaker Self must be developed, either from the Substitute Persona or from another prominent sub-personality, and from this the Real Self will emerge. The more we can work with the sub-personalities and get to know them, the easier it is to see that none of them are the Real Self. And when at last we allow ourselves to get in touch with the Real Self, we find that we don't have to take any special measures to deal with our sub-personalities - they take care of themselves and just become colorful facets with a lot of light, but no harm in them. They become roles that we have or use, rather than be.
This may seem hard to believe, particularly because there are usually some that seem evil, destructive, black and horrible. This is the archetype of the Shadow, as Jung describes: 'Unfortunately man is, in part, less good than he imagines or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an identity is conscious, one always has the chance to correct it, but if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected. It is liable to burst forth in a moment of unawareness'. But there is no need to destroy it; it contains a great deal of locked-up energy and excitement, which when released makes the person more alive and spontaneous. There is a lot of love and real anger tied up in that congealed hate, and when it melts and starts to flow the results can be incredibly beautiful.
The way we treat people in our environment is closely connected with the way in which we treat our own sub-personalities. If one's first reaction to a sub-personality judged to be bad, is to 'cut it out, destroy it', then this will perhaps be one's attitude to social, political or business enemies. Such reactions (to the recognition of one's sub-personalities) are closely related to the opposing factors that caused the identities to be adopted in the first place, and have since been reactively introjected or projected as defense mechanisms.
Ultimately we want all the sub-personalities to be merely seen as integrated filters to the Real Self. Using the term 'Real Self' in this way suggests that the sub-personalities are in some sense false; and in so far as they are independent, they are false. They are not an adequate expression of 'who I am'. They are partial versions, scraped up to meet a particular purpose, and resorted to in a panic of choice.
To become free of the hypnosis of external fields, power must be taken back by the Self. When your identity is firmly established in the Self, you are no longer dependent on the external world to determine who you are. You are free from the chains of field dependency. But this is not a tyrannical power - it is what Krishnamurti calls choiceless awareness: awareness without need. Without need, our perception is clear and objective, there are no compulsions or fears. It is the power of freedom. And it is the appropriate state of mind in which to transform towards a Higher state of Self.
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