Be Yourself—Which Self?

Two sayings.  One recent.  One very old.  Just be yourself.  Know thyself.  While some people might be referring to the same thing with both of these statements, most people intend very different worlds, processes, experiences, and outcomes with these two sayings.

Is this psychobabble or relevant in everyday life?  I suggest that choices are being made for you in every instant of your life.  I also suggest that you are not involved consciously in most of those choices.  Choices that greatly affect your life.  And, you could be.  One way of looking at this is, who is choosing.  Thus, the two sayings.  Just be your self, and know thyself.

This kind of “just” statement–just be yourself–means only or nothing but.  You only need to be yourself.  Nothing but yourself.  Just be you, in whatever comes out.  If you are thinking, just be yourself.  If you are feeling, just be yourself.  If you are following your gut, your intuition, just be yourself.  No worries, just be yourself.  That is one way of looking at it, at being your self.

Know thyself, expressed in the Ancient Greek as gnōthi seauton (γνῶθι σεαυτόν), means to know your whole self, which includes your thinking, your feeling, your willing, your lower self in waking consciousness, your higher self in your soul, and your highest self in the I AM.  The task of know thyself is to integrate these different dimensions of your self into one whole knowing, self-aware here now.

We can expand on the description of the “know thyself” task, using the three ecosynomic levels of perceived reality (light, verb, noun).  At the noun level, we only perceive outcomes.  What we can  pay attention to in this instant of what we perceive through our senses.  At this noun level, we see only the capacities we have in this instant, the capacities that are already finished, already here now.  This self contains what is already finished in our lives, what we have already created and manifested.  These capacities are amazing, and that we are able to manifest them in this reality is even more amazing.  These are our sacred nouns, the marvel of everything the universe needed to do to have that much energy hold those capacities together right here right now in the way they do.  While what it took to get to this instant is amazing, there are no choices for us, as this instant is already finished.  The choices were already made.  All ways always.  That is what we see of our self, when we focus at the noun level.

At the verb-noun level, we perceive the development of capacities and relationships, and we perceive the outcomes of that development.  Both development and outcomes, verb and noun.  This self contains what is becoming and what is already finished, what we are creating and what is already created.  What is changing over time, and what is also in this instant.  What we are learning and what we already know.  At this verb-noun level, choices enter.  We can choose how we develop these relationships and capacities.  We can learn from what we observe in this instance of the noun, and we can choose to alter the verb. At the verb-noun level of our self, we experience our becoming and our already finished.

At the light-verb-noun level, we perceive the potential, the development of that potential, and the outcomes of that development.  Potential, development, and outcomes.  Light, verb, and noun.  This self contains what is in beingness, becoming, and already finished.  The potential to create, what we are creating, and the already created.  The infinite energy in potential, the energy being used to manifest the potential, and the capacity present in the already finished, the outcome.  We can choose what potential we see, what potential we bring into existence and begin to manifest, and what we learn from the feedback presented as the sacred noun, the outcome.  What we could learn, what we are learning, and what we already know.  At the light-verb-noun level of our self, we experience our potential, our becoming, and our already finished. All three levels are always available to us in all ways.

In addition to the three levels of perceived reality, we also experience our self through different dimensions of reality.  In earlier explorations of our multi-dimensional reality, we saw that physicists to philosophers suggest that maybe we live in and are made up of many more dimensions of reality than the three we are most accustomed to–length, width, depth.  My current research explores what it would mean for us human beings to be made up of these dimensions: how being constituted that way affects the choices available to us.  One way to see this is to play with our human capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing.  What if the thinking capacity is a reflector, where the light inputs of our senses have a surface to reflect off of, so that they can be perceived.  [Remember, we don’t see light directly, it is passing by all of the time invisibly; we perceive the reflection of light off of something.]  The feeling is the witness that observes what is reflected off of the reflector.  The willing is the chooser, engaging our body in action.

If our self is purely in our thinking, engrossed in a feedback loop amongst our own thoughts, then our attention is only in the reflections of our reflector, without the witness (feeling) or the chooser (willing).  We get stuck in our thoughts, oblivious to what is happening in this world, until we “come out of it.”

If our self is purely in our feeling, witnessing our witnessing, we get caught in the infinite spiraling up and down in our emotions, our witnessing of witnessing.  While we are purely in our being present with what is emerging, the only emerging we are presencing is our witnessing.  Again, we are lost in the world of our witnessing, oblivious to the reflector’s sensory perceptions of what is happening and to the chooser’s choices engaging our will.

And, if our self is purely in our willing, with the chooser, then we are following our gut, which means that it–our gut, our intuition–is leading: we are not.  We can put our awareness in our chooser, in our willing, our gut, and watch it being chosen for us, oblivious to our reflector and to our witness.

Another option is to put our awareness in the simultaneous integration of all three.  What our reflector is showing us about what is being perceived through our senses, what our witness observes from the reflector and from what is being chosen in the will, and how that aligns with our deeper purpose, then consciously choosing how we want to manifest, from the potential, into the context we perceive from our reflector, into the choices being made in our willing.  Through this integrating process, we can align our reflector thinking, our witness feeling, and our chooser willing with our self that is perceiving the environment we are in right here right now, with our higher self that guides our deeper purpose toward the future we love and to which we give our will, with our highest self that guides our service in the unique contribution we are uniquely constituted and contextualized to make.

Coming back to where I started, “just be yourself” leaves completely open the question of which self.  The invocation to “just” might lead me to pay attention to any one of the many dimensions of the self we explored above.  “Know thyself” invites me to bring my awareness to all of these dimensions at the same time, which I can do, because they are all me.  My self.  The trinity of me, myself, and I.  Always all ways.  All in one.  So, the next time you make a choice, who is making it?


Who Is First? Me, You, Us, Nature, Spirit?

“Most people think self-oriented and other-oriented motivations are opposite ends of a continuum… Yet, I’ve consistently found that they’re completely independent.  You can have neither, and you can have both,” with UPenn Prof. Duckworth quoting Wharton Prof. Adam Grant (Duckworth, 2016, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, New York: Scribner, p.159).  Angela Duckworth’s research shows that people who most persevere–her paragons of grit–have found and work deeply with both (1) their own passion, their relationship to their own self potential and its manifestation, and (2) the purpose for their engagement, their unique contribution to the group (which she refers to as the other).

Grant’s and Duckworth’s research, and that of others I have shared in earlier blogposts, supports what we are finding, that where you experience a vibrant relationship with your own potential and its development, you also experience a vibrant relationship with the other and with the group, where your unique contribution is invited and acknowledged, and with the source and process of creativity.  The research suggests a correlation–these primary relationships tend to be at a similar level of vibrancy–where one is, the others tend to be.  This is correlational, not causal.  We don’t really know which comes first, which would be the causal explanation, only that they tend to be at similar levels of vibrancy experienced.

The perennial question is, “Which comes first?”  The self, the other, the group, nature, spirit?  This seems to be a question that elicits lots of opinion and dogma, and has for thousands of years.  Maybe a more fruitful question explores where we get the most leverage in shifting our experience to a more vibrant one, where the vibrancy experienced in all five primary relationships is higher?  Some of our research suggests that the highest leverage is to start with yourself, because it is the easiest and most direct intervention we each have on a continuous basis.  While it is definitely hard work to change your own perceptions and behaviors, you have permanent and continuous access to them, and you get to choose.  It is much harder, if not impossible, to do this for others.  So, maybe a more interesting question focuses on where the leverage is.  The self?

As the Adam Grant quote I started with suggests, maybe the power of being able to choose an experience of higher vibrancy comes from not having to choose a point on a continuum between serving your self or another, because the five primary relationships are not tradeoffs, rather something achieved together, because they are fundamentally different, because they are independent.

Higher Vibrancy Starts with Your Self — Recommended Readings

Ury, William, Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents, New York: HarperOne. Read an excerpt here.

Holden, Robert, Shift Happens: How to Live an Inspired Life…Starting Right Now!, New York: Hay House.

If vibrancy is a choice, you can choose to enter the agreements that support the level of vibrancy you want.  You can choose these agreements in your relationship to your self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit.  To work on the agreements in all five primary relationships, where does one start?  Our global survey research only shows that where one relationship is highly vibrancy, all five are: the survey data does not show where to start.

And, the wisdom of many traditions around the world suggest a critical starting point, where the rest of the relationships cannot work with out strengthen in this specific relationship — the relationship you have with your self.  I have recently read and recommend two books that explore this critical relationship you have with your own self.

William Ury, global negotiator and co-author of the bestselling Getting to Yes, starts his book with a quote from Socrates, “Let him who would move the world first move himself” (p1).  Ury finds that, “Getting to yes with yourself prepares the way for getting to yes with others…(it) is about changing the inner game so that we can then change the outer game” (p3).  “The greatest obstacle to getting what we really want in life is not the other party, as difficult as he or she can be.  The biggest obstacle is actually ourselves.  We get in our own way…We sabotage ourselves by reacting in ways that do not serve our true interests” (p4).  “Underlying our poor reactions in moments of conflict is an adversarial “win-lose” mindset…What sustains a sense of scarcity, the fear that there is just not enough to go around” (p5).

Ury suggests 6 steps to making vibrant agreements with your self.  He qualifies that, “The six steps may at times seem like common sense.  But in my three and a half decades of working as a mediator, I’ve learned that they are uncommon sense–common sense that is uncommonly applied” (p6).  (1) Put yourself in your shoes.  (2) Develop your inner BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). (3) Reframe your picture.  (4) Stay in the zone. (5) Respect them even if. (6) Give and receive.

How do we know when we need to renegotiate with our self?  Maybe we are giving ourselves the signal.  When asked what you think about something, like where you want to go to school, have you ever said, “I don’t know.  I’ll have to ask myself.”  Then you had to reflect on it.  Who were you asking?  What did you say to yourself?  Ury suggests humans have an inner system that gives the feedback we need to know when to enter a negotiation with our self.  “If you listen to your feelings, particularly recurrent ones of dissatisfaction, you will find that they point you in the direction of unmet concerns and interests.  Properly interpreted, they can help you uncover your deepest needs…Feelings of dissatisfaction are the language that your needs use to communicate with you” (pp32-33).  Ury also emphasizes the importance of truly owning your life. “That is the power of self-responsibility when twinned with self-understanding.  Self-understanding without self-responsibility runs the risk of dissolving into self-pity.  Self-responsibility without self-understanding can deteriorate into self-blame” (p47).

In Shift Happens, author Robert Holden provides a very accessible guide to choosing agreements with your self.  Showing why experiencing only the outcomes level of reality is so difficult for people, Holden explores why, “Separation by its very nature is violent.  The moment you believe you are separate from anything or anyone, there is room for suspicion, fear, defensiveness, competitiveness, envy, and attack” (p31).  Ecosynomically, we experience the noun as an it, outside of me.  Separation.  We experience being with and part of the verb and light, inside of me.  No separation.  Holden also takes on the impact on the self of the perception of scarcity.  “To receive, you must be willing to give up all thoughts of lack.  Lack is the great illusion.  In truth, there are no shortages, only a lack of willingness to receive” (p90).  Playing on the same phrasing my wife uses, Holden suggests that, “what once looked like a dead end now becomes a way out, i.e., opportunity is nowhere becomes opportunity is now here” (p224).

Two very accessible reads by two well established writers and practitioners on the path to choosing vibrant agreements with your self, the first step towards more vibrant agreements with self, other, group, nature, and spirit.



Your Relationship to Self

This is part 2 in a 7-part post.

I usually start the deeper dive observing that in the two groups they described their experiences of different relationships.  One of these relationships was about what they experienced of their own self.  As we delve into their relationship to their own self in the two different groups, they tell me that in the scarcity experience, none of their own self shows up.  For example, a friend described, “In the awful experience, I am just there, getting the energy sucked out of me.  In the great experience, not only am I more creative, I also experience parts of me showing up that are new and exciting.  I am better for having been in the experience.”  Throughout these conversations I have had over the past year, people constantly describe different aspects of the “vibrancy” of the group, which led me to use that term in describing the energy experienced in the group.

I have found it useful, in teasing out what is happening in these experiences, to draw what people are sharing.  The figure below captures the low and high extremes, as well as a middle point, of the experience of one’s relationship to one’s own self.



There are places where you experience your “I” as slumped over, with your head in an invisible darkness through which no light can enter.  Everything is dark – from here nothing or very little can be seen.  Here you experience great vulnerability, moving into the fetal position, literally or figuratively, to protect all of the core systems, such as your will, your heart, and your head.  This is the experience of the bottom-left individual in the figure.

There is another experience you often have of the “I.”  You experience your “I” as standing tall, acknowledging what you have to bring to the world, with the gifts, talents, and abilities you have developed over your life.  This is the middle individual in the figure.

There is yet another experience you have, in some places and groups, where the “I” stands tall, open to the world, and fully participating, sharing everything that you have to give and everything that might come.  You experience this position of complete openness and invitation as one of great strength and happiness, with your full will, heart, head, and soul engaged.  While this looks like the most vulnerable position, as everything is exposed, it is the one in which you experience the most strength.  This is the experience of the outstretched individual in the upper-right of the figure above.

You have three different experiences along the continuum of your relationship to your own self, from the collapsed experience of low vibrancy to the fully open experience of high vibrancy.  At each subsequent level of vibrancy, more of you is available.

Since you experience these three different levels of harmonic vibrancy in your relationship to your own self, they are all part of who you are.  They are all available to you.  The twist I want to make here is to realize that how much of your own self is available in any given space or group is an agreement.  You agree to this, whether or not you are aware of the agreement.  This also means that you can agree to something else, to another relationship to your own self in a group.

You also experience different perspectives of your own self.[1]  What you see when you look inwardly, of your own self, is your experience of your self-in-self – your own self, a unique being, within your self (inner-individual perspective).  In other words, you can see your self within you – odd to say, while being the essence of your own, continuous experience of life.  This is the realm of personal development and initiation.  You also have an outward perspective of your own relationship to self, through your body and observable behaviors (outer-individual perspective).  This is what others can see of how you show up in the world.  These individual perspectives are supported by group perspectives.  The culture of the “we” supports you in your “I.”  What do “we” support in your relationship to your self (inner-group perspective)?  Different cultures support very different responses to this question – you are free, you are equal, you are subordinate to the “we,” you are in balance with nature, you are the light.   You also experience the structure supporting and interweaving with the culture (outer-group perspective).  What is fascinating is that these four different perspectives describe the same experience of your relationship to your own self, from very different lenses.

When you look at your own self, do you see great potential or a lost cause?  The lost cause in you knows that you have already learned everything necessary to do your job.  It is now just a matter of doing it; getting on with life.  There is nothing interesting out there, just a lot of cold, hard responsibilities.  The American humorist of suburban home life, Erma Bombeck, expressed this as, “If life is a bowl of cherries, then what am I doing in the pits?”[2]  Actress Katharine Hepburn lived into this, suggesting, “Life is hard.  After all, it kills you.”

And, you also have the other experience, the experience of great potential.  Where you know that there is greatness within you.  Where you are curious about the exciting opportunities that life puts in your way.  The growth that you experience as you grow up, having a partner, experiencing friendship, learning about new perspectives, having children who grow up, becoming an expert and an elder in your community.  Those moments of brilliance where the best of what you can be shows up, and others smile.

My request to you

Please reply in these pages to share your own experiences, thoughts on what I share, or questions that arise.  I invite you as a citizen scientist to participate in the naming of the emerging field, which I refer to as ecosynomics, and in realizing the higher harmonic vibrancy available to all of us.

[1] There are multiple perspectives people bring to seeing, understanding, and working with this relationship one has to one’s own self.  To explore these perspectives, I will briefly introduce a lens developed by Ken Wilber.   Wilber observed that some people focus on the individual perspective of the relationship and other people on the group perspective.  He also observed that some people focus on the interior perspective of the same experience and other people on the outer perspective.  This framework provides for four different, general perspectives on the same experience: the inner individual, the inner group, the outer individual, and the outer group.  I will explore the differences in what these perspectives see, how they make sense of the world, and what they prescribe, as I apply them to the five primary relationships, starting with one’s relationship to one’s own self.

[2] See Erma Bombeck’s book titled with this expression of one’s experience of one’s own self.