Here I will go into an aspect of The Workings of the Self, a paper I am currently producing. This portion of the paper largely deals with ways people
can deal with experiences of self on an identification level, to help them overcome psychological disturbances or stresses that bother them. Its main
premise is heavily influenced by my study of ancient eastern wisdom traditions. The definition of self I use, however, is drawn largely from
neuroscientist Antonio Damasio's work.
His definition of self consists of three interrelated levels called the Proto, Core and Extended levels of self. Quickly, these are defined as:
The proto-self is an organism’s sense of physical being, based on neural patterns that map the physical structures of the organism, of which the
organism is not conscious.
The core self is an organism’s emotional state (at the fundamental physiological level), of which the organism may be conscious, generated through
encounters between the proto-self and objects in the environment.
The extended (also autobiographical) self is an organism’s conscious idea of self, or identity, that is dependent on personal traits and memories of
We will be mostly talking about a mixture of the core and extended levels of self; generally speaking, conscious experiences, whether emotional or
cognitive (thinking), that are identified as being a part of our self. We will look at two methods of dealing with experiences, the Additive
and the Subtractive Method
Here is a diagram I made to illustrate the relationship between experiences and our sense of self through the lens of both methods:
First we will start with the Additive Method
An experience of despair arises within the mind and there is the tendency to identify with this experience, as in "I am feeling despair". Most people
do not enjoy this feeling and so an end to despair is sought. A common method of attempting to end despair is by seeking out something that brings us
joy, be that food, sex, drugs/alcohol, entertainment, knowledge... and so on. Once joy is achieved, we identify with this feeling by reflecting on it
as such, "I am feeling joyous now". Unbeknownst to most of us, despair has not been removed, rather it has merely been temporarily covered up. Now joy
and despair are identified with. If joy leaves us now, despair resumes its prominent position. And so the never ending search for more happiness, more
joy and more pleasure is launched. This Additive Method
of dealing with negative feelings is what fuels multiple industries, including a $15
Billion Porn Industry, a $75 Billion Illegal Drug Industry, a $11 Billion Self Help Industry, a $13 Billion Movie Industry, and so on. "Just add this
feeling, this knowledge, this experience, and you will be okay.", is what they say.
Now let us look at the Subtractive Method
Again, an experience of despair arises within the mind and there is the tendency to identify with this experience, as in "I am feeling despair".
Again, most people do not enjoy this feeling and so an end to despair is sought. This time instead of seeking out joy, happiness or pleasure to
counter act this negative feeling, there is instead the disidentification with the feeling. Now the experience is no longer seen as "happening to me",
rather there is just conscious awareness that it is happening. Our sense of self remains in a pre-extended, even somewhat pre-core level of self.
There is just conscious awareness of sensations and thoughts, but there is no identification with any of it. Thus the unconscious self remains in a
proto state, while the conscious self remains in pre-extended and pre-core state. If another emotion arises, so too does the core self, yet through
the Subtractive Method
consciousness is returned to a pre-core state. Thus the extended self is never allowed to take hold within the mind,
unless of course it is called for.
It is of my delineation that most psychologically and socially caused (as opposed to bio-chemically/genetically caused) lasting forms of depression,
despair, distress, dissatisfaction and just general unhappiness, are caused do to our tendency to remain within the realm of the extended sense of
self, and somewhat the realm of the core sense of self. Thus we are constantly trying to use the Additive Method
to "fix" or "heal" this sense
of self. If, however, we were to see the extended, and somewhat the core, sense of self as mere temporary constructs with no real intrinsic reality in
and of themselves then the Additive Method
would not be a logical means of dealing with negative feelings. Then our conscious sense of self
would be seen as intrinsically empty, except for when core feelings arises temporarily and when an extended sense of self is called for (ie.
communication/relations), and we would be much more inclined to utilize the Subtractive Method
when dealing with negative feelings. Thus we
would remain in a generally more tranquil and peaceful state of mind throughout the day.
Let me know what you think. I am particularly interested in anyone who tries the Subtractive Method
out for a few days/weeks. I would like to
hear your experiences.
edit on 23-8-2012 by openlocks because: (no reason given)
edit on 23-8-2012 by openlocks because: (no reason