Definition of Self

Definition of ‘Self’

‘The Self‘ has been an object of study and wonder for philosophers and psychologists for many centuries as it is so interesting: it seems to bridge the mundane with the spiritual. Like ‘life’ itself the concept ‘Self’ seems to have so many aspects, and depending on which one you put the emphasis at a particular moment in time or place, it is experienced in a different way.

Moments of Self arising in infancy

A very first experience of Self is in fact the moment there comes into the child’s Psyche a clear distinction between the mother and the child, the moment the umbilical cord is cut, figuratively. The moment there is an awareness of ‘This is I/my body and that is not me/my body.’

Later there arises the first moment of the awareness: ‘This is mine and that is not mine. It is yours or hers.’ Finding out about the boundaries between Self and the other is a process that ultimately leads to a more fully developed awareness of Self*.

Layers of Self

In this Theory, I have analyzed and conceptualized ‘the Self’ as having layers. Below is a graphic representation of this idea. You can also view a short video on this topic on The Lego Demo and on The Clay Demo

These layers do span from the mundane to the spiritual (or vice versa). In order to be able to point out which meanings of Self are relevant in the context of this theory, I would like to distinguish

  • the ‘sub-‘conscious spiritual Self
  • the incarnated Self
  • the Self as a conscious thought-form
  • the psycho-emotional Self
  • the social Self
  • the conscious Spiritual Self

First: The ‘Sub’-conscious Spiritual Layer of Self

The Self this theory focuses on is obviously carried by, and rooted in the spiritual one, which you can look at as being the ultimate non-physical awareness.

Second: The Embodied or Incarnated Layer of Self

Next up (second layer), moving toward specificity and the surface of consciousness, there is the embodied Self or ‘incarnated’ Self, which is reflected in our instincts but isn’t really conscious as a human is, and can be compared to the (relatively less conscious) self-awareness of an animal. You could also call it the layer of our ‘animalistic self’.

Third: The Layer of Self as a Conscious Thought-form

Next and third ‘up’ we get to the Self idea as a conscious thought-form, that is used to reflect back, for a person’s own use, on a person’s essence and potentiality as being a member of the human species – having access to the possibilities as well as being confined to the limits of, that species. This Self, or layer of Self, is about his basic functionality as a human being, which implies an organism and a mind function.

Creating actual awareness of that layer of the Self, the conscious-thought-form, is helpful in restoring a Sense of Self. (See the Recovery Section of this site.) When a person becomes really aware of their body functions, they become aware of an intrinsic right to exist, a right that is primordial and independent from any powers other than Universal powers.

This awareness is often accompanied by certain sensations that are difficult to describe, as they are not so much part of the world of things or words. However I will try to point to a couple of my own experiences in that matter, hoping that will be helpful for others as a ‘pointing’ to where to go (or aim at) in their search for a healthier Sense of Self.

Fourth: The Layer of Self as a Psycho-emotional Construct

One level further ‘up’ to the surface of life or awareness, on the fourth layer, there is another part of ‘the Self’ relevant for this work: the psychological and emotional construct within the human being, that allows her to mirror [link] herself to herself for the purpose of awareness and monitoring.  Its coloring is more specific and individual (than the conscious thought-form layer), based on the person’s particular genetic disposition. This ‘psycho-emotional’ layer of the Self is composed of the individual essence of a person, her inclinations and dispositions, her talents or weaknesses, her innate strengths or challenges.

Fifth: The Layer of Self as the Social Self

On the outermost or uppermost layer, fifth, the one that we are dealing with continuously in the world of things and actions, there is the meaning of Self as reflecting the social aspects of the individual’s being. That enables us to monitor and validate our functioning in society: our role in society, our job, our family/friends relationships, and so on. This is the most commonly used meaning of the word ‘self’ and it’ll be spelled here with a lower case‘s’.

Sixth: The Conscious Spiritual Layer of Self

(Note: The author of the view on this subject is Alia Aurami; I, Annet Vogels, step away from this subject as I feel it is not my expertise)

The Conscious Spiritual Layer of Self might be considered as simply that first layer of the Spiritual Self, made more conscious. In other words, it can emerge into our conscious awareness that our ‘Self’ is not simply what is encapsulated by our physical body.

The Conscious Spiritual Self as an identity includes not only our body, but our soul and/or Spirit, and/or ‘all sentient beings’, and/or the entire cosmos, and/or the ‘whole world’ and/or ‘All That Is’, and/or whatever the person regards as ‘Ultimate’. (There are many possible ‘selves’ of this kind which some people ‘sense’ as part of the layers of their ‘Self’.)

This ‘identity’ is not instead of any of the other layers of Self identified by this Theory. It encompasses and includes all of them. In other words, a person with this layer ‘activated’ has multiple simultaneous ‘layers’ of identity they are aware of, which all fit naturally together into a ‘whole’ ‘I/Me.’

This layer, when activated, tends to ‘burn out’ any remaining elements of a Substitute-Sense–of-Self-oriented System, and move the person further toward a Restored Sense of Self.

The question of how this layer gets ‘activated’ is beyond the scope of this website. Some say ‘Divine Grace’ and some say hard work and some say other things.

It should be noted that a person can be regarded as perfectly healthy and normal without this layer being conscious, and that our identities can expand outward in concentric circles, over time, starting from complete narcissism and body-located identity, through identity as a group of some kind, to ever-increasingly wide inclusion of other Beings, as described above.

(The reason why I, Annet, have included this layer in my analysis of the Self is because I personally haven’t been able so much to be in touch with this layer and it is my hunch that that is because all the other ones were not in place. There was too much damage and there needed to be too much effort and energy into the damage control and repair. It is my expectation that over the coming years I might be able to get more access to that part of my Self.)

The Layers discussed by this Theory

The concept ‘Self’ used in this Theory’s term ‘Sensing the Self‘ or ‘Sense of Self‘ refers primarily to the second, third, fourth, and fifth layers. It is those layers of Self which are so hugely taken over by the Substitute-Sense-of-Self-oriented System.

The Layers Image

The following description of the Layer image talks about those particular layers (involved in the Substitute-Sense-of-Self-oriented System) in more detail:

Second/Red Layer: Embodied/Incarnated Self

First there is the embodied Self-layer (red).  Our body as crucial part or our Self (without it there is not only no self, there is nothing really) is, in our day and age, often overlooked; the importance of ‘mind-things’ is overwhelmingly emphasized right from the very first days of school or even before that. How many parents are not extremely proud when their kid shows signs of being able to read or spell at age 3, or knows how to handle the cell- phone? This is THE way to teach a child to overlook her body, which then in a later stage has to be relearned in order to be able to function and be as a ‘whole person’.

We so often are encouraged to pay attention to our bodies in exactly the way we were paid attention to: as means to ends, not as distinct ‘beings’ worthy of honoring, attention, and care to this body’s individual, idiosyncratic needs and wants. This is the root of so much illness: our Lack of Natural Sense of Self of this layer of Self: our own precious particular body.

It might not be obvious to you, but this layer of self is quite significantly impacted by the development of a Substitute-Sense-of-Self-oriented System, and this layer is a primary focus in the process of recovery from that into a Restored Sense of Self.

Third/Yellow Layer: Self as Conscious Thought-form

Next we have the layer of ‘Self-as a conscious thought form (yellow)’, which is a part of our ‘Self’ that is continuously asking for our attention. The question ‘who am I’ is in our awareness frequently as we need to define ourselves to be ‘special’ in society (fashion) and marketable in commerce (‘your niche’).

As a child or growing-up young adult, if things develop well, we are continuously in interaction with that question as it elaborates ever further on the initial developments of establishing and/or recognizing involuntary and voluntary boundaries between ‘Me’ and others.

It is this layer on which the never-ending quest generated by the Black Hole created by childhood deprivation of appropriate mirroring as a ‘real person’ plays out, and from which the Fear of Annihilation arises.

Fourth/Green Layer: The Psycho-emotional Self

Through and with the layer of the Psycho-emotional Self (green) we experience the Self on the level of how we experience life, others, and ourselves emotionally. Are we happy campers or philosophers (as if that doesn’t go well together J)? Are we complicated beings or rather simple in our life experience? The experience of the emotions is direct but their validation is of course relative to others and to the norms of society at a particular place and time (culturally and historically different). This Self is ‘I feel….’ and ‘I want….’ and ‘I believe…..’

This layer is especially hard-hit and completely overwhelmed/co-opted by the developmental disability of Lack of Natural Sense of Self. This is the layer of Indirect Motivation and Ego-References, key concepts in the Theory.

Fifth/blue Layer: The Social Self

The layer of the Social Self, if well-established and independent, helps us contribute to the world, offer ourselves in confidence that we will not disappear when things go a little awry and the outcome isn’t what we had aimed for. We recognize ourselves in a particular role, function, or status.

No need to describe here how this Self functions (when things go awry) when there is complete dependency on the outcome of our Ego-Reference activities (for a Substitute Sense of Self) – the rest of this website amply describes all that!

Tying it all together

So we see that if the (layers of) Self functions correctly and are – alternately or as a unit – recognized (at the appropriate degree of awareness) by the person (sensed) as ‘I’ and ‘me,’ the Self functions as a point of departure and return in a person’s living. It could be considered the ultimate home and resting place, as well as the place where motivation is generated, motivations that give shape to a person’s life.

I like to compare the Self with the concept of the root tone of a key in music: the melody starts from it, develops from it, and returns to the root tone. Even if never sounded explicitly, the root tone is present throughout the melody and gives it harmonic functionality; in fact it determines its functionality. (Further description of what a Sense of Self does is here.)

Where the reader goes next ….. Definition of Sensing