The self-understanding [Theorie] –> directly to the practical part of the blog
Many books, but especially self-help books are about the self. Who or what is this self? Is there even a core behind the self that remains when all masks are removed, when a person no longer plays a particular (social) role, but is only himself?
The ‘self’ is also spoken of in the coaching field. The focus is then on self-optimization and analysis of personal strengths and weaknesses. Philosophy is more about self-reflection, psychology is often about self-worth, while sociology is about self-determination. In spiritual circles, people try to find the true and authentic self, that is, their own core.
Thus, there are different answers to this classic question, depending on which (subject) area is consulted. Among these responses are critical, realistic, pessimistic, idealistic, naturalistic, and humorous conceptions of the ‘self’.
Critical conception of the self:
Business psychologist Kahneman explains in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ that we have an experiencing self and a remembering self. The first self lives in the present, that is, in the immediate moment. The second looks back and tells stories based on the memories. It ultimately determines whether we judge a situation as positive or negative.
According to Kahneman, when we occasionally think about happiness, we often seem to confuse these two ‘selves’. So, if I work contentedly (in a company) for many years and I am dissatisfied in the last months, the memory will put a gray veil over this period. He calls this ‘the tiranny of the remembering self’.
His conclusion: I am my retrospective self. My experiencing self, which nurtures and cares for life for me, is like a stranger to me.
Realistic conception of the self:
Sociologist Brinkgreve says in her book ‘De ogen van de ander’ that at the beginning of the development of the sense of self and self-worth are the eyes of others. The self has no independent core, but is constantly shaped in interaction with others.
Realizing that the other shapes you does not mean that you merge with that other; realizing only takes away the illusion that you can write the script of your life completely on your own.
One experiences one’s own peculiarity and permanence only through the gaze of the other. Travel, for example, has the same alienating effect. In this regard, one often hears that people have gained a new perspective, a kind of broadening and deepening of themselves.
Pessimistic view of the self:
Those who don’t feel like living in the here and now and prefer to flee from the present can numb “themselves” with alcohol or drugs, can immerse themselves in TV series or bury themselves in their work. At least in these moments one is not confronted with “oneself”.
Work addiction can develop when much of one’s free time is filled with work and work becomes the sole purpose of one’s life. This situation is promoted when personal characteristics such as perfectionism, i.e. an aimless striving for perfection, and neuroticism, i.e. a lack of resistance, are added. Social aspects can also have an impact, namely when performance and success are the sole conditions for recognition.
Work addiction is often not recognized as a disorder until physical ailments develop, performance declines, family and friends are neglected, and finally, overall enjoyment of life declines.
Idealistic conception of the self:
In 1977, at the age of 29, after a severe depression, the author and mystic Eckhart Tolle had an epiphany in the ‘now’ through which he overcame his identity crisis. The self as a carrier of negative thoughts was discarded and the consciousness as a container of thoughts was liberated. The self, with its heaviness, its problems, its constant fear of the future, had collapsed. It had dissolved.
What Tolle had managed to do, in his own experience, was to go beyond the stream of thought, as it were, into the realm of silence. Then when he woke up the next morning, he found that there was no longer a ‘thought-self’ for him, only a sense of presence and being. While walking, he felt a sense of peace in his perception of things, even things that tend to be hectic like traffic.
Like the ancient philosopher Epictetus, he found that it is not the things that worry you, but our opinion about them. In this case, he managed to leave his oppressive thoughts behind and to live mindfully or ‘mindfull’ from then on.
His conclusion:If you lose contact with your inner silence, you lose contact with yourself. When you lose contact with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
Naturalistic conception of the self:
Like David Hume in the 18th century, the philosopher Thomas Mentzinger wrote in modern times in his ‘Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ that the self is nothing but a collection of different perceptions.
According to this, there is no single ‘self’. But because our perceptions are somehow related, according to Hume we invent concepts like the ‘I’ or the ‘soul’.
Mentzinger, who unlike Hume can draw from modern neuroscience, would say that our self is generated by our brain. The ‘self’ or ‘ego’ is not a male in the head, nor a thing, but a process.
He does not wish to destroy the status of persons or our sense of self, or to doubt it altogether as Hume did, but points to the general limitedness of the senses. In his book ‘Egotunnel’ (2011), he explains that the content of our conscious experience is an internal construct and that information is also highly selectively represented:
What we see and hear or touch and feel, what we smell and taste, is only a small fraction of what actually exists in the external world. Our conscious model of reality is a low-dimensional projection of the unimaginably richer and more substantial physical reality that surrounds us and sustains us.
Humorous conception of the self:
What is the ‘self’ over time? In the example below, the comedian Epicharmus explores the question of whether the persons such as the debtor and his creditors are still the same with the same responsibility – claims, since they are subject to constant changes. A man is asked by his creditor to pay his debt. Instead of paying the money demanded, the man asks his creditor the following question:
“Is it not true that any object subject to constant change never remains the same, but is today another than it was yesterday, and tomorrow another than it is today? […] as a heap of stones from which one takes away a stone is no longer the same heap?”
The creditor agrees with him and concedes that this should also apply to people. The debtor then formulates the consequence: he is no longer the same person today as the one to whom the creditor would have given the money, consequently he owes him nothing.
The creditor then lashes out and beats his pedantic opponent. But he protests. The creditor answers him that complaining is in vain. He himself was now already a different person than the one who had hit him shortly before.
As a coach, it is important to consider this diversity of perspectives. There is no one conception of reality, just as the many facets of the ‘self’ cannot be unified.
I want to offer my clients the opportunity to get to know themselves better with my support, to encounter hidden strengths and to achieve self-optimization. This is when ‘self-understanding’ is experienced by the client in the conversations.
Self-motivation [praxis] 3 tips
many people are interested in knowing their strengths in order to discover the hidden talents. The focus is on achieving a consistent and high-performing self. To do this, it is useful to first know the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
With motivation coming from outside (extrinsic), there are conscious intentions that one has to achieve a goal. This is about willpower and discipline. In companies, for example, this incentive is promoted by means of a reward in the form of bonus payments or promotion prospects. In a negative sense, however, an incompetent boss or boring work can also have a demotivating effect.
In the case of motivation that comes from within – i.e. intrinsic motivation – emotions such as enthusiasm, interest or joy arise, which are there as a driving force to be able to implement goals. It enables creativity.
Tip 1) Find out what motivates you
If you know what arouses enthusiasm and energy in you, you can use your behavior more purposefully. For this, it is useful to discover one’s motivators:
e.g. curiosity, social affiliation, power, recognition, etc.
In the second step, one can then look into the question of whether these needs are currently being satisfied in the various areas of life (work, hobby, partner, family).
Motivator: Curiosity → Need for knowledge
Motivator: social affiliation → need for contacts
Motivator: power → need to control others
Motivator: Recognition → Need for affirmation and attention
In life coaching, many motivators and needs are individually analyzed and linked to formative experiences.
Tip 2) Find out what demotivates you
Things that are demotivating drain energy: e.g. people saying a lot of negative things, hectic, lack of recognition, wasted time.
Demotivating things can be reduced by making changes in the various areas of life. One possibility here would be to surround yourself with inspiring people, for example. A new hobby can be geared toward whether you are looking for peace and quiet or recognition. “Time guzzlers” in everyday life such as unnecessary surfing on the Internet or shopping can be limited.
If necessary, you can rethink your values and goals.
If no motivation arises, i.e. if something does not affect us emotionally, it may be that there is not enough willpower. This means that there is no or not enough power to convert goals and motives into results.
Willpower, according to neurological studies, is eventually depleted and can only be restored through variety, sleep, exercise, meditation, etc.
If there is no self-motivation or drive and willpower, it may be useful to change something in the routine, in the habits.
Tip 3) Analyze/change habits
Non-target habit: e.g. excessive surfing: Facebook, News, etc.
You can try to find out where this need comes from. Is it based on distraction, boredom? Does it serve as a pastime or escape from loneliness, or is it simply the most comfortable way to relax.
According to Duhigg (the power of habit), a habit is embedded between a trigger stimulus and a reward.
In this case, this reward can be the relaxation you feel while surfing.
These three components are what Duhigg calls a habit loop; it occurs to take pressure off the brain. Once a habit is established, the brain can stop thinking intensely about decisions, the focus can be on something else.
A trigger stimulus can fall into one of the following five categories:
Location: at home on computer/ smartphone
Time: after work
emotional/physical state: boredom, loneliness, exhaustion
other people: none
Immediately preceding action: journey home
By keeping accurate records, you can find out when and why the excessive surfing habit started. Perhaps the surfing will decrease when visitors arrive or when an interesting book (new trigger) is ready instead of the smartphone.
Perhaps you can also draw on a past experience, something that once worked as a means of relaxation (e.g., sports alone or together). Also, sometimes images that touch emotionally work. A positive expectation of the future can be created by generating positive inner images and thus moving closer to the desired goal. (see tip 1)
Once the triggers are found, you can look for a replacement for the habit. Experience has shown that it is useful here to make a list of things that induce relaxation or make it possible to combat loneliness in a meaningful way. It is important to be creative and to try unusual things such as a new sport, a new hobby, a special relaxation technique, a course or further training. Then, when the right replacement for the surfing craving is found, a new habit loop can be introduced and take hold in everyday life.
But you can also keep the trigger stimulus and the reward. Then, instead of consuming news and Facebook content, you can listen to music (for relaxation) on your smartphone or download interesting apps, for example. For example, an app to prepare your own food can replace the habit of eating fast food (at the computer).
So this is another way the habit loop changes, except that in this case two out of three components of the motivational loop are maintained. A reduction in surfing habits can also be justified factually:
On Facebook, you want to be liked and recognized by others. The reward center in the brain seems to value social recognition very much. But there are enough other ways to be socially recognized.
News is often negative, irrelevant, and doesn’t help you make better decisions, much less live more purposefully.
However, the problem remains that although the head puts forward the factual arguments (extrinsic motivation), the gut continues to say: I want to surf uninhibited and forget about time (intrinsic motivation).
To accommodate both head and gut, you can also be less radical by doing more meaningful (head) things first and then rewarding yourself with some (timed) surf time, giving in to your feelings. Above all, it is important to experiment a lot.
Once a new routine (designed to last four to six weeks) is tried and implemented, it can become routine. Then willpower is no longer necessary. The new habit has become part of the daily routine.
© Timo ten Barge [February 10, 2016]