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Fundamental Human Needs & Phases of Personal Growth

Dr Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Dr William Glassner's Choice Theory
Tony Robbins' Six Fundamental Human Needs
Dr David Hawkins' Levels of Consciousness
Ego as a Primitive Survival Mechanism
Cleese's Phases of Growth
Jungian Shadow
Behavioural Conditioning, Boundaries and Wisdom  


The section overlaps somewhat with the Personality Types section, but seeks to document some of the popular models of personal and spiritual development in psychology and philosophy circles. It is recommended to have read the Personality Types section prior. The Color Code model clearly shows alternative routes to personal development and personality integration, by incorporating other traits and overcoming the negative aspects of one's personality type. Equally, Paul McKenna's model of the three types of Self, and the journey of unravelling the two outer Selves to reach the Authentic Self is documented there also and is applicable here. Clearly not all models of personal evolution are presented. The picture above is of a Phoenix taken from the Aberdeen Bestiary. 

Dr Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow's 1945 paper A Theory of Human Motivation defined his concept of the Hierarchy of Needs. Here, it shows the different levels of needs a person is focussed on at any point in time. In reverse order, these are:

Source: FactoryJoe

In general terms, if a person is fixated on one level, he is unlikely to be in a position to fulfill other more sophisticated needs at higher levels. This may not be strictly true, but in general, the more time one spends at lower levels, the less time one will spend at higher levels. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic physiological needs of food, warmth, shelter, sleep, excretion. The next level up is safety. Then loving and belonging. Then self-esteem. Then self-actualisation including creativity and self-expression. It is likely that some of Taylor Hartman's defined negative characteristics of each personality type building block seem to coincide with some of the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy. Funnily enough TV advertising tries to create a want for products often by creating or enlarging a pain that exists in people. Such pains are often security based fears and needs, which are enlarged by modern consumer culture in order to sell you more products and keep people from self-actualising and thinking outside the box. Maslow's theory is described below on Wikipedia.


Dr William Glasser's Choice Theory

Dr William Glasser's concept of Choice Theory is in some respects very similar to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It incorporates other concepts such as fun, freedom and responsibility. The five levels are as follows.

'The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory:

One can see some very clear overlap with the positive and negative characteristics of Taylor Hartman's building blocks of personality, whereby the fulfillment of the higher levels of both Glasser's and Maslow's needs is akin to gaining the positive qualities of all 4 positive personality type building blocks (without suppressing one's core personality type). Choice Theory is briefly described on Wikipedia below.


Tony Robbins' Six Fundamental Human Needs

We understand what our beliefs are that control and drive our behaviours. But why have we adopted these behaviours? Each behaviour we use serves a purpose. It fulfils certain basic needs that we have as people. The more fundamental needs the behaviour satisfies, the more likely we are to become addicted to that behaviour. Hopefully it will be a positive behaviour. If we are looking to dislodge a negative behaviour pattern, then we need to understand what needs it is meeting in us, so that when it comes to replacing it with a positive behaviour, we are meeting at least the same needs, preferably more. If the new behaviour does not meet enough needs, it will not last. Also the belief that justifies the behaviour may not be reinforced enough with sufficient references or table legs. Below we briefly look at the six fundamental human needs. An example of a negative behaviour pattern is being depressed. This behaviour is based upon our negative self beliefs with derived and interpreted/imagined references. The act of being depressed gives us a sense of certainty, as it means we know what we are going to get when we feel sorry for ourselves (i.e. the same thing! Nothing!), as we shut ourselves away and do not engage so much in our surroudings (i.e. hiding away in certainty of sanctuary). It does nothing for a sense of uncertainty. It makes us feel significant, because we are choosing to focus on ourselves and make OURSELVES depressed. We are giving ourselves NEGATIVE attention, which is a source of significance. We are feeling a connection with ourselves, which the world seemingly is not giving us (we interpret incorrectly/ascribe wrong meaning of course), but we are not allowing ourselves to experience any self-love or love from others. We are not growing, in fact quite the opposite, and we are not contributing beyond ourselves. So if we are to tackle our depression, we need to tackle these ridiculous beliefs we hold about ourselves, but also we need to replace this with empowering new habits that fulfill more of these fundamental needs, which shouldn't be too difficult as we only have 3 out of 6 fulfilled with depression. In addition to all the pain it causes us. We don't like it!

Another example of an imbalance of human needs is too much certainty. Perhaps your entire day is governed by a routine, regular and identical meals, the same number of cigarettes or cups of tea or coffee, the same route to work by car, the same people at work, the same hours, the same routine once you get home, the same TV shows, the same music CDs, the same husband or wife, the same sexual positions (if you are lucky!), the same way of going to bed. If one is not careful, one can fall into an auto-pilot of routine, where one is not fully aware of oneself and there here and now. Beliefs about possibilities disappear. One rarely smiles. One may tend to try to get through one's routine as quickly as possible, for example, rushing breakfast, not noticing or tasting what one is eating, having no memory of the journey into work, and perhaps driving too fast and aggressively even though one will make it on time. All one's actions may become reckless and one's awareness is not in one's whole body, it withdraws inside the head. Clearly there is too much certainty here, and in such a scenario the person is likely to feel numb, stressed, depressed or unhappy. Such people resort to occasional bouts of drug taking, drinking, adultery or irresponsible behaviour to bring some uncertainty into their lives. But often, these become a routine in themselves, and quickly become boring. What is the answer? One must try to introduce uncertainty into one's daily routine. Try to break it up. Try a different way into work. Try doing things slightly differently. Occasionally discipline yourself to trying a new creative activity every week, for example. Try meditation to calm the mind and increase your awareness. Try a form of martial arts (soft or hard) that will increase your self-discipline, bodily and spiritual awareness and co-ordination. Pay attention to what is around you and try to appreciate it. Remind yourself of what you are grateful for. Try to be spontaneous, and believe in yourself and in possiblilities and opportunities. Try to be creative and think of new opportunites, that may be all around you at this very moment (creative, social, financial, employment, games, physical, romantic, spiritual etc). Taste that food! Have a grateful attitude like each day is your last, but that you plan and improve yourself as if you are going to live forever. Some activities you partake in may introduce uncertainty, but otherwise you can have a spontaneous and 'here and now' approach to your certainties, i.e. your routine. Do not try to destroy your routine or disconnect yourself from it. You need to engage yourself and your spirit more in your life, not the other way around. Things don't get interesting by themselves and by disconnecting, you have to engage, connect, be playful, be vivacious and be glad to be alive!

An example of the need for certainty is manifest in one's global view of one's environment. Most people require a certain element of 'certainty' or 'safety' in their environment. That is to say, the belief that it is fundamentally safe to walk out of the front door and down one's street. Of course, in certain areas, at certain times of the night, it may be considered by some to be a little 'dodgy', but that is a conditional 'rule' or conditional belief. It does not affect one's global perception. However, the media, with it's desire to sell papers, often plays up the danger to the public, when in turn causes more fear and stress amongst the population. Is this reflecting public opinion or forming it? Probably both, but with more emphasis on the latter in my opinion. When a specific 'horrific' crime occurs, and is reported, it is often dwelled upon by the media, as it is believed to shock the public's sensibilities. Other causes of death are generally not reported, such as traffic accidents and deaths by heart disease, as they are not considered 'sensationalised' enough and do not provide that 'shock value' required to sell papers and promote ratings. However, when such an incident does occur, people may lose their sense of certainty or safety. They feel that the outside world is more hostile and cannot be relied upon. Their belief about human nature is eroded. This belief however can be more or less restored if there is closure, i.e. if someone is arrested for the crime. People watch such shocking news stories, seeking to have their sense of morality and decency offended, and are angry and want justice and sometimes 'revenge' on the culprits. By having someone apprehended, that 'exception' to the rule is thereby 'removed', restoring people's perception of safety again, even if they always were and still will be more likely to be run over by a car or crash their car. Sometimes the desire for closure becomes almost irrational, that this is really what people are after, rather than concern for the lives of those actually affected. When something in 'society' 'goes wrong', we like to have someone to blame. In some cases, the root causes however are issues that affect and are affected by every member of society in some capacity. Of course, some people live in neighbourhoods or environments where there is a constant uncertainty regarding violence, bad behaviour or drinking bouts etc. This causes a perpetual background fear and stress in some people, and can erode self-confidence and detract from a desire to fulfil other fundamental needs, as the most basic need is not being met.

Studies have shown that acts of kindness or love to others actually raises the serotonin levels of the recipient and also strengthens the immune system of the recipient. Not only this, but the giver of the act of kindness also receives these benefits! And lastly, even a person observing an act of kindness being given receives these benefits! So whether you give or receive or watch an act of kindness being given, you will feel better! And what is more, you are more likely to then go on and perform an act of kindness to someone else. Thus when you visualise what you want, try to also visualise the same benefits for other people you know too. The converse follows in that acts of hostility often result in one 'kicking someone else' (often someone who cannot do anything about it - e.g. people beneath one at work or other road users etc) to make oneself feel better or empowered, which causes a chain reaction of negativity. Contribution beyond yourself is good for your health and also good for your environment. This is no coincidence! It is a built in inclination in our minds to help act as a social glue and promote well being and harmony in our society/group. Carl Jung believed that young people in trying to find themselves and their identity, invariably focussed on the first 3 or 4 of the above Human Needs, by moving away from the Collective and pursuing the self, only returning in one's late 30s or so, back towards the collective consciousness again, and wishing to contribute beyhond oneself and for the good of the collective. This is examined more on the Jungian Shadow page. 

Cleese's Stages of Emotional Growth

Robin Skynner and John Cleese's book Families, And How To Survive Them details how a person's emotional and personal growth is dependent on experiences gained as a child from one's friends and family. Often, if a father figure is missing, then a person's emotional growth will become stunted. But that need for that experience can come from another male figure in the person's life, even at a later stage in adulthood. Lack of playful experiences with one's parents, one's siblings or friends can also stunt a person's growth. A claustrophobic family unit with little scope for personal freedom, autonomy or self-expression (e.g. a dominant father and/or brother) can stunt a person's personal growth also. To a certain extent, such experiences can be visualised to fool the brain into thinking it is experiencing them for real, but the rest option is to actually experience them! A lack of key necessary experiences in a person's life can result in the person seeking to fulfill lower level needs in the Maslow hierarchy, for example lacking the confidence to express oneself and interact, and always concerned with physiological and security needs. Some young children stay in this physiological need zone, complaining if they engage in any activity where they might become hungry or cold for any period of time. Many adults remain here also.

It should be noted that educational background and age have little to do with maturity. Some extremely intelligent or academic individuals possess little personal awareness, common sense, wisdom, practicality and may be very fearful in certain respects. Being mature or immature is not a binary state, and we continually evolve as individuals, and equally we may be 'mature' in some areas and extremely childish in others. It depends on one's definition of 'immature' and what is 'adult'. One could use Eric Berne's classical definition, but equally one could argue that certain aspects of adulthood are repressed and unhelpful, but how one takes that and acts on it can be immature or just a little playful. However, when it comes to handling situations and relationships, and avoiding temper tantrums, sulking, being 'clingy' and a total lack of control over one's emotions, and reacting to everything around one, then one could say this was inded childish. There are often reasons for being emotionally stunted or not growing from child to adulthood. As John Cleese wrote in his book Families and how to survive them, a missing relationship or figure in one's childhood can leave one stuck at a certain level. It may be an event or lifestyle choice, e.g. substance abuse / recreational drug dependency; or a parent dying and a child assuming the responsibility in taking care of younger siblings etc. If one can recognise the events in one's life that have hindered one's emotional development, or what one lacked in one's childhood, e.g. sufficient play with others, encouragement, or a father figure etc., then one can use this recognition and desire for change as a catalyst to transform one's life. One can equally identify what one has lacked in the past, and nurture those activites or relationships in the present, or even just visualise them. See the References page for more information on the latter. 

Dr David Hawkins' Levels of Consciousness

The following is a summary of some of the basic concepts of Dr David Hawkins' concept of the Ego and Levels of Consciousness, taken from his audio programme 'The Highest Level of Enlightenment', interspersed with some of my own comments.

Ego can be viewed as the animal instinct. A form of basic self-defence mechanism which is controlled by the conscious mind. The more of a slave to one's ego one is, the more animalistic (survival orientated) one tends to be in one's actions. Let us consider the different levels of consciousness and how they interrelate. Clearly few people remain on one level of consciousness all the time, and may alternate between a number of levels depending on the situation and focus/belief system around it. If one were to put consciousness in a hierarchy, as David Hawkins has (with a somewhat arbitrary scale), then one would put negative emotions at the bottom, such as fear, revenge and hatred (and also fear). These are the most 'ego' and 'animal' states of mind. They involve fight or flight responses to situations, rebelliousness, stress, territorial disputes, the desire to kill in an argument (could be correlated to two male animals fighting over territory or a female, or two gangs of dolphins attacking and killing each other for example), gang violence etc.

Above these lower levels are desire and jealousy. For example, living one's life according to fun alone, materialism, selfishness, hedonism, casual sex, rave culture, drug abuse, jealousy of one's partner or neighbour (his more expensive model, his greater success or better looking girlfriend, etc), Satanism (also including desire for revenge if anyone messes with you in certain schools of Satanism), other hedonistic philosophies etc.

Above these levels come states of mind and values such as integrity. Above this is the level of rationalism and logic, i.e. academia, common sense. Clearly, even those academics who believe rationalism, knowledge and science are the highest goal, are they logical in EVERY area of their lives. Or are they subject to higher or lower states of mind? There is a saying that intelligence and common sense do not always go hand in hand. One may well be academically gifted but be hopeless in organising one's personal life and making rational relationship decisions and in looking after oneself. Higher up the scale of consciousness we have conditional love, such as that a mother has for her baby, or in a relationship. But relying on a partner for one's happiness is never a sound strategy, as your source of happiness is not always reliable and can be taken away as easily as it is 'given'.

Above conditional love then is unconditional love, the appreciation of life and the willingness to be loving in every situation, even the most 'irritating', awkward situation which tries to trigger your negative beliefs into making you offended.

Above unconditional love are higher still levels of consciousness, such as bliss and nirvana. The power of each level of consciousness increases the higher one climbs in a given situation, where a higher mind such as an inspirational leader or prophet may influence and inspire an entire population.

Other emotional states that slot into the heirarchy (somewhere nearer the upper half) include peace, tranquility, feelings of relaxation, positive excitement, positive energy, happiness, contentment, wisdom etc.

The numbers of people who residually reside at a certain level become fewer and fewer the higher one goes up the hierarchy. Clearly people do not spend their whole time residing on their maximum level of consciousness, and may indeed revisit lower levels, and drag themselves back up again. Some spend more time at lower levels than others, only experiencing brief glimpses of higher levels. Others spend most of their time at their personal maximum level, only occasionally drifting down. It could be argued that to experience balance one needs to 'revisit' some aspects of some of the lower levels to varying extents and degrees. Indeed, this may well occur without trying, and often some of the more negative aspects of the lower levels; but it ultimately depends on what you want to achieve. Clearly, the emotions that one experiences in the course of a day may well cover a broad range, and if we are honest with ourselves we may well surprise ourselves, and often not pleasantly! How you use and harness these emotions, what beliefs you engage to harness these emotions, what actions result, how you convert/evolve one emotion into another (to gain some positive energy from them), and what beliefs you decide to create, are clearly up to the individual and greatly affect the path you take and ultimately what levels and emotions you spend much of your time in/on. Lower levels of consciousness according to some are associated with a lower level of energetic vibration and the higher the level of conciousness the higher the level of vibration. Vibration level is equated by some to be equivalent to the body's health and strength of the immune system etc.

Clearly the above concept of vibrational level is slightly out of kilter with the concept of the Jungian Shadow, as whilst lower levels may be torn apart by their own uncontrollable shadows in hatred, jealousy and so forth, higher levels may equally be in denial of their lower, animalistic nature and freedom of self-expression. Gnostics would argue that the higher levels are where one is less torn apart by the Archons or addictions of the physical world, and where one has achieved higher levels of peace and knowledge of the Self and the Universe, or Gnosis. The individual must clearly find the exact level of balance and understand what the nature of higher levels on his path really means.

When one enters into an negotation with another party, it is helpful to think of what level of consciousness the other person is at compared to yours to see if you are both really talking the same language. For example, if you are very rational, you may not get very far in trying to take delivery of goods from a criminal or hustler on credit (send me an invoice!) Equally, Neville Chamberlain did have in his hand a piece of paper when he signed a peace treaty with Adolf Hitler, but it meant nothing to Hitler as he was not on the rational level of consciousness and couldn't be expected to play by the rules. It is often why peace settlements are hard to stick for example in Palestine and the surrounding Middle East as both parties are obsessed with revenge and hatred, and the facilitator is trying to keep discussion on a rational an unemotional level. Lastly, do not confuse 'spiritual' development (the art of happiness and bliss) with the 'astral' (or talking/interacting with spirits - if you are into/belief in this kind of thing!) The spiritual domain has nothing to do with the astral. Astral comprises higher (celestial - talking to 'angels'), middle and lower (demonic power, evil spirits, new age etc.) Are you able to tell the difference between these levels (if they exist that is)? It is not unheard of for people to claim to be one thing and to actually be another (just look at politicians, dictators, doctors even etc.) so it is not improbable that this is the same in the astral domain also.

David R. Hawkins has published a number of books through Veritas Publishing, including Power vs Force and Live Your Life Like a Prayer. He has also released various CD sets, for example, 'Giving Up Illness through A Course in Miracles'and also 'The Highest Level of Enlightenment'. His publisher is Veritas. Veritas' web site is listed below. Also listed below is a brief summary on kinesiology from his book 'Power vs Force' (from Cancer Remission's web site), and a fan site about David R. Hawkins' ideas. Beyond The Ordinary's web site contains a number of radio interviews with David R Hawkins in mp3 audio. Life Coach Mary's web site contains an hour long interview with David R. Hawkins in AudioAcrobat.

David R. Hawkins works as uses a method of calibrating different levels of consciousness in his teachings. He uses mathematical principles and terminology to define these. He uses mathematical concepts of 'exponential', 'logarithmic' and 'critical point' and mixes these with philosophical concepts, interpretations and applications. Unfortunately, the mathematics used is incorrect and contradictory in nature. David R. Hawkins does not really explain in his works how he arrived at a calibration for a historical figure or for a society, and what factors contributed to his understanding of the calibration. Given the contradictory nature of this area, it would have been nice if Hawkins had explained it more fully and/or kept the spiritual concepts and interrelationships of the levels of consciousness whilst retaining the spiritual reasoning and logic and removing the mathematical terminology and arbitrary calibration figures, to retain more credibility in the scientific community. This is why many regard Hawkins work as pseudo-science and nonsense, and it serves to detract from the rest of his philosophical thoughts and ideas with certain people.

In addition, whilst the different levels of consciousness and their relative energy levels and trappings may indeed be correct, it would probably be wrong to ascribe an arbitrary figure or level to any one individual, as depending on their thoughts they may vary between levels of consciousness (for example, level of conditional or unconditional love, level of reasoning, level of desire, level of revenge etc. depending on the situation and exact thoughts or background influences. When does a person who considers himself to be rational and scientific ever apply this scientific and rationalism to his personal life in its entirety? Not very often! Behaving rationally in a work or academic environment is very different to applying it in one's personal life and relationships. Levels of consciousness are therefore often very much compartmentalised. Indeed, some individuals may remain on one level of consciousness all the time, and remain completely illogical in their work and personal life, and remain on the lower levels of fear, desire and jealousy. Or remain in the world of academia and logic and be completely unemotional and assexual. Whether calibration figures ascribed in Hawkins' work are absolute, fixed values or an average (mean) values is not clear. It is clear that ascribing a value to a society as a whole is even more flawed than ascribing a value to an individual because of the diversity of people in a society and the way a person may switch between levels any number of times during a given day etc. However, in very general terms it may have some value.

In Hawkins' audio programmes, he does laugh at his own jokes quite often, which some may like or find annoying. He is not the only one who does this, and Wayne Dyer also laughs at his own jokes all the time. Whether this is ego or just harmless fun for the listener is up to the listener to decide of course; or just plain irritating!

Those of you who do not believe in reincarnation may find his stories about his past lives rather embarrassing. However, for those of you who do, you may find it very interesting. It is clear that his work draws very heavily on Buddhism, but reframed into a non-dualistic, monotheistic context; including other concepts of using which beliefs are useful at any particular point in time; and concepts of stripping away the non-essential as it detracts from mental clarity and peace. Perhaps it is rather Gnostic or Baha'i in approach. David Hawkins promotes kinesiology heavily also, incorporating these concepts and relating them to the other philosophical concepts.

One might argue that he draws on concepts from Rosicrucianism (an esoteric form of Christianity), and their concept of rebirth (reincarnation, eventually culminating in an escape of the cycle of life and death, becoming a 'higher being'). He makes a passing reference to 'we found that one should not cremate a body immediately after death to give the soul a chance to properly leave the body...' This is perhaps based on the Rosicrucian concept of the preservation period of 84 hours after death in the event of a 'natural' death (not traumatic). Whether 'we found that' through 'scientific study' (!) or he read it in a Rusicrucian text is another matter! He does not cite some of his sources of 'research' and is in the habit of making big claims and sourcing ideas from other religions and cults but does not always divulge and perhaps implies he ascertained this information by himself.

The unemotional and rational reader however should not let inconsistencies in an arbitrary calibration chart of consciousness nor the limited way the principles of levels of consciousness are presented interfer with the absorption of all the sound psychological principles and ideas in his work about the nature of the ego and the nature of consciousness; that one can take on board and adapt to one's own framework of understanding. One may however choose to literally accept everything he says about his calibration, or to take the spirit of what he is saying and how the relative levels of consciousness interrelate, apply it how one sees fit, and ignore arbitrary numbers, scales and mathematical notation (as it is unlikely that one can direct apply the calibration oneself if it is not actually explained properly). These calibrations are likely to be highly subjective in any case. As with many authors and speakers in the area of personal development and spiritual advancement, one rarely agrees with everything that is said, but should take what is useful and ignore what isn't. This is no reason to dismiss the whole of personal development. Perhaps it is a good reason why you should write and publish your own book! For example, Tony Robbins has his own page dedicated to him on this web site, which tries to objectively review the good and bad points about his seminars. There are of course exceptions, and you will no doubt find an author or authors who you feel 100% comfortable with and with whom you agree with 100% of what they say. I personally find such congruence with authors such as Paul McKenna.

Some reviews on the internet of David R. Hawkins' books can be found by an internet search or at the links below. I encourage the reader of this site to study a wide range of books and material, including Hawkins' and make up his or her own mind up.



Ego as a Primitive Survival Mechanism

An example of ego in a fearful context is the way that one's body physically reacts to a perceived threat. For example, if one is undergoing an osteopathy session, and the practitioner is twisting your torso slightly prior to perform a manipulation (of the lower back and pelvic area for example), it is easy to become fearful and allow the body to tense up, in an attempt to 'defend' itself. However, if one consciously works to try to relax those areas, the ego is disengaged and the manipulation can be carried out correctly without injuring the patient! Which might otherwise occur if the person resisted. The same principle applies in martial arts, when one is engaging in a drill or sparring. If one stiffens up, it is a defensive reaction, but negates one's ability to stay relaxed, respond and to react and observe what is actually going on. If you do this, you may get hurt or get hit!

The concept the relationship between one's ego and one's consciousness is a complex one. It is something that religions and philosophers have been struggling with for thousands of years. To totally embrace the ego in its entirety without exercising any control over it would be unwise - this would result in the consciousness becoming a passenger to the ego, with the ego seeking to control the whole of conscious experience, taking the credit for it and seeking to reinforce its position. Nor woud it be so wise to try to regard the ego as 'evil' and to try to completely suppress it in all activities and areas of life. The ego is our body's evolutionary natural defence mechanism, allowing us to interact with the world and function. However, it often allowed to exist in a manner at the detriment of our innate consciousness and ability to 'feel'. The ego is in many ways a left brain entity and is to a large extent a conditioned psychological response.

To what extent should one embrace the ego, and to what extent should one try to suppress it or shut it up? These are tough questions. By following our desires in all things we may find it difficult to develop any sense of self-discipline, and it may be impossible to cultivate any stillness of mind. By entertaining our ego at all times, we may not be able to silence the constant stream of 'desires (for pleasure and/or power), fears, stress, guilt, judgements, analysis, self-loathing, self-criticism, rationalising, attempts to control, attempts to take credit' nor to trust our instincts and truly feel, in the consciousness sense, without the intervention and controlling actions of the ego. By calming the ego, it is possible to achieve greater stillness and a sense of inner peace. This is something that many Eastern religions and philosophies have attempted to address, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, e.g. stillness through 'no mind'. Some religions may conceptually give some advice on the ego, but may not really assist in actual practical methods of calming the ego and the mind, but rather just rely on 'faith' to achieve this, e.g. Christianity. Whilst this may work with some people, with others, it may not, and the ego may continue with many of its ridiculous activities and in addition get involved in judgements, guilt and rationalising of one's spiritual experience and that of others, rather than allowing the mind to be clear and calm. In the latter case it may end up with trying to excessively rely on rational concepts of the 'rules' and what you should be doing and what others 'should' be doing, and disappointing and upsetting your ego when you don't get things the way your ego was expecting. This is not generally a very fulfilling way to live one's life. The ego may have merely shifted its pattern of control from one area to another (before and after conversion), and still be an obstacle in your spiritual life.

There are clearly many ways of exploring the senses to the full and to be fully in tune with one's body and experiences. There are different ways of engaging the ego in these activities. One may enter into activities with 'no mind', i.e. with the ego not engaged, but relying on one's instincts and trusting one's subsconscious and neurological system to just get on with it (rather than trying to control it through the ego and through 'rationalisation'). Many sports people find this the way to achieve the best results and if they 'try' too hard (i.e. excessive ego control) they often perform much worse. In this state of mind one may often lose one's perception of time. One may alternatively choose to enter into an experience of sensation from the perspective of titillating the ego (or rather titillating a set of beliefs and values, perhaps of a perverse or reactionary nature), where the ego may be in control of the experience; Or one may choose to enter into an experience in a more balanced manner, engaging the ego to an extent, and engaging and referring to various positive beliefs and pieces of technical information but not try to gain any sense of power, but also trusting one's consciousness and instincts (not reverting to too much personal criticism regarding mistakes and performance), feeling calm minded and free, at the same time - the exact nature of the balance of this mode of experience may indeed vary and change, like a yo-yo, during an experience - one may achieve a good balance for a while, and then totally lose it later on - it clearly varies moment to moment and individual to individual. Lastly one may try to enter into an experience trying to control everything and not trusting one's instincts or innate ability to do something, whereby one will probably not feel anything or be aware of what happened at all as one was too busy rationalising it and trying to get as much from it as possible (ironically getting the least from the experience!)

One may argue whether excessive titillating of the ego (and certain negative beliefs and world/global views) in the way we sense and experience things is healthy and to what extent it results in reinforcing the ego's dominant position and certain negative beliefs. This is up to the individual to figure out, but if one is not prepared to experience sensation in other ways (at all or enough), then one may well be fooling oneself about the nature of experience and ultimately about one's innate consciousness.

There is clearly a time and a place for different approaches, for example, different points in learning a new technique, or day to day routine experience which does not require any rationalisation and which one may benefit from trying to connect more with one's surroundings and not going around on 'auto-pilot' and missing everything. There is a time and place to indulge oneself in an activity, enjoy the playfulness, chaos and sense of euphoria, be carefree and irresponsible; and there are times to be responsible; and also times to help and assist others. Just how one goes about this is up to the individual.

It can be observed in some individuals with low self esteem in some areas, that they may overcompensate in other areas in order to create 'balance'. For example, one may be naive or lacking in confidence in multiple areas in one's life, and ideally one should really attempt to address these areas in order to grow and to be 'free' or more oneself and who one was born to be. However, instead, the conscious mind may seek to make up for this slight feeling of inadequacy by strengthening positive beliefs in other areas that do not require so much or any significant 'work' - to the point of becoming perhaps arrogant or conceited. This is however compartmentalised and unlikely to overflow into other areas, so the large areas of low self-esteem remain. If anything, the ego enlargement in certain areas only seeks to appease one's longings for balance and fool oneself, sapping one's desire to really be honest about one's deficiencies and to work towards building up one's confidence in these areas. It is a little like chewing on a piece of chocolate to distract you from the cut on your leg! A principle parents may use with children. 

Jungian Shadow

'In Jungian psychology, the shadow or "shadow aspect" is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. It is one of the three most recognizable archetypes, the others being the anima and animus. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." It may be (in part) one's link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.

The Shadow is the embodiment of our repressed psychological aspects, which we may deny by see and detest in others, and which may haunt us or torment us in our dreams.

>>> Please visit the dedicated 'Jungian Shadow' page for more information. 

Behavioural Conditioning, Boundaries and Wisdom

It may be that one is conditioned to restrict the way one feels and thinks, and that one feels that there are certain things you are not allowed or supposed to think or feel. This may be a result of the values you have adopted over the years, the beliefs from your class, peer group or culture, or indeed from your religious background or upbringing. Those thoughts or feelings that we deem undesirable or that we are scared to experience may indeed be those that focus too powerfully on the self or the ego; or perhaps they are just embodiments of our fears about self-expression or fears based upon our lack of self-confidence. Many of us may try to stay within our 'comfort zones' too much, and fear venturing outside them and expressing oneself in a socially undefined manner or even in a confidence, sexual and enthusiastic manner; depending on what our fears are and what our negative beliefs are. If you are exploring your spiritual experience and trying to grow as a person, you may well come across certain taboo areas or at least grey areas that you may skirt around and flirt with a little, but feel somehow uncomfortable actually immersing yourself in.

Clearly, the choice is the individual's as to where they want to go (psychologically/spiritually speaking), and what they consider to be 'positive' and 'good for breaking down barriers for personal growth', good for 'losing one's inhibitions'; and what areas one wants to avoid as it is 'spiritually damaging', 'morally wrong' or other such precepts (be they valid in one's eyes or entirely erroneous pieces of 'software' and 'brainwashing' instilled into one's mind. Clearly everyone has their boundaries, with respect to what is socially acceptable, morally or ethically acceptable, and we apply rules to ourselves to avoid certain behaviours that result in guilt for whatever reason (e.g. harming others, stealing others, being excessively selfish etc.) Do these boundaries derive from sociological and religious conditioning? Or are they really our own? Or do they come from life experience and wisdom? If we have 'boundaries' or an understanding about various situations and emotions and the pros and cons attached to them, what is our attitude towards that boundary?

It could be that we avoid these behaviours simply because we do not enjoy them - they are not worth it - but equally it could be that we feel that we have to stay well over the other side of the fence from them, as far away from the actual fence as possible, in order to feel 'comfortable' and 'morally clean' or to feel good about ourselves. It depends where we derive our self-esteem from and what our core beliefs and values are, about ourselves and our relationship to the outside world.

Where do these values come from? Social conditioning? Cultural conditioning? Religious conditioning? At what point are you 'liberated', 'illuminated' and 'free of hypocrisy' and at what point are you 'totally immoral' or 'evil'? At what point are you 'enlightened', 'moral' and/or 'professional' and what point are you 'trapped by your own conditioning, never to experience your true nature' or a 'slave/monkey/robot living out a life according to a rule book and set of expectations/predictable behaviours that may indeed be totally arbitrary'? Or 'plain boring'? Do you truly appreciate what you have and are you really present in the room? Or do we only see your programming and trapped consciousness, trapped by either conditioning or ego or fear/emotional repression? What is 'good self-conditioning' and what is 'bad-self conditioning'? Do you really know what you are trying to achieve with personal development and 'positive conditioning'? Do you understand your goal? Or is the journey the most important thing?

Are these values you hold/are guided by really worth having, or at least embracing 100% of the time, rather than viewing each situation on its own merits? Clearly adopting a fixed stance on something 100% of the time may be an embodiment of that belief system rather than ourselves. It is a little like putting on a belief system that you are supposed to live within, that is supposed to reflect 'you' or the 'way you should be' - except that it doesn't! This is why many teenagers are conflicted and torture themselves, as in the void of self-knowledge, feel the need to adopt a set of belief-systems about the world that 'makes sense of it' and answers the 'wrongs'.

Some argue that unless you actually allow yourself to go somewhere (psychologically/spiritually) and explore it, on some level, you will never know whether you were simply hiding from it, and secretly liked it, or whether you were just avoiding something because you know it won't feel good and it is 'wrong' or 'inappropriate' or results in a severely negative consequence. Do you know what it feels like? You may not need to necessarily immerse yourself in the fullness of that action or experience in the literal sense, but merely contemplate it, view others in that situation or to use your empathy.

Is indulging or experimenting in this manner going to move you to a different place where you lose perspective? Or can you step back to your original vantage point and objectively review the experience, the emotions you felt, and your relationship to your conscious mind, ego and spirituality or to God? Or is that sense now lost/changed? In a good way or bad way? If you can be easily swayed or have your interests or personality radically changed depending on the company you keep or some immersion into a given spiritual practice or philosophy, does this reflect badly on your lack of self-knowledge and self-esteem? Is it a clueless act of searching moving from one thing to the next, but 'forgetting' everything you learnt/thought in each phase, as if each were compartmentalised; and really not achieving any real personal growth or self-knowledge or maturity at all (this is one aspect of the condition known as Schizotypal Personality Disorder, which is discussed further down)? Or is it an evolution, learning from and building on all that you have experienced in the past, to acquire a non-dogmatic form of wisdom based on direct experience, acknowledge of both sides of every experience (to varying degrees), building on true belief and knowledge and not fear, rather than just rejecting it in a knee-jerk manner and going from one extreme to another, adopting someone/something else's set of beliefs that don't quite fit you or only describe part of you, in an unbalanced manner, denying any positive aspect of the previous experience and through denial, not truly being able to move on (and to continue to be tortured by the negative aspects of the previous experience)?

If you went through a painful experience or phase of your life, and you have managed to break that cycle of negative behaviour, psychological addiction or thought pattern, then you can choose to do the opposite and compartmentalise the experience, and the only thing you might learn from it is that doing it is 'not a good idea' and you may avoid people who still do this or want to do this. Alternatively, you can be honest with yourself about what it was that you got out of that negative lifestyle; what fundamental human needs were met by it, what needs you were trying to meet but weren't; what needs you were failing to meet and how you were 'trapping yourself' by this addictive pattern of thought and behaviour; and what negative beliefs and what pattern of focus perpetuated this behaviour for so long. By looking at what sides of your character that were allowed to express themselves, even if it was at the expense of many other needs and characteristics, then you must look to find other ways to fulfill those needs and to express those sides of your character. For example, if you are getting over many years of having been psychologically dependent on a particular recreational drug or drugs, then but simply avoiding contact with anyone who is into drugs and denying your spontaneous side and becoming a controlling person, you are probably neglecting the wild, crazy and spontaneous side of your character, and may become 'boring' in some people's eyes. It is often debated what a person's needs actually are, and some adherents of the LHP may deny that any form of altruism is a need. For some, acts of selflessness are a fundamental need for higher levels of self-actualisation (perhaps this is why some Freemasons are often involved in charity work), whilst for others are a character flaw. One could argue how sincere one actually is if one is simply seeking to fulfill a human need rather than genuinely be altruistic! One has to be aware of those needs that you are currently meeting, through your lifestyle, thoughts or activities, and what needs you aren't meeting. It is easy to focus on what you aren't fulfilling and not acknoledge what you are fulfilling (which is often just as important or essential for your wellbeing).

By trying to distance yourself so far from this 'scene', and all it's 'encoutrements' including music and attitude, you may be suppressing part of your nature. You can keep hold of the few liberating, positive characteristics, beliefs or behaviours and reject all the negative ones that resulted in your depression/addiction/etc. You dont' need to reject the whole lot! Clearly part of you thought it was a good idea at the time, so there must have been something going for it (even if many negative aspects became clear later on). Take the good (useful/empowering) and reject the bad (limiting/destructive/disempowering)! To acknowledge your rebellious and wild characteristics, and integrate them into the rest of your personality and your other needs and your mature side, you are a 'whole'. That is not to say that you have to an occasional drug user in order to have a 'balanced attitude' to drugs. But that just because you have stopped does not mean you have to resign yourself to a life of being boring and sensible and not being crazy and expressing yourself when you feel like it. Perhaps your previous behaviour attempted to express something but failed, and that by integrating your personality and not trying to suppress any part of it, but to nurture your self and positive beliefs about yourself, you can 'have your cake and eat it'! In a positive, life affirming manner. And really express that longing properly for the first time. You may view the various 'phases', be it in terms of 'youth culture', 'spiritual beliefs' or 'attitude' in terms of an evolution, and not necessarily reject the whole 'package' of each phase, but draw from the good aspects and leave the negative behind and gain wisdom of them, so you don't repeat mistakes of the past because of wisdom and confidence rather than fear, avoidance and denial. You could perhaps see a thread running through all your experiences and the valid beliefs or aspects in each one, added together in your person now to create something far greater and 'wiser' than the sum of the parts. Each belief system had its benefits and aspects of truth, but in some ways was also very restrictive and dogmatic and perhaps even negative. Take the elements of truth and learn from them, and reject the falsehoods, dogma and aspects of self-hatred from them.

Are you guided in your thoughts and behaviour by a sense of duty, guilt and fear of retribution (legal or spiritual punishment for certain behaviours)? Or because you feel empathy for others? Or because you have a low self-esteem and others desires and needs (a stranger, a colleague, a family member, even God himself) come before your own? Or because you know intuitively what is 'you' and what isn't and just follow your instincts? How many layers of conditioning sit between your current conscious existence and your real, true self? Do you choose to 'deprogram' yourself by a variety of means, e.g. reflection, art, avant garde music or film, through philosophy, through direct experience in life (full immersion), through being honest with yourself, through psychology and studying people's behaviour or learning how people function, through NLP and Neuro-Associative Conditioning (and learning to attach the right meaning for you to events in your life past and present and indeed the hypothetical, etc.), through prayer, through meditation, through martial exercises, through periods of abstinence or ascetism (going without something makes you see it with new eyes again, to gain perspective e.g. light deprivation, severe illness), through being in the natural environment, through adventurous activities, being in dangerous or challenging situations, living life in a vital manner, immersing yourself in personal relationships and communication, exposing yourself to different ways of life or culture, or even through occult practice if this is your 'bag'? Which? If any? Life experiences are all well and good, but unless you learn to ascribe meaning to them, and a useful meaning at that, that can build true wisdom upon, they do not necessarily help, and one can indeed repeat one's experience over and over again without learning anything, being honest with oneself or growing! Ultimately you have to decide what is right for you - and to know what isn't, and preferably not arriving at that conclusion because of fear and conditioned values that may not necessarily be yours. The main thing is to try to learn why you experience the feels you do, and whether this is really you or not.

Wisdom as a process of evolution and gradual 'improvement' or expansion can be compared in a sense to the evolution of a species. A species will stagnate if it does not adapt, change and evolve, and so the human mind stagnates if it does not 'evolve' or if the learning process stops. Wisdom as a process of evolution is akin to survival of the fittest, if one stops growing then one is no longer 'the fittest' and one joins the mediocre and not particularly fulfilled.

It should be noted that educational background and age have little to do with maturity. Some extremely intelligent or academic individuals possess little personal awareness, common sense, wisdom, practicality and may be very fearful in certain respects. Being mature or immature is not a binary state, and we continually evolve as individuals, and equally we may be 'mature' in some areas and extremely childish in others. It depends on one's definition of 'immature' and what is 'adult'. One could use Eric Berne's classical definition, but equally one could argue that certain aspects of adulthood are repressed and unhelpful, but how one takes that and acts on it can be immature or just a little playful. However, when it comes to handling situations and relationships, and avoiding temper tantrums, sulking, being 'clingy' and a total lack of control over one's emotions, and reacting to everything around one, then one could say this was inded childish. There are often reasons for being emotionally stunted or not growing from child to adulthood. As John Cleese wrote in his book Families and how to survive them, a missing relationship or figure in one's childhood can leave one stuck at a certain level. It may be an event or lifestyle choice, e.g. substance abuse / recreational drug dependency; or a parent dying and a child assuming the responsibility in taking care of younger siblings etc. If one can recognise the events in one's life that have hindered one's emotional development, or what one lacked in one's childhood, e.g. sufficient play with others, encouragement, or a father figure etc., then one can use this recognition and desire for change as a catalyst to transform one's life. One can equally identify what one has lacked in the past, and nurture those activites or relationships in the present, or even just visualise them.

Please see the Belief page for related topics.

© 2006-2024 Fabian Dee