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Neurohacking - Tutorials
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Saturday, 11 April 2015 09:50


Neurohacking: Tutorial 13

Autonomy, self-awareness and the structuring of personality

updated April 2015



Welcome to advanced tutorials, in which we will be looking at networks 5 & 6 and the integration of mental processes for whole brain function. Tutorials 13-15 focus on Network 5 and some of its main processes.

In Tutorial 12 we explored how creativity emerges in a healthy system, and mentioned that natural autonomy unfolds out of the logic of differentiation between 'self' and 'other', which gives us our awareness of personal individuality and independence. We shall explore that process further in this tutorial.

The functional anatomy (neural correlates) of autonomy overlaps with the functional anatomy of our decision making processes. In order to compute the best possible outcomes and make the best possible decisions, the brain uses various systems for assessment including self assessment (where am I at?), contextual assessment (where are things at?) and feedback analysis (how am I doing?) Since self assessment in particular is such an important NH tool for self knowledge development, we shall be doing more of it in this tutorial.

We'll also look at how personality structuring is achieved and the mechanisms behind our mind's identification with itself as 'me' (self-awareness).

Investigating these processes reveals how our own ontology (our 'background' concepts of self and world) is as intrinsic in our creative structuring of personality as it is in our framing of reality and contexts; both essential variables in our decision making, judgment and successful interaction.

By the end of this tutorial you should have an overview of the brain structures involved in autonomy, decision making and the exercise of free will; and know the results of the most recent clinical observations and research. You should understand how self awareness contributes to autonomy, how counterfeit personalities occur, the relationship between self-knowledge and personal integrity, and why we have a golden rule stating, 'Know Yourself'.

Note for the curious: Whilst it it fine to read ahead in tutorials, it is not safe to do any of the exercises or hacks in the advanced section unless you have previously completed basics & intermediates tutorials. Most importantly it is vital to have a clear understanding of anxiety reduction, the difference between emotion and sentiment, and input control.


follow the right habit -independence


Autonomy: independence or freedom, as of the will and one's interactions (from Greek 'autonomia': freedom to live by one's own governance)

Free will: Your 'will' is your wishes; your desires, your intent. If we are healthy, they may also be described as 'the intent of intelligence' in you as an independent organism.

Hopefully you know what 'free' means (although the word's origins reveal a lot of things [1]).


How natural autonomy unfolds

A state of ever-increasing independence (autonomy) in coordination with control & coordination (synergy) is necessary for our development to proceed.

Bonding assists our synergy on every level, and we also practice autonomy on different levels throughout our development. In the first instance, we seek independent control of our senses and our own bodily functions -that is our first level of autonomy; the most concrete level. The second is independent movement; locomotion and control of our muscular/skeletal systems until we are able to walk about, speak and feed ourselves.

Autonomy on every level requires a different (and increasingly complex) form of personal 'awareness-and-control' within each network being developed; eg; body-function independence requires sensorimotor awareness (proprioception) and control, locomotive independence comes with spatial awareness (kinesiology) and control, emotional independence comes with emotional/neurochemical awareness and control, and creative independence comes with psychological awareness and control.

Autonomy emerges out of our logic of differentiation between 'self' and 'other' as we become aware of the difference between subjective and objective experience and move towards independent rather than dependent behaviors as development progresses. We learn through experience how to walk for ourselves, speak for ourselves, create for ourselves and eventually think for ourselves (and so make informed choices for ourselves and solve problems for ourselves).

Or we should. All self control, self programming and self direction requires self awareness; an ever-increasing database of self knowledge. The integration of self knowledge with our knowledge of the rest of reality is what allows us to estimate probabilities for personal success and make informed decisions for ourselves.

Our biological intent pushes us to achieve autonomy on ever-more complex levels and expects us to develop sophisticated control of our bodies and minds. But to practise autonomy at all, we also need to be comfortable in and able to interact with our contexts for development.

Our contexts are the things we are designed as biological organisms to be interdependent with; such as our bodies, our group of allies (family/friends), our planet (food, water and oxygen), our culture, our minds, and reality with its unbreakable laws. These are the matrices for our development; we are not designed to function (or develop) without them. We in turn inevitably contribute to developing them as they help to develop us. This is interdependence, co-dependence or symbiosis, and it's how all healthy living creatures progress through life. We are independent entities who strive for autonomy, but we are never alone; we are always a part of the big picture; a participating character with complex relationships on every level in the game of life.

Interacting with, even bonding with, others does not mean that we lose our independence. In bonded relationships, we have interdependence which means individuals have autonomy of choice; they choose to cooperate for mutual benefit; not because of dependence. We join together to play a symphony, to play games, to share our skills and stories, but other abilities and aspects of our development, in particular self knowledge and the formation of a congruous personality, require that we also spend time developing ourselves as individuals.

It should be remembered that the ideal for biology is to be independent in all the areas we have the potential to be independent in, whilst at the same time interacting in those contexts and inter-dependencies which further our development.

Q – Are we naturally designed to thrive in mutually-supporting groups, or to thrive alone?

A – Both. You should expect this 'both' answer by now. We are designed to adapt ourselves to our context and our context to ourselves. We can thrive alone if circumstances demand that, but we can also adapt to thrive working together with others, and we thrive best when we are competent at both.


Remember that 'survival of the fittest' MEANS survival on the organisms that can best adapt to cope with ever changing circumstances (because that's what real life IS).

Autonomy is freedom to explore and play, which is how we learn. Learning provides two types of knowledge: knowledge as experience (procedures) and knowledge as information (facts). We learn both practical & theory.

Our knowledge base provides our abstract platform, the Known, our 'safe space from which to interact' psychologically just as surely as our brain provides our concrete platform for network development. And self-knowledge is a part of knowledge. From our overall knowledge we construct our ontology in accordance with our confidence in what we know, and from our self knowledge we construct our personality and calibrate our confidence in ourselves; our self esteem.

Autonomy requires healthy independence from things we should not be dependent on (such as counterfeit games or their rules, and anybody or anything used as support, in areas where we should be supporting ourselves) and an ability to independently assess & analyze ourselves, our contexts and our progress. Obviously these are all vital variables in our decision-making which cannot be truly autonomous until we are able to make up our own minds about things rather than just copying or blindly believing others.

Healthy independence means first we have the competence to take care of the needs of our own bodies, brains and minds; providing healthy input, creating healthy output and pursuing entelechy. Secondly we should be capable of taking care of our own behavior, thoughts and feelings not only for optimal interaction with others but because, due to feedback analysis, they form an inevitable part of our own input. And feedback analysis goes on all the time unconsciously.

We need the experience of surviving and thriving independently in order to develop and maintain an accurate awareness of our own competence and current development in the real world; a vital part of self-knowledge and responsible for our personal confidence. Just as we once had to learn to walk without dependence on others and feed ourselves without dependence on others, now we are supposed to learn to create for ourselves, think for ourselves, analyze for ourselves and calculate for ourselves without dependence on others.

For you – autonomy

At this stage in advanced NH, if we have prepared properly, practiced well and done things in the right order, we can expect some radical changes in our lives and one of these is the development of full autonomy. Although this change is certainly beneficial, the thing about radical change is that it changes our life radically.

We already know that autonomy is important for developing free will. Independent volitional behavior obviously requires independence. More importantly, in the formation of personality, autonomy changes who we are radically. It enables us to be more optimistic when facing the unknown, and more confident about the known. It changes how we see the world, other people, and our self. It boosts our self esteem, empowers us to form a congruous ontology and construct a healthy interactive personality based on our real identity. Through autonomy, we find ourselves 'directing a new life story' in which we can see reality through a wide-angle perspective as well as focus in on its multidimensional details, from our OWN point of view. From biology's pov, autonomy enables variation; one of the four main 'requirements for evolution through natural selection'.[2]

It is clear what variation does for evolution in general, but how does variation in individuals benefit us psychologically and intellectually? Where is the advantage in being different? Wouldn't we get along better as a species if we all believed and thought and liked and valued the same things instead of coming to radically different conclusions about reality and having to engage scientific argument to discover what the truth is? Shouldn't all smart people have the same ideas?

A Dougles Adams-inspired glance at reality reveals the evolutionary psychological advantages of individual human diversity in terms of our learning and adaptation through culture. Reality, it might logically be claimed, is relatively big. Quite a lot bigger than planets, it is large even when compared with galaxies and unimaginably enormous in comparison with things like our heads. Or our memories.

When one takes into consideration that reality contains the whole of time, space, matter and energy AND us with all our collective knowledge, and takes up a lot of dimensions, it becomes apparent that it harbors the possibility of being infinite; and even if this turns out not to be the case reality is still about as big and complex as things can get, as our concepts of size and complexity go. I mean it's life, the universe and everything...you know?

Brains, on the other hand are relatively small, easily-damaged, squishy little things which do not last for very long and probably have a finite memory capacity (even if we don't know what it is yet).

Planets such as the one on which we live are of course quite large in relation to our brains and quite small in relation to galaxies; that's probably your pov if you're a time lord or a thoughtful physicist, but on our human level of subjective, sensorimotor, emotional and psychological experience, the life of an organism on a planet (in short, biology), is what biology considers the really important bits of reality to be all about. Biology is automatically and innately aiming for entelechy within a dynamic equilibrium; via programs which have to pay attention to programs.

Life as sentient beings on planets is consequently quite complex, and none of us can possibly have enough lifetime to understand everything about reality (not even just this teeny, planet-sized bit of it which biology prioritizes). But if we all develop different yet compatible interests, we can grasp the basics and each of us can also hold some specialist knowledge and abilities which we can then come together and share for the solving of problems and for new invention, and pass our discoveries on to future generations.

Biology has (firstly) managed to get the evolutionary benefits of non-heritable adaptations (new learning & abilities) to be passed down generations in terms of our culture via mind's software, and (secondarily) also solved the issue of how new innovations are constantly introduced in such a system (without constant new input, the system will lose dynamic equilibrium). Biology solved these issues through autonomy; individualization; in creative and intellectual spheres; in ontology and personality; a constant source of new ideas emerges from a constant source of different and varied minds. We encounter this phenomenon in all complex dynamic network systems (such as weather, or in this case, thoughts); if the initial context (in this case the mind) differs even slightly, the outcome may be totally different. It is called the Butterfly Effect. Intelligence, as a complex dynamic network, is no exception from this rule.

Our unconscious knowledge of reality -the basics- is bio-centric; it isn't even anthropocentric, since the same basic rules of reality -biology, physics & chemistry- apply to vast numbers of species of similar sizes and shapes, as do the underlying algorithms for successful behavior for surviving on planets, whereby organisms thrive by being reciprocally interdependent with their matrices; where interaction drives development and, complementarily, development drives interaction. Although the basics remain unchanging, the details are in perpetual change and we also thrive by implementing variation and innovation in the details of who we are, for this is where 'new ideas' come from, which overall is how we and our culture grow and improve ourselves.

Biology therefore makes doubly sure that despite a similarity of basics, we are all different. Different genes and different environmental factors ensure that we are all exposed to a wide variety of different input and so we think about different things, form different associations, make different conceptual models and have different experiences from each other. This diversity among individuals of the same species allows two main benefits in development (apart from sexual reproduction) from biology's pov; one, the more different organisms there are, the more likely it is that some will adapt to fit all circumstances; and two, all individuals sharing knowledge will benefit in different ways from interaction with every other individual, instead of all being dependent on just one or two sources for new knowledge. This improves both our own chances of survival and our descendents'; through our culture's body of knowledge (which will increase with every new person adding their personal knowledge), and through the diversity of creativity, innovation, invention, new beliefs and new ideas; which allow for much faster progress and learning than we could have if everyone in a given generation all came up with the same ideas and believed the same things (not to mention that most interpersonal conversation in such a system would be terminally boring).

The benefits of autonomous thought to development, in us personally and of our species are obvious. As important as it is to be able to bond, synchronize, and work as a team with others, we need also to be able to develop individuality and innovation, both creatively and intellectually; otherwise our culture (not to mention everyday life and our relationships) would fail to remain dynamic and become static, and our species and relationships would decline as a result.

Other personal benefits of autonomy are less obvious until we zoom in and study them. Autonomy gives us our awareness of personal individuality and independence, as from interactive experience we begin to realize that different people not only like and dislike different things but also think about and believe different things, and it is from differentiation as much as similarity we construct both our ontology and a stable congruous personality; our 'personal individual intelligence'.

As previously discussed, we achieve autonomy in stages. Network 4 strives for autonomy and individuality in our creative and cultural interactions. Network 5 strives for the autonomy and individuality of mind (self) in our intellectual and analytical interactions; which directs our decision-making and is inherent in the construction of a unique personality and a unique way of looking at reality; our way. Without autonomy, we have no individual personality of our own and usually replace it with a patchwork of automatic scripts designed to get through everyday life with a minimum of hassle; largely by repeating parrot fashion what others around us (these days, 'those around us' may be characters on our favorite TV shows -or whomever we pay attention to-) think, say or do.

Thus, many people do not genuinely know what they think or believe about many things for the simple reason that they have never actually thought about them. Shallow thought and a shallow personality betray a shallow mind, and ultimately a lack of self awareness as well as awareness in general.

Autonomy gives us a great deal of mental abilities which support the development of strong intellect. As mature individuals we can psychologically 'turn around and look at ourselves' and do stuff like thinking about thinking, using introspective thought, prospective thought and retrospective thought, experiencing full awareness of where we are currently and making informed decisions about where we would like to be next. It helps us to learn and benefit from mistakes, exercise free will, successfully plan and strategize, see the possible future consequences of today's interactions and delay immediate gratification if there is the probability of greater overall benefits.

As we have explained, autonomy both requires and prompts innovation. Research on human motivation and decision-making has revealed that innovation is a major factor in personal success and the general quality of our lives.[3] Having our own ideas is as important to intelligence development as having our own point of view. Healthy creativity constantly presents us with the new; and a healthy intellect also innovates constantly; humans are strongly motivated by our biological intent to explore, discover, experiment and 'go where no one has gone before'. Innovators are individuals who do things that others say can't be done. An innovator defies counterfeit rules. In real life this makes them an asset because of the skill to be creative and innovative when confronted with problems. They are the kind of thinkers you want around you when troubles arise. Paradoxically in counterfeit games they are often viewed as dangerous, because they do not conform in many ways to society's ideal. The most successful innovators are people who are skilled at handling mistakes, failure and particularly at handling anxiety – they have no fear of failure, no fear of the unknown, indeed to them such things often appear exciting.

Successful innovators are made through practice; we don't have sufficient wiring for full innovative autonomy until Network 5 is wired up and running, and wiring only happens in response to practice. Much of creativity and intellectual ingenuity comes about via improved or enhanced awareness; achieved by going beyond the obvious with focused attention and seeing what no one else is able to see. There are many ways of thinking; for example lateral thinking, divergent thinking or productive thinking; which generate new ideas, and others such as formal logic, reasoning and analysis; which generate straightforward solutions to problems and reveal truths with minimal searching; all can help us make the most optimal decisions in our lives, although none are taught in the context of school. Autonomy of mind means having all these modes of thought as extra NH tools for interaction.

It should be obvious to us why autonomy is as essential a factor in congruous personality development as it is for decision making and innovative thinking. Simply conforming by copying others, saying what they say or thinking as they think, isn't being yourself; and mindlessly agreeing with or blindly believing everyone else (or whatever you hear or read) isn't thinking for yourself. Unthinkingly doing what you're told all day isn't even living for yourself.

To develop individuality, we need to let go of dependence on others to tell us what is real or true, and develop the tools to detect these things ourselves. The abilities which enable us to tell the difference between rumor, gossip, facts, hypotheses, speculations, theories, misunderstandings, misinterpretations and outright lies.

Without this awareness we are extraordinarily gullible and vulnerable to conditioning; indeed, being able to think for ourselves is the best defense against conditioning. As NH students at this level we need to develop formal thinking skills for ourselves, understand what constitutes proof, be able to analyze information for confirmation of its veracity and detect bogus claims, false conclusions and false information. We need the confidence to accept the 'I don't know yet' aspect of discovery, the ability to learn from mistakes, and the open-mindedness and intellectual clarity to avoid bias or prejudice in factual objectivity, problem-solving and decision-making. We provide exercises for improving thinking skills in this and future tutorials.

Autonomy is also required for self confidence. Our self esteem (and consequently, the neurotransmission which enables self-confidence) has its roots in our competence (knowledge as ability) and awareness (knowledge as information). Knowledge as ability requires experience synthesizing procedures, and knowledge as information requires experience analyzing facts. Without the independent competence to do these things, our degree of uncertainty prevents high confidence.

It is the 'certainty' which our ability to process information and ascertain facts endows; the ability to independently acquire our own proof about reality, that provides the foundation 'body of knowledge' ('body of evidence') which our confidence rests on. We develop this ever-increasing foundation of knowledge based on evidence only when knowledge is congruous; when unconscious intuition is ever-increasingly supported and augmented by conscious facts and proven methods.

Not least, autonomy is required for rational and strategic decision-making; the freedom of informed choice in our lives. This is another supporting foundation for our personal power, self esteem and confidence, which they are not able to develop without.


against you – dependence

Healthy mental development requires autonomy. If the pathways for autonomous thought are not developed, or if they are occupied in habits of wrong use due to conditioning, autonomy will not emerge as intended and we are left with a compromised system which is dependent, feels powerless or helpless, has low self esteem, poor confidence, difficulty making decisions, and in extreme cases cannot make decisions at all.

Without autonomy to think and interact for ourselves, the resulting personality is a counterfeit construction; fragmented, shallow and insincere, constantly at threat of external control or abandonment and not just vulnerable to but dependent upon external conditioning. With dependence comes poor self-awareness, which leads to poor self care and often inappropriate input. Such people literally cannot decide what to do unless told to do it by someone else. Of course, if things go wrong, they feel they have no responsibility (because god/my sergeant/my parents/Alice told me to do it). In this state it's easy to get lost; feeling like we don't even know who we really are, or that we are only half awake.

The greater the depth of congruous associations we can generate, the more congruous knowledge we can assimilate, the more coherent and independent our personality is likely to be. Quantity of useful experience tends to breed quality via pure practice, as we are designed to improve through error-correction. The trouble with this is that we are conditioned not to think that way. Traditional schooling has never embraced divergent and lateral (and in many cases, formal reasoning) thinking modes, and is extremely unlikely to, dangerous as they are to counterfeit games. Schooling conditions us to think linearly and vertically, to do only what we are told, never to innovate, and to work step by step through a problem to reach a single solution or conclusion without ever seeing the big picture or deciding how it is relevant to us personally.

We are taught instead to try to make sense of the world by classifying and memorizing millions of individual unrelated facts and being able to recall them, parrot-fashion, for 'exams' (all this 'examines' is the efficacy of declarative memory during the short term between viewing and repeating unconnected sets of words.) Unsurprisingly, this gives many the impression that the world doesn't make sense unless one is very very clever and the rest of us not-so-intellectual ones must depend on these 'experts' who 'profess' to interpret all these facts for us.

...What can I do? -Nothing, dear; you're not qualified. We are not usually taught to think for ourselves, let alone educated in the different methods of thinking for different types of problems; at school or in work we are encouraged to think about nothing beyond what's necessary for doing what we are told. We are never expected to think for ourselves; we are conditioned to rely on teachers or 'bosses' to do the thinking while we concentrate on remembering the words they spout in order to be able to write or repeat them afterwards.

There is virtually no learning and no autonomy going on here because no methods which result in learning and autonomy are being used or demonstrated. Not even the first bases for natural learning are covered -equal power relations and equal respect between student & master. Most of us come out of school conditioning with very little real knowledge or ability regarding how to use our minds in practical ways, and are immediately coerced into another conditioning context; 'work' and/or 'marriage' and the inevitable attached game of 'Let's get into huge debt in order to have a roof over our heads'.

Once again there is little time for real thought, and no time at all for innovation or creativity. Most people we meet are apparently drifting through life in a half-aware state like this; doing a job they dislike and at the end of the day going home to a situation they dislike, or to the bar, with no real plan or goals; minds are just coasting on standby or too busy with a thousand worries while they let poor quality input condition them what to do, say and think next. If anything goes wrong anywhere, devoid of personal power they fearfully strive to blame anything or anyone except themselves. Nobody anxious likes taking responsibility (indeed we are legally advised in society to avoid it at all costs, lest we be sued for damages or, god forbid, lose our no-claims bonus.)

It is, amazingly, still possible to develop self-dependence (known as self reliance) despite these circumstances. To do so, we must recognize the areas in which we are most habitually dependent and develop alternate strategies to become more responsible for our own wellbeing and keeping our development on track.

In real life, every area of unnecessary dependence restricts our development. Emotional dependence can be just as restrictive to our development as physical or psychological dependence. To avoid dependence on something we have to replace it with something better; not just stop doing it, whatever it is. Dependencies are habits; ways of life that have become automatic, behaviors we may not have even thought about, but like any sort of habit they cannot simply be dismissed. It is of no use telling someone to stop wiping our backside if we are incapable of wiping it ourselves.

Here we must embrace the fact that we are responsible; fully responsible, for ourselves, our habits, our behavior, our input, our output, our own minds, thoughts and lives. A neat shorter version is, 'we are responsible for our own development'.

Practicing autonomy isn’t easy, because we do not have a great many good models of autonomy to go before us for an example. The few good examples are more isolationist or physically challenging than many of us would like.[4] But they don't have to be; we can even practice autonomy skills in a group (debating is one good example -what do YOU think? What evidence do YOU have for that assertion?) And as we know, not only is the alternative being stuck with living out our lives as some society's puppet carrying out mindless conditioned behavior in counterfeit games, but the real bummer is that this leads to brain atrophy and decline, with no further development and a high probability of dementia. Freedom to pursue further intelligence development is the immediate issue here; freedom to choose to avoid mental decline is something we come to appreciate more as years go by.

By practicing NH techniques such as those in the 'NHA Guide' section below, autonomy and its influence on the future of our own lives is something which we shall start to take for granted as much as breathing. It will become habit. We will automatically approach reality open-mindedly from a sturdy base of factual knowledge, thinking for ourselves while accepting that what will be is not yet determined and that we have the personal power to creatively steer the course of events in more beneficial directions. The experience of mental independence, freedom of thought, creative interaction, effective factual analysis and the sense of self-esteem and calm confidence they bestow, autonomy will become a familiar, habitual part of our day-to-day existence.


Understanding responsibility


“There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders.”

(JL Picard, Star Trek TNG)


Respond-ability is a concept some students have difficulty understanding at first, so we shall expand upon it here. Being responsible means having the ability to respond appropriately in any given context. 'Responding appropriately' does not require specialist knowledge in any field, but it does require that we accept responsibility for learning what we need to know and knowing how to deal with various different circumstances as they arise in our lives, without anxiety or panic.

Being responsible for our own physical health, for example, does not require that we each qualify as a medical doctor, memorize the details of every possible disease we might ever encounter and every drug currently available. It means that we are sufficiently aware of and paying attention to our physical selves to the extent that we can detect imbalances of various kinds and know how to respond when we do. Whilst the response certainly could include research of biological facts if we are curious about how bits of our bodies work, it might well require none at all; sufficient sensitivity and prompt responses to physiological changes will serve us just as well. Since we are capable of learning by both experience and intellect, we can adjust our own education to our ongoing requirements and personal interests as we get to know ourselves better.

Culture progresses on the premise that we are all different; that each of us will study in detail our own personal interests; and that we will all share our knowledge and skills for the benefit of each other and ourselves. Responsibility for our physical health requires self-awareness of our own particular 'differences'. Awareness of our physical selves, their systems and their operations is a good basis for physical health, just as it's useful to know about things which are harmful to us.

Most of us do have some awareness of our own bodies and current state of health. This knowledge is a part of culture and, while many people probably wouldn't be aware enough to know if their body developed (for example) mild emphysema, it would be unusual in the extreme to meet someone who wasn't aware enough to know that their chest had lungs in it. Over time, by paying attention to ourselves, we get to know ever more closely our physical strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of the state of our body in health and awareness of how it feels when slipping out of health are all that is required, along with the ability to respond.

Responding means doing something about it if all is not well. Thus knowledge of how to take care of ourselves includes first aid, knowing what our body & brain needs, nutrition, and some basic physiology and psychology. This basic knowledge enables good prevention measures against all disease, rather than waiting until dysfunction appears and then trying to ignore it by suppressing the symptoms. So responsibility means not just detecting and responding to changes in ourselves; it is up to us to take preventative measures against illness by keeping ourselves in good condition and avoiding unnecessary hazards in the first place. Different hazards will be relevant to each of us as we all have different strengths & weaknesses in our immunity and abilities.

The same awareness should be extended to the mind and mental health. Getting to know ourselves and recognize changes really well is THE best preventive against problems both physical and mental. Changes in a known system are recognized fast and we respond rapidly to anything that might throw us out of balance. We have other NH tricks to support this response, since we know about the power of our moods, surroundings, attitudes and even thoughts to affect our physiology. We are equally responsible for input control and what we pay attention to, where we choose to be and when.

In reality, a healthy mind taking care of a body achieves a dynamic homeostasis, and seldom does disease get a look in, but if it does, the body and brain give us quick, clear signals through a well-developed unconscious-to-conscious system. Our conscious awareness is then expected to make all the necessary adjustments -the decision-making conscious mind must take 'manual' control of what is ordinarily an automatic system, and respond appropriately to the situation.

If a specific problem arises, it is our responsibility to find out as much as we can about the problem, and this may includes things like seeing specialists, researching online, consulting with others with similar problems, and seeing what culture in general does about it, whatever it is. Then we can make informed decisions about the best way to treat the problem and address the cause if possible.

Biology expects all knowledge to be shared with equal power relations between 'experts' and students. We visit a doctor because we need more information in order to make more informed decisions -NOT in order to hand over the responsibility for our health to 'an expert' and forget all about it. A medical professional is usually able to give a diagnosis and has access to tests; all of which are valuable to us in exploring our options. Once we have a known name or definition for a problem, the world of proof-hunting, research and the choices of treatment are open to us. We are free to expand our knowledge in any area we choose, in order to employ the most efficacious methods for us personally to overcome the problem with the least harmful side effects. This approach uses our culture's knowledge and resources as intended – as tools we can use for ourselves, working with others rather than being dependent on them.

In counterfeit games, where personal responsibility is discouraged in favor of dependence, a situation of unequal power relations is set up between 'ordinary people' and 'professionals', and we are expected to have no competence of our own, but to be dependent on other, 'more clever' individuals who are 'qualified' to deal with such things. Through surrendering responsibility for ourselves to another, awareness of our systems' signals and responses are lost. Then the 'expert' is the only hope left (and 'experts' themselves are pushed to capitalize on our incompetence, lest they find themselves unemployed). In exactly the same way, our responsibility for educating ourselves is handed off to 'teachers' (more of these professionals) who keep us way too busy with conditioning to have any time to do sufficient real learning of our own.

In the real world, if I trip over and fall, it is my fault for not being aware enough, not paying attention, not looking where I am going, and so on. Accepting responsibility for our own behavior in this real, everyday way, is essential for further development.

Self awareness through paying attention educates us in our own body signals and corresponding responses. Once we signal the unconscious that this information matters to us (by paying attention) it will respond by making such signals clearer and more apparent. By paying attention we are training it to do so. An ache or pain or feeling of nausea should be heeded as diligently as the fire warning light on a spaceship console would be. Responsible people look for the 'fire' at the first sign of trouble, put it out and repair the system (instead of disconnecting the warning light with drugs).

When an acute (sudden onset) problem has a clear-cut initiating factor (such as, we drank 10 beers, ate a vindaloo, and now we don't feel too well this morning), drugs can be great. When a chronic (ongoing) problem is known to be genetic (such as, congenital hormone deficiency), or caused by injury or infection, drugs can be great to help restore normal function. But for many problems, drugs are only able to treat the symptoms, many drugs come with a side-serving of dangerous side effects, and they are not always a best first choice either in addressing problems or discovering their underlying causes. Educating ourselves always gives us greater freedom of choice.

It is our responsibility to pursue whatever knowledge we find we need in order to remain healthy. Obviously as an NH student you are already interested in knowing more about yourself, or you would not be reading these tutorials. In order to thrive we need the awareness of how to respond; how to interact with our various contexts; in ways that use them as resources to optimize our quality of life. Those 'various contexts' are our bodies, our physiology, the places and people familiar to us, our environment, our culture and our minds.

Awareness and knowledge of these contexts is what biology considers part of our development. Only when we are adept in all these contexts OF reality can network 5 develop full autonomy and enable us to emerge as fully intelligent entities with competent reasoning powers ABOUT reality. Only with all these resources at our disposal do we have all available options, free will and full awareness within any context.

Without them, we do not have a sufficient body of knowledge or experience to impart the cognitive 'certainty' which enables motivational self esteem and personal confidence – and their associated neurotransmitter set- which is required for further development. We are designed to use declarative knowledge to compute informed decisions, to make educated predictions and strategic plans, and we cannot do so if we are neither informed nor educated.

We have to assemble network 5 as we have all other networks -by healthy use. Being trapped in a life of endless mundanity is the result of programming in 'conditional respect', which we discuss later in this tutorial. It enforces dependence on others to acquire our needs, while being too anxious to change these circumstances. Fear of change, fear of what others will think or do, fear of being thought of as 'different', fear of upsetting people and what the repercussions might be, fear of mistakes, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of the different, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, are all examples of anxiety, regardless of what we blame it on, holding us back and preventing further development. But the responsibility to deal with our own anxiety and build resilience is ours and ours alone, and to do so we need to program ourselves from a context of unconditional respect for intelligence in ourselves. Only with personal freedom (autonomy) can we achieve personal integrity (an integrated personality).

When responsibility is hijacked by conditioning, mental development sits dormant in a 'holding pattern', and it can only go on circling around looking for input for so long before it starts to degrade. Closed, unchanging systems cannot break the laws of physics and are headed for entropy, Captain. Only with a dynamic equilibrium -where innovation and change is balanced by regularity and order (whereby the known can continually integrate more and more of the unknown) – only by constant adaptation for improvement, can we truly thrive and progress.

Individual lives are finite, development takes time, and time lost to repetitive conditioned behavior is time we’ll never get back again. When opportunities for beneficial change present themselves we need to seize them, but we also need to strategize to enable such possibilities to emerge by using our creative and intellectual abilities. We need to go forth in our lives with questions, ideas, directive plans and goals and projects; be ambitious and realistic about finding our answers and carrying those goals out; and always responsible (able to respond appropriately) for carrying them out.

This is a vital lesson we must apply to our own lives – we have to make it so - we have to acquire autonomy for ourselves. Nobody’s going to do it for us, indeed many may well try to dissuade us. Regardless, we need to step out of dependence on counterfeit games for our programming, if development is to continue. And we need not only to be able to survive, we need to be able to thrive (succeed to the extent that we can benefit others as well as ourselves, helping them to gain independence in their own right.)

To clarify this, it is important to remember that we are NOT responsible for anybody else; nor should we be telling anyone else what to do, aside from answering questions as honestly as we can. We assist others to explore autonomy by being an example of autonomy; nothing more is required. Most of all we must not take steps that make anyone more dependent; as this is against all our interests. We do not know enough to know what is best for anyone else or humanity in general, but we do know a little about what's best for biology, and with attentive introspection we can get to know ourselves well enough to know what's best for ourselves and take responsibility for providing it.

If optimal development proceeds as intended, when autonomy blossoms we end up with the ability (and responsibilty) to design our own interface with reality -to craft our own ontology on a basis of fact and experience, to choose our own metaphoric representations for framing reality and design our own inner model for perception of it, to apply our own emotional weightings and bestow meaning where we desire it to exist, to control our input and output, our physiology and psychology, according to free will and healthy intent. To direct our own game. In effect, the only self-help system which works is the one we design and implement for ourselves; updating according to our own development. Our best programmer and game designer is always ourself. The mind has become its own context.


understanding resilience

Here's another great word for getting rid of boring people at parties: Thigmomorphogenesis. It refers to the response by plants (in the wild) to mechanical stressors by altering their own internal chemistry and growth patterns. For example, a plant exposed to strong winds will respond by anchoring itself more firmly and rooting in a direction appropriate to balance its leaning habit, and a plant nibbled by predators will increase its production of pest-repelling chemicals. In short, it adapts optimally to a given context by growing faster or slower, thicker or thinner, taller or shorter and producing more or less of certain chemicals to suit that context, responding to the given conditions and building up protection against environmental stressors just as our immune system builds resistance from experience.

The equivalent term for humans is (happily) simply 'resilience', but it applies to us on more than just a physical/chemical level; because humans have extra systems such as emotion, psychology and cognition, and resilience applies throughout. A resilient emotional system, for example, is a well-balanced one which can pass healthily through conditions of grief, sorrow or trauma, recover and re-balance itself over time. A resilient immune system can adapt to repel a broader spectrum of infections. A resilient personality is one which is very difficult to condition.

Resilience is a dynamic process wherein individuals display positive adaptation. We don't just learn from our mistakes or problems; we strategically benefit from them by becoming better-adapted. Developmental psychologists have generally described it as the capacity to rebound from stressors effectively and to attain good functioning despite adversity.

Responses in a healthy congruous mind are regulated by the prefrontal cortex, which as we will see during the anatomy section of this tutorial is associated with judgment and decision making.

The involvement of the prefrontal cortex in responses is one of the things that separates humans from other animals. Most animals have little voluntary control over their expression of emotions, for example. Human beings are able to make judgments and decisions regarding our emotional state, and to act on those decisions even when those decisions require deliberately changing our emotional state. Our ability to change the way we experience emotion is important for two reasons: first because it means that people have a real, if limited, capacity to snap out of attitudes that could harm them, and second because choosing to snap out of an attitude is usually a good decision that can have a positive influence on our overall health.

In part then, resilient people know that they can change their moods, and so they do change their moods. But in part they are also able to weight information more accurately, and safely ignore stressors as 'irrelevant' which would capture the attention of someone less aware. The less resilient among us can fall prey to anxiety and hopelessness.

It is possible to become more resilient. Building resilience against stressors (and thus avoiding anxiety) is an important asset for autonomy. A body and mind free of unnecessary anxiety and its accompanying problems gives much more time for development.

Differences between individuals in stressor-resistance correlate with differences in the same individuals psychologically in unconscious-conscious bonding; and anatomically in the density of connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Obviously, no matter how strong the connections between N3 and N6, they cannot function under the influence of anxiety (where blood flow to the PFC is greatly reduced). Since frontal networks depend on rear nets' input to exercise output control, no self-control can be accomplished when these connections are absent, damaged or deprived of nutrients.

We cannot assess the degree of our resilience straightforwardly via MRI for this reason; even if connections are dense between these networks we cannot know whether an individual closes them down habitually due to anxiety. We can however compare fMRI during minor stressors with qualitative and behavioral studies, and such research has found that the degree to which the prefrontal cortex interacts with and controls amygdala activity is related to how well subjects cope with stressors (ie how resilient they are).[5]

This is how a healthy mind builds resilience to stressors: experience recalibrates the system.

Many systems and functions in humans need calibration from experience in order to set (or reset) their 'defaults'. In many cases hormesis applies (low exposure protects against higher exposure), but there is more to hormesis than meets the eye. It is not true, for example, that if we experience small amounts of stress hormones as youngsters we will adapt more easily to stressful situations later in life -exposure to stressors is not sufficient for resilience (and nor is exposure to pathogens sufficient for immunity). The important factor for hormesis is the tying together ever more efficiently of our stimulus-response procedures. This means that stress hormones MUST be followed by relaxation hormones (and exposure to pathogens must be followed by an immune response) or hormesis will fail and resilience does not increase.

A million stressful experiences will not build any resilience against stressors, but every experience of stress-relaxation will. In the same way, a million experiences of desire for food will not fulfil our nutritional requirements, but every experience of desiring PLUS eating & digesting food will. Neurotransmitters, and their associated behaviors, always come in pairs. Stress and relaxation, desire and fulfilment, excitement and calm, seeking and finding. The experiences which build mental resilience confirm our unconscious knowledge that stress is always followed by relaxation. Only the full cycle with complementary neurotransmitters prompts gene transcription, enabling the protein production that builds denser neural networks (and greater resilience) during learning.

To get this clear here's another example: early experience of moderate amounts of glutamate followed by matching GABA release will build resistance to the neurotoxicity of higher amounts of glutamate in later life; but high doses of glutamate alone cannot achieve this.[6]

In short, a little bit of stress will never protect against a lot, but a little bit of stress-relaxation will do so very effectively.

Hormesis is an epigenetic method and in such methods we usually have to employ 'both' rather than 'either/or' thinking. A dynamic equilibrium always strives to maintain balance, and what hormesis provides is practice for the system at maintaining balance, opportunities to recalibrate and extend personal limits and, importantly, memories of the procedures which successfully restore balance.

Thus we have to cast aside old-paradigm one-track thinking such as, 'exercise builds muscles', 'studying makes you smarter' or 'eating good food gives you optimal nutrition' -no, it doesn't. Exercise AND relaxation is what builds muscles. Studying AND sleeping is what builds strong long-term memories and denser knowledge databases. Eating AND digesting good food is what provides optimal nutrition. Desire AND fulfilment is what makes great sex. In every case, if you cannot achieve the latter, the former is useless to you (and if it continues without respite, is harmful. Over-studying with poor sleep is as bad as overeatng with poor digestion, or over-stressing with poor relaxation).

Because we have now progressed to advanced NH, we therefore don't expect any counterfeit game scripts such as 'no pain no gain' to arise in discussions of this tutorial.[7] The same networks deal with both exciting and unpleasant stressors. Thus, ANY stressor will suffice to build resilience, so it's up to us to choose our favorites. Exciting stressful activities are followed by appropriate relaxation; and resilience to more difficult stressors (including the nasty kind) is thus built. The moderate stress-relaxation from repeated exposure to beneficial stressors (for example, moderate exercise plus relaxation), can effectively improve our ability to respond to more harmful stressors, both concrete (such as injuries or influenza) and abstract (like emotional blackmail or bereavement).[8] The best potential approach therefore for increasing or enhancing resilience in a healthy system is regular exposure to moderate and exciting challenges followed by adequate relaxation and assimilation.

This phenomenon is often viewed as a form of behavioral immunization, and although the term ‘behavioral immunization’ was borrowed from the field of immunology, the adaptive immune system in stress resilience does have a significant role in developing coping responses to stressors. Immune deficiency results in an impaired ability to cope with stressors, and psychological or emotional stressors can also impair immunity if anxiety arises (high cortisol compromises immunity).

Since any stress/relaxation context will suffice to build resilience against other kinds, [9] we may choose the most exciting stressful pursuits we enjoy. We do however need to choose some, as we need to be continually stretching our limits and relaxing sufficiently to grow.


“Wise Samurai build resilience having laughs doing karate with mates in garden.

Stupid Samurai build resilience street-fighting with idiots in raw sewage.

-Who you want sit next to at supper?”

(Sensei Labrat, 1999.)


We address methods to help assess and build resilience in the NHA Guide to Methods & Tech later in this tutorial.


Resilience is intimately tied up with our immune function efficiency and our physical health. If we can learn to cope better with stressors so as to avoid becoming anxious, and to lessen the time we spend feeling sentiment, we can have a positive impact on our mental, emotional and physical health.


The effect of autonomous framing on resilience

Sometimes when people encounter setbacks, misfortunes or 'bummers' (such as a failing to complete a project, being rejected by someone attractive, being misunderstood, or getting a negative review) – they decide instantly to be more aware the next time. In other situations that are equally disappointing, other people may feel inclined to just give up.

How can similar setbacks produce such different responses? It comes down to how much autonomy we feel we have in what happened, according to new research. When setbacks occur, the level of autonomy we perceive may even determine which of two distinct parts of the brain will handle the crisis.[10]

Imagine Alice has just failed at passing a driving theory test. She might consider she wouldn't have failed if she had studied harder, studied differently – her responsibility, under her independent control. So Alice resolves to try new study methods and practice more to increase the probability of passing next time. In cases like this, fMRI shows activity in the ventral striatum, which has been shown to guide goals based on prior experiences.

Bob might have failed the same test, but he believes it happened because the questions were unfair and the instructor personally disliked him; things that he could not control but was dependent on. The sentiments produced by this uncontrollable situation he is not responsible for may cause him to drop the idea of learning to drive. Overcoming anxiety and refocusing on doing well in the test, or strategizing to take the test somewhere else, requires a more complicated thought process. In cases like this, fMRI revealed that activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is necessary to promote flexibility, staying power and persistence, and to figure out whether or not the goal is worth pursuing.

Restructuring a problem to frame it in terms that promote autonomy enables more positive responses. We explain how to do this in the NHA Guide to Methods & Tech, later in this tutorial.


DO IT NOW - assessment practice via objective metaphorization

1. Viewing your life objectively as an ongoing series of episodes or stories with you playing the main character, assess how closely the main character's physical needs are being met in this current story. (If you have difficulty being objective, call your character 'Alice').

Give the story marks out of 10 for each need met from the list below, where 10 means that need is 'completely met' in the current story and 1 means the need is 'not met at all' in the current story.


physical needs:

getting enough natural sleep & dream time

getting enough good nutrition

being clean, well groomed and hygienic

getting enough exercise to feel consistently fit

remaining healthy and free from physical problems

feeling comfortable

able to relax regularly

sensual pleasure


2. Without involving dependence on any other characters, assess what changes could be made in the current story to enable the main character to meet more of their own needs. Consider small changes which could change the scenes, and larger more radical changes which could change the plot.

3. Unless all your physical needs are perfectly met, assess whether there are any changes you (as the director) are able to implement today; no matter how small.

4. Make it so. -You have free will and choose to creatively direct your life, right? So get in the Captain's chair and start directing. See what it feels like to be a free, competent individual exercising your power. The probability is you'll come back for more. And in the meantime, all the little changes you make are adding up to more optimal development.



structure & function, anat & phys

About Network 5

The 'hub' of N5 is a conglomerate of neuronal cell bodies towards the front and side of the left hemisphere. Just like N4, Network 5 gets all of its input about “out there” from supporting networks. As we explained in Tutorial 10, networks 4 and 5 are organized such that two potentially independent but complementary systems for more conscious interactional processing symmetrically coexist; one at either side. They play complementary roles in memory, communications and learning, and each processes a different stage of the learning cycle; Network 4 the 'practice'/consolidation stage and N5 'variation'/retrieval. They also play complementary roles in data interpretation and language comprehension, as we'll see in future tutorials.


Network 5 functions

N5 processes facts in the format of formulae.[11] Formulae come in abstract symbols; for example formal words, mathematical or chemical symbols; which can represent concepts or concept sets. They describe relationships, and may refer to concrete constructs; for example E = mc2 is a formula in mathematical symbols which explains the physical relationship between matter and energy; or they may refer to purely abstract representations (for example a + a = b, where a=42 and b = 84 is a formula which shows us how these number and operator symbols relate to each other in our mathematical system. Likewise the formula 'A cat is a mammal' helps explain the relationship between an individual type of animal and our chosen taxonomy of lifeform- categorization.

N5, just like N2, specializes in processing tasks involving adaptation, mapping, exploration and autonomy; but this time round, these processes are not employed in the concrete tasks of taking physical care of ourselves and exploring the concrete manipulation of things and stuff. Those skills went automatic long ago (or should have), and we now apply these processes to the manipulation of abstract formulae representing facts ABOUT things and stuff; and also abstract knowledge skills such as self-awareness, feedback processing, analysis, decision-making, formal language and calculation. N5 relies on declarative memory for all this (which we'll be exploring in a future tutorial).

To the core behaviors of spreading apart, stretching and balance that it shares with N2, N5 adds analysis (the opposite of synthesis) -the process of individualization -of taking things apart in specific ways to explore their details, whose relationships we represent with formulae.

This applies on both concrete and abstract levels -the same networks that allow us to analyze an engineering puzzle and gain an ever-expanding knowledge of the world also enable us to gain an ever-expanding knowledge of ourselves via self-awareness and self-assessment. Playing with concrete input leads to abstract formulae, and playing with abstract formulae leads to concrete adaptations.

Formulae can encode a lot of information and the best formulae (much like the best computer programs) are the shortest and simplest ways to convey a given amount of data (because N5 is very aware of our resources and energy-related factors (such as time, speed, logistics, memory space,) and ergonomic processing. Thus 'feline' is a better formula than 'cat-type' even though they carry the same amount of data for association; 'feline' is both more clearly defined and more universally understood.

Formulae are not necessarily universally understood (although some are); many are individual to a given place or time (for examples; roman mathematics had no symbol for zero, different places on earth use different calendars, and different people use different written languages, some of which can represent concepts that others cannot). Universality of representation is a benefit, so these are not the best formulae. As our culture becomes more interactive and unified, many formulae are consciously and deliberately being adopted as 'planetary standards', which is a big help in everything from communicating scientific data to reading musical scores.

In humans, all networks contribute to “taking in the whole scene”; between them attending to the global aspects of our environment as well as having the ability to focus in on individual features. Specialization according to its type of processing and memory then gives each network its own individual advantages, and N5 has substantial advantages in decisive thinking, spontaneity, innovation, assessment and introspection.

N5 is employed in the 'variation' stage of learning, when fine-tuning of ability makes regular habits permanent and intelligence is freed up to innovate and explore the possibilities afforded by applying and adapting the new skill or knowledge in different ways.

The overall directive of frontal networks is “Change the context to fit in better with the agents needs”, and N5's personal directive is to play its part in achieving this through the behaviors, “assess and impress”. As well as analyzing input for ergonomic processing, N5 modulates aspects of our output continually, both assessing our needs and fine-tuning our performance via feedback loops.

Each network contributes to different types of interaction, and Network 5 plays a major part in autonomy, formal language, intellectual, personality structuring and self knowledge skills; not least because it houses declarative memory for analysis and computation; most essential for decision-making. It also plays a major role in our factual understanding and explaining of reality via abstract formulae; enabling us share and to pass on knowledge in ways that are more accurate and more universally understood.


Neural correlates of autonomy

In this tutorial we are focusing on N5's autonomy, personality structuring, self-awareness and self-knowledge skills. As we mention throughout, all frontal nets rely on rear networks, whose subroutines they recruit and abstract for various processes. So in looking at N5; a main supporting network in autonomy, we must also consider the roles of mid- and rear networks involved in supporting the processing tasks of N5.

The capacity for volitional behavior 'of our own free will' is considered essential to human nature. Yet neuroscience and behavioral psychology have traditionally ignored the topic, largely because (a) without modern technology the mechanisms involved have long been unclear, and (b) in less enlightened times, those conditioned by god-based counterfeit games disapproved of science investigating 'god-given' free will, with unpleasant consequences for anyone who suggested it.[12]

Over the past decade however, researchers have amassed experimental evidence for a number of conscious sensations and measurable unconscious neurological responses which can be proven to indicate autonomous behavior.

The two most important sensations are intent (our motivation for behavior) and responsibility (exercising our ability to respond).

Prior to voluntary behavior there is conscious intent. When we decide of our own free will to reach for something, say 'Yes please', eat lunch or design a boat, this intent is followed by unconscious planning and then conscious performing of the detailed behavior and its execution. Subjectively, we experience a sensation of responsibility. We feel that 'we' are responsible for initiating this behavior and seeing it through. If someone else physically moves our limbs or speaks for us, or psychologically forces or coerces us to reluctantly perform behaviors, we feel like somebody else's 'puppet', and while this can be quite funny at parties, if it's imposed against our wishes we feel like we are being 'used' and there is no sense of personal volition because there is no volitional intent. We have made no decision to deliberately do this, whatever this is. We may have no objection to doing it, but it is not what we would have chosen to do of our own volition.

On the neurological response level, the complex, cognitive processes of decision-making leading to volitional behavior are tightly related to autonomy and our concept of free will; both immensely important factors in our ontology. Physiologically, the pathways and processes facilitating concrete sensorimotor autonomy are also recruited in making those abstract decisions and in giving us our sense of 'self'. This is reflected in our choice of sensorimotor and spatial metaphors (for example, 'are there any obstacles in the way to carrying this through?' 'have you grasped this?' 'what is the shortest route to success?')

Recent research has identified networks of brain areas, including the pre-supplementary motor area, the anterior prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex, that underlie volitional behavior. These areas generate information for forthcoming behavior, and also cause the distinctive conscious experience of intending to interact and then controlling one's own interactions.[13]


Brain areas modulating volitional behavior.

The primary motor cortex (M1) receives two broad classes of inputs. One key input (left side pic) reaches M1 from the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the pre-supplementary motor area (preSMA), which in turn receives inputs from the basal ganglia and the prefrontal cortex. In a second cortical network (right side pic), information from early sensory cortices (S1) is relayed to intermediate-level representations in the parietal cortex, and from there to the lateral part of the premotor cortex, which projects in turn to M1. This parietal–

premotor circuit guides object-oriented concrete behaviors, such as grasping, using current sensory input; but also contributes to abstract aspects of volitional behavior.

Early studies cast doubt on volition because they did not take into account unconscious thought as being volitional (since, the argument went, such processing is not conscious, it can't be under our control.) This view was incredibly naive, as anyone who can walk, ride a bike or drive a car will notice. More recent research has clarified the picture somewhat, by looking at how the brain responds to decision-prompting stimuli, such as what to make of visual input.

In such instances, earlier research has shown that the brain amasses neural activity in preparation for a response, priming us for the behaviors associated with the most probable decision. Thus the response unfolds as the data is turned into imagery (imagined) in the eidetic format our whole brains can understand, and we interpret what we see based on whatever we’ve learned (remember) of the past and whatever we expect (imagine) of the future.

Current research suggests that sensorimotor behavior, such as choosing to move an arm or leg or finger works in exactly the same way as abstract volition (which makes good biological sense; multiple applications for the same software saves a lot of energy). Our unconscious gets a hint that we are contemplating making a movement, so it gets ready. A gradual buildup of neuronal activity known as the “readiness potential” (RP) reliably precedes voluntary self-initiated movements, in the average time locked to movement onset. And it’s only when a critical mass of RP occurs that decision making actually takes place and the intended behavior goes ahead.[14]

Previous studies have shown that when we have to make a decision based on visual input, for example, assemblies of neurons start accumulating visual evidence in favor of the various possible outcomes. A decision is triggered when the evidence favoring one particular outcome becomes strong enough to tip its associated assembly of neurons across a threshold.[15]

When the imperative to produce a movement is weak, the precise moment at which the decision threshold is crossed leading to movement is largely determined by spontaneous subthreshold fluctuations in neuronal activity. Time-locking to movement onset ensures that these fluctuations appear in the average as a gradual exponential-looking increase in neuronal activity. The the readiness potential (RP) doesn't represent a decision to move, but is merely a sign that the brain is paying attention and preparing for the probable.[16]


autonomy & decision making

Literally every behavior that we perform requires decision, and much of this is unconscious (we do not have to consciously decide whether or not to sweat when we are too hot, for example, whereas we DO have to consciously decide whether or not to take our jumper off). Volition consists of a series of decisions regarding (a)whether to interact, (b)what behaviors to perform and (c)when to perform them.

Of course, all this goes out of the window in an emergency, where automatic unconscious responses initiate to protect us in super-fast time, missing out frontal lobe processing altogether. But ordinarily we should be interacting from our own volitional intent. The conscious mind is making the decisions; the unconscious is just doing background work to get ready.[17]

For aforementioned reasons, research focusing on the networks and processes of decision making and autonomous behavior is only relatively recent. The approach and topics vary; some scientists study simple, elementary physiological processes, i.e. decision making for sensorimotor movements, other researchers focus on the complex moral, cultural and analytical aspects of decisions.

The processes of volition, from decision making to execution of voluntary movements have now been explored using different techniques – with 2D extracranial measurements of the regional cortical cerebral blood flow (rCBF) [18] as well as with high resolution positron emission tomography (PET). [19] The results of functional imaging showed that the output for voluntary movements and voluntary decisions emerges in the prefrontal cortex and its coherence reflects the correlation between volitional behavior pathways and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, especially at the left side (N5). In simple terms, the functional anatomy of our decision making and the functional anatomy related to free will & volition, overlap.[20]

Awareness, alertness and decision making processes are strongly dependent on circular connections between our cerebral cortex, subcortical structures like basal ganglia, hippo, amy and thalamus; and frontal nets where the programmes and decisions finally transform into output as behaviors; these connections are called cortico-subcortical frontal pathways.

Abbreviations: MD, mediodorsal thalamic nucleus; CM, centromedian/parafasicualar complex of the thalamus; amy, left amygdala; hipp, left hippocampus; PCC, posterior cingulate cortex; put, right putamen; pall, right pallidum; NAcc, right nucleus accumbens; caudate, right caudate nucleus; dlPFC, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; dACC, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex; pgACC, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex; aI/fo, left anterior insula-frontal operculum.

Regions with preferential connectivity to the MD are shown in blue and those connecting stronger to the CM/Pf complex are shown in red, the strength of the connectivity is represented by the brightness of the blue and red colors. The PCC and the nucleus accumbens do not show significant preferences and appear in green.

The ventromedial PFC (vmPFC) is also involved. Interactions between the Dorsolateral and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex facilitate all decision making (not just, as was formerly thought, only decisions where self-control or multiple choice was involved).[21]

These connections are the neuro-anatomical substrates of turning thoughts into behaviors and studying them is helpful for understanding the relationship between software (procedures of mind) and hardware (the brain and body) in volitional behavior, so it's worth having a look at them in more detail.

There are five pathways (loops; see diagram above), transferring either rear net, N3, or frontal net data (sensorimotor, emotional or cognitive information), all following the same principle: the information from various parts of the cortex converge to basal ganglia, from there to the nuclei of the thalamus, and finally to different parts of the frontal cortex.[22]

For the concept of free will two of these loops are of greater importance: (1) the mesial loop, which ends in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) in the orbitofrontal region of N6 and in the SMA; and (2) the lateral loop, which ends in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC).

The ACG is the area where motor, emotional, homeostatic and cognitive processes are coordinated in order to produce appropriate choices. The SMA plays an important role in sequencing and programming of the course of motor behaviors, which are necessary for execution of behavioral plans.

The dlPFC forms plans and sets goals and also participates in the process of choosing of the response, especially if the context is new, or if the action is generated internally.

These regions are essential for both decision making processes and the experience of free will. They are also deeply related to the feeling of “I”, which we experience as expressing our own personality and identity.[23]


The decision-making process

The core of all decision making is accurate judgment of motivational probability-evaluation; that is correct evaluation of the benefits, hazards or consequences related to the given decision and its related behavior. This motivational aspect is extremely important for evolution since it is this which allows the development of behavior patterns for successful survival.

Information about the possible benefits or hazards enters from N3 into the relevant motor and cognitive loops and allows preparation of the appropriate motor and cognitive plans leading to the final decision. Dopaminergic neurons in this pathway calculate two variables: current disproportion between expected and actual benefits, and long-term maintained signal, which correlates with uncertainty or unreliability of benefits.

Different aspects of benefits (probability, size, importance) are processed separately. The dlPFC receives data on prediction-error from N3, N4 and N5, and integrates them with cognitive data relevant to the decision. This includes behavior pattern inhibition (which enables us to change our minds). Combined with information from memory about past similar circumstances and decisions, and predictive probability assessments in working memory, the required output is reached; the most sensible, useful and adaptive decision is made.

All of the decisions we make are designed to be 'intermutual'; that is to say, unconscious knowledge and conscious awareness; rear nets and frontal networks, should be in agreement. Put simply, if the unconscious shouts 'fire!' the conscious should be working on how to put it out or what the best route of escape is. Each part of our intelligence relies on the other for information which it cannot get itself. Inability to make a decision indicates that either some data is missing, some data is not understood, or some data is simply wrong (and is for example a counterfeit game script) .

All of the conscious decisions we make are influenced by unconscious information.[24]

In a congruous state our unconscious knowledge, accumulated over time, is integrated with conscious elements to boost decision accuracy.

The key formula we aim for to support any decision is A > B ('A must compute as greater than B'); where A = benefits and B = dangers.

The systems which alert us to benefits and dangers are controlled by rear networks; as you will recall from past tutorials, the dopamine/serotonin system provides us with warnings of alarm or disgust, but also prompts desire, pleasure, excitement and the anticipation of benefits. The oxytocin/cortisol system and machinations of the amygdala enable both empathy and antipathy; making new friends and defending against enemies. The information which frontal nets receive from these departments weight decisions accordingly, but our frontal networks also have their discriminatory systems for 'fine tuning' that information and adding their own; for example N4 tells us whether the context is serious or not serious and how urgent it is, and N5 enables logical analysis of the facts by established methods to give us more accurate 'certainty or uncertainty' probability calculations in the decision-making process.

All this is finally shunted to N6, where it is coordinated and used to determine the most beneficial output (interaction; behavior).


Autonomy as a process

Everything we do which follows our biological intent is adaptive, most especially play. Through play development moves us always towards autonomy; the intelligence to survive and thrive, the power to interact in ever more and different contexts as we emerge.

Our development unfolds on two levels; the unconscious conceptual processing in our unconscious networks, and the conscious self playing on the surface. The ability to continue to play on the surface depends on the success of the processing work beneath, which depends on the success of the play.

Intelligence is the ability to interact with reality in life's various contexts. Interaction means a dynamic exchange of information. The biological plan for intelligence development requires that we interact with various contexts of increasing complexity as we learn and grow. At conception we are microscopic but given the optimal context for growth (our rapidly developing bodies; the vast possibilities of the biological support system, and its energy) to call on, our minds grow at an astonishing rate.[25]

We interact with this first context by playfully moving, learning how it surrounds us and what its boundaries (which impose the current limitations on interaction) are. This playful interaction is the growth of intelligence and is the pattern of learning our entire life should follow.

When we have played with a context sufficiently for a knowledge of that context to reach a critical mass; when we can glean no more new input from it, when, in other words, we achieve autonomy; we break the boundaries of dependence upon it, and the locus of our intelligence shifts into a new more complex context. (In the first shift, for example, we release a cascade of chemicals that bring about the process of our birth.)

Whenever we complete a stage of development, a critical mass of stress-relaxation learning cycles has been completed for that context and at least one barrier of dependence has been broken by autonomy. Our 'muscular mindedness' to enter into new stress-relaxation experiences leads to ever-greater independence; greater autonomy. We learn that each time we interact, the reality context meets us halfway and augments our information with its own. These natural learning experiences are the logical extension of play; creative experimentation-experience, in the service of survival.

To break the boundaries of dependence on each level we need first the ability to detect what the current boundaries are, and second the ability to depend upon our own system to successfully replace what is currently an external dependency. We need, for example, to break the habit of dependence on being fed by developing the ability to feed ourselves autonomously, through playing at it (practice). This step brings more benefits of independence (or it should) such as the ability to eat only when we are hungry rather than when someone else gives us food, and the ability to learn more about likes and dislikes and choose what to eat.

Intelligence proceeds from the concrete to the abstract; and our first great shift towards independence is on the concrete level; we must develop sufficiently to gain the ability to supply our own oxygen and digest food independently. Remember, we don't have to bother about breathing or eating for the first stage of our development; someone else is doing it for us. Yet the instinct to draw our first breath at birth as an individual organism is as strong as our current desire for air if stuck under water; it's primal. With our first independent breath we have broken the concrete physical boundary of dependence on the womb as our source of energy and input and shifted our pov big time.

Our second shift towards independence is concrete procedural (spatial); we learn to balance and move our bodies safely through space and manipulate objects without dependence on being carried or assisted by carers. To do this we have to get the hang of internal and external muscular control. We learn how to put food into our mouths at one end, and how to control our bowel and bladder functions at the other, we learn how to move about effectively by ourselves, and how to manipulate all the muscles required for talking purposes. We now have the autonomy of motion.

Our intent to pursue development into abstract mental autonomy is no less primal than our instinct to breathe, but just as we learn to walk and talk and get that out of the way before learning to run, climb and make up songs, the biological plan aims to get unconscious networks completed via physical learning before abstract learning can take place, so our third great shift into autonomy brings emotional independence. We no longer need constant company in order to feel safe or to get new input or entertainment; we can now provide input and entertainment for ourselves from our environment and our imagination. This is part concrete and part abstract, as we have to get the hang of internal chemistry control as well as mood and behavioral manipulation, how to calm ourselves down, how to inspire ourselves, how to stay cool in a crisis, and how to cheer ourselves up. We are now self-sufficient in emotional chemistry and our moods are not controlled by the behavior of others.

Success in physical and emotional learning gives us sufficient competence to allow the mind to process physical data and behavior patterns unconsciously, freeing up conscious attention for intelligence to pursue more abstract matters such as creativity and intellect.

Complete physical competence means not just the ability to walk, talk and control bodily functions independently, but also self-control in the realms of behavior and emotion, AND intellectual competence in concrete operational thinking. Only with all this already established can development continue and thriving be assured.

We need about two years' practice of modeling and playing with the uses of creativity and concrete operational thought; as well as the general control of our body, behavior and emotional responses; before we can develop further. Through creative modeling, we furnish ourselves with the processes of mind required for breaking the dependence boundary of concrete operational processing and acquiring the ability for creative invention and innovation. We are at this stage no longer dependent on others to create the things we desire -we can write our own stories, songs and poems, draw or paint our own pictures, design our own spaces, and control to some degree our own environment. We are no longer dependent on only things and environments which already exist -we can create new things to play with and new environments to play in. We no longer rely on known processes for doing things, but can invent our own.

Once these abilities are adept, intelligence can hand their processing over to unconscious networks (make them automatic habits of thought) and break the barrier of concrete operational processing by freeing up intelligence; to learn formal operational thinking, executive procedures, and experience fully conscious awareness not only of the self, but of reality.

Every time we make one of these boundary-breaking phase shifts, we experience a brain-growth spurt and we begin to develop another network, as well as upgrading those we developed before it to connect to and interact with the new neurons forming that network. This happens regardless of age; in exactly the same way that a muscle which is regularly and healthily exercised will increase density regardless of the age of its owner; the same is true of brain networks. Programs have to obey programs, and wherever a network is used healthily it cannot help but develop more healthy connections.

Thus stage by stage we learn independence; first physical, behavioral and emotional independence and then psychological, cognitive and interactive independence. Independence does not mean isolation -it means we are capable of fulfilling our own needs but choose to interact for mutual benefit and augmentation (eg, if you want to play a symphony, share skills or exchange stuff, it's useful to have others involved). This is what is meant by autonomy -the ability to have freedom of choice on every level possible.

We also gain an extra layer of freedom from distraction with each shift. Once we are able to take care of our bodies, for example, things are running well; so we are freed from internal distraction from biological problems or issues. At the second shift we are freed from external distraction as we hone the skills of attention and observation, and at the third shift emotional control brings freedom from distraction by sentiment -and resilience against emotional stressors.

In the fourth stage we are freed from the distraction of conditioning; by developing the methods to focus our attention on our own interests, compute for ourselves how to behave, and making creative cultural and personal choices rather than blindly following instructions.

At the fifth stage we are freed from the distraction of false information; by applying reliable intellectual methods to determine facts from evidence. We are free to make up our own minds what appears to be true from the available evidence and interpret it in ways that make sense to us personally, rather than rely on others' conclusions. We are also free to pursue truth and discover new facts for ourselves. We have our own mind and are no longer dependent on 'experts' to define the boundaries of reality. We ergonomically manage our own ongoing education, accurately assess our own situation and strategize to acquire the best reliable input.

Our sixth shift brings freedom from distraction by anything irrelevant -via output control, control of our own mental processes, and coordination of our interactive skills. This gives us the power to interact on every level. This means we have the ability to respond appropriately in the widest variety of contexts, where 'appropriately' means bringing the greatest amount of benefit. This ability to respond is responsibility. Being independent requires accepting personal responsibility for the wellbeing of our bodies/brains, our behavior, our relationships, our input, our emotional stability, our creations, our minds and our thoughts. That's what is meant by 'we are responsible for ourselves'.


Autonomy & free will

Autonomy brings a strong feeling of voluntary control over our decisions and interactions; an awareness of behaving ‘as we choose’. The efficiency of the complex, underlying processes of decision-making are strongly affected by our awareness of free will, because we shape our ontology using our beliefs and knowledge about ourselves and reality. If we frame the world as a place where free will is impossible, we are unlikely to develop it. If we never get a chance to practise it, we will never develop it.

Without the personal freedom of anxiety-free independence, responsibility and choice, we cannot have free will. Our own free will is not dependent on anyone outside ourselves, nothing can influence our choices but ourselves, nor is anyone else (or what they might think) responsible in any way for our decisions or behavior. As our real selves, we do whatever we personally honestly feel are the best things to do in each given context.

The most common misunderstanding about free will and predetermination is that people regularly mistake predictability (via probability calculation) for predetermination.

Something being predictable does not mean it was in some way 'preordained' by an external entity. The universe is equipped with operators whose behaviors can be predetermined (see: laws of physics) which are hard wired into reality as far as we are able to tell, and due to them a lot of what happens (planets forming, life evolving, your behavior, etc) is inevitable and requires no agency or 'director'. That is to say, self-organizing systems are not random events which happen 'by accident' but nor is any 'designer' necessary. Stuff organizes itself, in context of these operators.

Predeterminism is the doctrine that events are controlled by some outside agency (but it was elucidated in times before we had computers or UFOs, so people generally allocated the agency of 'controller' to gods). Something being predetermined means that some external agency decides what is going to happen or what we are going to do before we have had a chance to make up our own mind about what we are going to do.

Certainly there are operators (like the laws of physics, or our own intelligence); variables which are able to determine the basics of behavior, and physiological conditions that cannot be altered (such as our species needing oxygen), but what must be grasped about free will is that our own intelligence IS such an operator; it is not a fixed variable but a dynamic variable interacting with these fixed parameters. It is also, as we have mentioned, a complex network system; its inherent nature is to self-organize; bringing the order to signals out of the chaos of noise. We can use it to work with other operators, as it will interface just as effectively with the laws of physics and biology as it will with our own circumstances, relationships and behavior.

When we have a dynamic operator like intelligence on board it becomes possible to use it to predict probable outcomes and direct the plot away from those circumstances and towards where you want. This procedure could be looked upon as hacking, but is more usually known as progress.

We are the only consciously strategic 'determiners' of events this planet currently produces. Certainly other animals can be consciously strategic, but they don't work with abstract information in order to achieve this; their power to interact is specialized to one or two contexts, and it is reasonable to predict for example that gorillas will probably not design and construct spacecraft anytime soon.

Voluntary behaviors are related at root to our perception; our awareness of what is really going on; what is really true; what really works; what really happened in the past and what is really probable in the future. Accurate perception and processing from rear nets is what frontal networks rely on for everything. All of our executive abilities are enabled by and rely upon us being our real selves perceiving the real world and having the power to interact with it.

Thus Rogers' core conditions (Honesty/congruity/genuineness, Empathy, Unconditional positive regard) echo the requirements of intelligence for development, and at this stage that should not surprise us. Honesty or genuineness requires that we be our real selves and that we make sure our input is 'genuine signal'; not irrelevant noise.

Without autonomy, we cannot genuinely 'be ourselves', and we experience ongoing unconscious anxiety. Without genuinely true information, we cannot compute real answers or solutions to problems, and when things don't work out as we expected or we feel unable to understand what's happening or we feel we can't cope, we experience conscious anxiety. Without autonomy we cannot even be honest WITH ourselves, or with anyone else, about anything; because we do not know what the truth really is. While we remain dependent on what others think or what society thinks or pacifying anxieties, we are not free to perceive reality because we cannot build the network to perceive it; we cannot continue to develop.

Anxiety's favorite counterfeit script about free will is much the same as society's view of a non-governed culture: “Ooh, we couldn't allow that; it would be anarchy! People would just revert to savages and run round killing and raping each other!” This is based on the hypothesis that we are all mad without society to keep us under control and 'civilized'.

Why would a species evolve that way? The short answer is that it wouldn't. An open system can't revert to a closed one without running into entropy. What society refers to as 'people' means, in real life, dysfunctional people; it's major product and resource.

Static systems need a constant input of energy to keep going. The bigger they get, the more they need. A static society creates dysfunctional people who are dependent on it, provides a game in which they can pretend to be not dysfunctional, pretends that dysfunctional is normal, and perpetuates the dysfunction down the generations. These people, through dependence, work hard for its systems. This is where society gets its needed 'extra energy' from.

Before you think, 'Ooh-er, The Matrix'; this is not deliberate, nor is it conspiratorial. Society has emerged from anxiety-driven groups into a complex network and as such will automatically self-organize, indifferently using a never-ending supply of dependent people as the fuel to drive and maintain a closed system, motivated by fear of real life.

Society is not alive and doesn't have any feelings or morals or intentions; it simply, blindly and repetitively does what it has to do. Autonomy is a huge threat to any such system because autonomous people are able to determine truth for themselves and function in real life without dependence. Worse, they can even be a drain on the system; taking resources out of society and putting them into culture, and society relies on things being the other way round.

Considering all this, it should be clear to us that most of us are likely to experience some anxiety as autonomy develops. While some have described experiencing autonomy and being their real selves as 'a strong feeling of relief at there being no need for deceit', others describe feeling 'cast adrift' on a sea of confusion when they first become aware of their real selves. What is needed here is trust in intelligence and patience, because this phase passes and it feels like we 'caught up with ourselves'. From then on, we start to become more aware of the power autonomy enables and our confidence grows.

Autonomy is the optimal processing state for logic, analysis, formal reasoning and intellect because it is the optimal state in which to clearly perceive the truth.

the most important bits to remember

We break a boundary of dependence and move into greater levels of autonomy every time we make a phase shift. Each stage leaves us more and more independent, in different ways. We must become physically autonomous before our minds can become autonomous. The firm knowledge that we are able to survive in and capable of understanding the world is the basis for our confidence and self esteem.

Free will is the ability to consciously exercise -or choose not to exercise- our abilities at will; where the only borders and boundaries are contextual natural laws.

The ability to respond is called Responsibility. Being independent requires accepting personal responsibility for the wellbeing of our bodies/brains, our behavior, our relationships, our input, our emotional stability, our creations, our minds and our thoughts, our own lives.

Something being predictable does not mean it was in some way 'preordained' by an external entity.

All of our executive abilities are enabled by and rely upon us being our real selves perceiving the real world and having the power to interact with it.

Autonomy is the optimal processing state for logic, analysis, formal reasoning and intellect because it is the optimal state in which to clearly perceive the truth.

DO IT NOW - declarative memory speed-learning hack

Choose any topic from the NHA site that you do not know much about yet but are interested in and would like to learn more.

Instead of researching the topic to learn it, imagine that in half an hour you are going to have to explain the basics of it to a newbie.

Spend 10 minutes (only) reading about your chosen topic on the website, making notes and planning how you will explain it as you go. Can you construct any diagrams on the topic? Can you think of any analogies that might make it easier for your student?


See notes at end of tutorial


self awareness & assessment

The 'self' is the humanistic term for who our minds really are as a person; our 'inner personality' if you like. Some prefer to call the self the mind, some prefer to call it the spirit, psyche, identity, personal intelligence or soul; some call it software; it doesn't matter what you call it as long as you grasp the concept of what 'it' is and you know what you mean.

We tend to view our mind as the inner expression of our selves, and our personality as the outward expression of our selves, although it may be more accurate to conceptualize the mind AS ourselves and the personality as the way we express ourselves.

Awareness of ourselves as separate entities with an ability to affect our contexts emerges from our early interactions in reality bringing awareness of differentiation between 'self' and 'other'. We smile and someone smiles back, we touch something and make it move. Neurologically our explorations prompt rapid growth of spindle cells in the frontal cortex, in areas which will later monitor and control volitional behaviors associated with self-awareness.

Having realized that we exist as a separate experiencing being, we next becomes aware that we are also an object IN the world. Just as other objects including people have properties that can be experienced (big, small, hairy, smooth and so on) we become aware of ourselves as an object which can be experienced and which has properties.

However, our software makes us much more than a static 'thing'; more than 'objects in containers using conduits for interaction'; although literally we can represent these roles, for example right now I'm a mind (object) in a brain (container) using a body and a computer (as conduits for interaction); yet nothing remains fixed, because our minds are dynamic things in dynamic interactions within dynamic contexts.

As we develop, our minds are revealed as one of those 'special' items which can function as objects, containers AND conduits all at the same time. And despite being unique individuals, minds are never here 'alone'; we are always here interacting in contexts (often in several nested contexts at once).

Understanding that we have a unique name and responding to it furthers our awareness of ourselves as individuals, yet our perception of ourselves is subject to the same limitations as our perception of all things, and factors such as attention, concentration, observation, modeling etc apply to our learning about ourselves ust as they apply to learning about anything else in reality.

Like all awareness, Self awareness has concrete and abstract dimensions. The categories of differentiation we first apply to ourselves are at first concrete; such as our physical appearance, our behavior and our likes & dislikes.

Concrete self awareness is physical, physiological and sensorimotor; it occurs when we see our face in a mirror, or experience physiological responses which lead us to reflect on our emotional state, for example whether we are happy, excited, or anxious. Concrete self-awareness can be invoked by looking at ourselves in a mirror, and it has three important consequences for how people interact.

First, emphasizing concrete self awareness can result in an intensified emotional response. If emotional responsiveness is low, this is a useful hack, for example in reweighting memories or attempting empathy. If we already feel positive, reflecting on those feelings of happiness while looking into a mirror will lead us to feel even happier. In contrast, an anxious individual who is concretely self-aware but has poor emotional control may come to feel worse when looking at themselves because they dwell on their negative state of mind.

Second, concretely self-aware people are more likely to experience clearer self knowledge; and we can enhance ours by focusing on internal events while looking in a mirror, which renders us more perceptive and more able to report our current state with greater accuracy.

Third, people who are concretely self-aware are more likely to show integrity in adhering to personal standards of behavior and natural morality. When we are more aware of and confident in our true beliefs, we are more likely to act in line with those beliefs rather than being influenced by normative pressures or conditioned by external propaganda.[26]

As we develop we add psychological concepts and procedural abilities to our self-awareness, (such as 'good with languages', 'fast learner', or 'often inquisitive'.) In categorizing likes and dislikes we had to make judgments about things and contexts in relation to ourselves; now we have to make judgments about ourselves in relation to things and contexts. There is a world of processing difference between understanding, 'how important is this in relation to me?' and 'how important am I in relation to this?' We need both, in order to develop accurate judgment and decisions later on. Understanding what is truly important is vital for comprehending both 'the big picture' and our individual personal details.

Abstract self awareness is awareness of our own thoughts and thought processes rather than of our physical or physiological responses. It is most noticeable during creative insight or in 'The Zone' (see Tutorial 12) but can be invoked by introspection and sometimes by daydreaming, meditation or mindfulness.

The humanistic approach in biopsychology states that the self is composed of constructs unique to ourselves. The self-construct includes three components which together construct a healthy 'I'm OK you're OK' subject position. All are important for good psychological health. They are:

self image (how we perceive ourselves)

self esteem (how we relate to ourselves)

self actualization (how we relate to our potential)


Our self image is strongly grounded in the past (memory), our self esteem is dependent upon the present (assessment), and our self actualization looks to the future (prediction). Self awareness encompasses all of these.


Self image

How we imagine, think about and see ourselves includes the influence of output behavior on inner personality and has a powerful effect on how we think, feel and behave in the world; contributing to personality structuring.

The core conditions are well known to us at this stage in interactions with others; here they apply to our relationship with ourselves. Rogers' core condition 'honesty' used to be referred to as 'genuineness', and (interestingly) has more recently been referred to as 'congruity'. The shifting title for this concept reflects the changing awareness of what it really means.

Being honest with ourselves about ourselves and clear about what and who we really are can be a difficult task to accomplish if inaccurate self assessment or lack of self awareness misleads us into false conclusions or counterfeit self-positioning. In constructing a self image, assessment, facts, feedback and experience are our best friends; and there is nothing like the scientific method for detecting whether our assumptions about ourselves are true or erroneous. Learning the facts about how we develop gives us a firm base of factual confidence about what our brains and minds are attempting to do, what they are designed to do, and what they are currently achieving.

DO IT NOW – Test Self Image

1 Answer the question 'Who are you?' in 20 different ways, writing down or typing your answers. Try to do this quickly (we know that's not easy, but try).

2 Assess your accuracy -how many of your answers can you think of an example of proof for? For example, if one of your answers was 'I'm a mammal', you can clearly prove that. If one of your answers was 'I'm a kind person', can you think of an example to prove that? Assess all of your answers in this way, and take as much time over this as you like; this is where you get to think really hard about yourself.

3 On a scale of 1-10, how would you currently rate your self esteem? How has doing this exercise affected your confidence in your self-knowledge?


See end of tutorial for notes.

Self esteem

Accurate self assessment and appraisal results in what we call 'self-certainty' – our confidence or self esteem. When our confidence in ourselves and our abilities is justified, we relate to ourselves in a realistic and accurate way, and we feel good about ourselves (in fact if one really IS realistic and accurate, humans are absolutely amazing, from the microscopic level all the way to the macro).

For high self esteem, confidence needs to be aligned with actual competence. Unjustified certainty (assuming we know or can do more than we actually can) is arrogance, which often leads to delusions, accidents and disasters. Unjustified uncertainty (assuming we know or can do less than we actually can) on the other hand leads to self-deprecation, which in turn leads to dependence and helplessness as we become what we are surrounded by (in this case we are 'surrounded by' our false beliefs about ourselves, and the mind always tries to conform our behavior to our expectations). Without genuineness (congruity) we cannot achieve high self esteem, and without self esteem we cannot approach ourselves with unconditional positive regard (self respect).

Self esteem and the resulting self respect rely ultimately on determining certainty (awareness of the real facts) about what we know and can do, awareness of our ability to interact, and creativity in deploying those facts and abilities to approach uncertainty with successful interactive strategies.

In other words quite reasonably we need the confidence built by proof and experience to justify certainty about ourselves and about what we believe, and we need self assessment and feedback on an ongoing basis; in order to make the optimal adjustments to continue to develop in healthy ways by navigating through the dynamics of reality.

High self esteem reflects confidence in our own abilities, which leads to less concern about what others think, and higher optimism. Low self esteem reflects low confidence and can lead to anxiety about what others think, higher pessimism, and wanting or pretending to be (or even believing that we are) someone else (eg, Society's Ideal Self).


Self esteem & self respect

How we think about ourselves, and our feelings of self-worth, are of fundamental importance both to psychological health and to the likelihood of personal success -the state in which we can pursue and achieve our goals and ambitions in life and continue practising entelechy.

Self-worth as a construct may be seen as a continuum, with possibilities ranging from the very high to the very low. A person who has high self esteem has justified confidence and positive emotional feelings about him or her self, faces challenges in life, accepts failure and unhappiness at times, and is open and anxiety-free with other people. This is the 'I'm OK, you're OK' subject position, one polarity of the continuum of self worth.

A person with low self-worth avoids challenges in life, assumes that life is painful and unhappy all the time, feels sentiments and thinks/believes negative things about themselves, and will be defensive and guarded with other people. This is the 'I'm not OK, you're not OK' subject position, at the other polarity of the continuum.

In between lie the 'I'm OK, you're not OK' and 'I'm not OK, you're OK' subject positions.

Feedback from ongoing interactions with ourselves and significant others modulates our feelings of self-worth. We need to be regarded positively by ourselves and receive confirmation for that positivity from our context. We need to feel valued, respected, treated with affection and loved; both by ourselves and our loved ones.

If we are healthy, our self esteem is unconditional (ie, we know that we as an individual are worthy of respect regardless of fuckups, and are fully aware of why). Accurate self assessment is based on certified facts and reliable feedback, resulting in a justified pride in our achievements and a productive self improvement program shaped by being realistic about our current state and learning from mistakes.

Rogers makes the important distinction between unconditional positive regard (respect, with balanced power relations) and conditional positive regard (coercion, with unbalanced power relations).

Unbalanced does not mean unequal. Real life power relations are dynamic and temporary; whoever has the best ability to interact in a given situation automatically has the greatest power in that situation (for example, you temporarily hand over power to a surgeon who operates to save your life, but should that surgeon need to take an airplane and you're the pilot, s/he is handing power over to you.) Unbalanced means unjustified inequality; for example a person is not 'better than' another individual just because they happen to be an airplane pilot or a surgeon, so judgments of worth based on specialization, qualification or occupation are fictional (people like Einstein demonstrate this).

Congruity is the baseline from which fully functional individuals evaluate and judge each other in cultural and personal interactions, and it leads to the 'I'm OK, you're OK' subject positioning. The development of a congruous personality is dependent on unconditional positive regard for ourselves. We want and need to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like; our genuine self; our optimal self. The closer our self-image and optimal self are to each other, the more consistent or congruous we are and the higher our sense of self-worth will be. This is the process of self actualization; the maturity of a dynamic intelligence.

Unconditional positive regard occurs wherever we (and significant others) accept and love ourselves for what we really are. Positive regard is not withdrawn if we do something wrong or make a mistake. The consequences of unconditional positive regard are that we feel anxiety-free to try things out and make mistakes, even though this may lead to making things worse at times. People who are able to self-actualize are more likely to have received unconditional positive regard from others as well as themselves, as interaction is a main source of feedback for self assessment.

Conditional positive regard occurs where positive regard, recognition, praise and approval depend upon our behaving in ways that other people or society in general think 'correct'. Hence we are conditioned not to judge ourselves for the person we really are, but on condition that we behave only in ways approved by others in a counterfeit game. At the extreme, a person who constantly seeks approval from other people is likely only ever to have experienced conditional positive regard and will not achieve autonomy unless that conditioning is overwritten, and will always be dependent when decision-making on 'what somebody else thinks' or tells them to do.

Research indicates that people with lower self-esteem have less confidence in their own ability to improve themselves. They make less effort to regulate their mood; they do not try and maintain a good mood after a positive life event, neither are they motivated to elevate their mood after a negative life event.[27] 

DO IT NOW -Test Self Esteem

Rate yourself on each statement with a scale of 0 to 4 based upon your current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors:

0 = I never think, feel or behave this way.

1 = True of me less than half the time.

2 = True of me about 50% of the time.

3 = True of me more than half the time.

4 = I always think, feel or behave this way.


Self-esteem statements:

1 I like and accept myself right now, even as I grow and develop.

2 I am worthy simply for who I am. I do not have to earn my worthiness.

3 I get my needs met before meeting the wants of others.

4 I don't feel sentiments when other people blame or criticize me; I don't care what they believe.

5 I always tell myself the truth about what I am feeling.

6 I am incomparable and I don't compare myself with other people.

7 I feel of equal value to other people, regardless of my performance, looks, IQ, achievements, or possessions (or lack of them).

8 I take responsibility for my feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions. I do not give others credit or blame for how I feel, think, or what I do.

9 I learn and grow from my mistakes rather than deny them or use them to confirm my unworthiness.

10 I nurture myself with kind, supportive thoughts about myself.

11 I love, respect, and honor myself.

12 I accept other people as they are, even when they do not meet my expectations, or their behaviors and beliefs are not to my liking.

13 I am not responsible for anyone else’s actions, needs, thoughts, moods, or feelings; but I AM responsible for my own.

14 I feel my own feelings and think my own thoughts, even when those around me think or feel differently.

15 I am kind to myself and do not use “shoulds” and “oughts” to put myself down with false value judgments.

16. I understand others will have their own interpretation and experience of me and I realize their perceptions and opinions of me are their own constructions.

17 I face my fears and insecurities, taking appropriate steps to repair and grow.

18 I realize myself and others all make mistakes and can be unaware.

19 I accept responsibility for my perceptions of others and for my responses to them.

20 I do not desire to control others or allow others to control me.

21 I am my own authority. I make decisions with the intent of furthering my own and others’ best interests.

22 I create meaning and purpose in my life.

23 I have good boundaries when communicating with others.

24 I am responsible for changing what I do not like in my life.

25 I choose to respect all intelligent beings regardless of their appearance, beliefs and ontologies.


See scoring notes at end of tutorial


Self actualization

The mind does not perceive itself in a passive way. Instead, we are influenced by key motivations in thinking about ourselves. These are things such as synergy, autonomy, entelechy. Practicing entelechy is 'pursuing the path to our optimal development', which, as you will recall, Rogers called 'self-actualization'. Possibly the most powerful self-motivation we hold outside of survival itself is the intent for self-actualization; the development into and expression of our optimal self.

Our optimal self is the entity who we are growing towards becoming and would genuinely like to be. It includes our goals and ambitions in life, and is dynamic – i.e. forever changing (the optimal self we aim to be in childhood is not the optimal self we aim to be in our teens or late twenties, etc.)

NH could be in fact summed up as 'deliberately practicing useful, beneficial, helpful behaviors which lead to success so often that there is literally no time left for any harmful, useless, unsuccessful behaviors which lead to failure.' This activity IS entelechy -making energetic progress in the good, and it is not just the best but effectively the only reliable method of avoiding decline, dysfunction and atrophy in later (or indeed, earlier) life.

For a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruity. This means that self-actualization and the construction of a healthy personality occur when a person’s “real self” (i.e. who they really are) is congruous with their actual behavior and emotions, rather than pretending to be what they think others or society finds 'ideal'. The main things standing in the way of self-actualization are conditioning and anxiety, and the two usually present hand in hand forging dysfunctional false personalities wherever they go.

Rogers called people who are able to self-actualize 'fully functioning persons'. This means that the person is in touch with the here and now, with their own subjective experiences and feelings, yet continually growing, adapting and changing. Self actualization is not an end or completion of life’s journey; rather the 'aim of the game' is entering fully into the process of constantly developing and changing.

DO IT NOW -test self-actualization

Give each statement marks out of 5 as follows:

1 Never or almost never true of me

2 True of me less than half the time

3 True of me about half the time

4 True of me more than half the time

5 Always or nearly always true of me



1) I am getting enough exercise to feel consistently as fit as I can be.

2) I get sufficient sexual satisfaction.

3) If I had no money, I could still survive.

4) If I need information, I can find it, but I think for myself and question what I read/hear.

5) I don't care whether or not I am impressive to others.

6) I am creative and enjoy aesthetic pleasure.

7) I care for and nurture relationships using cultural skills & cooperation.

8) I am comfortable with my own interpretation of spiritual feelings and thoughts.

9) I keep myself, my clothes, bedding and home clean, well groomed and hygienic.

10) I contribute to our culture's body of knowledge and enjoy cooperating and sharing skills.

11) I love my life and have a deep appreciation of the good things available.

12) I never feel lonely or bored, and remain free from sentiment or adherence.

13) I have a healthy imagination.

14) I explore new ideas and learn new skills often, and enjoy pursuing exciting activities.

15) I have no debts and don't have any difficulty acquiring sufficient resources for my lifestyle.

16) I communicate with core conditions & equal power relations.

17) I experience laughter & fun most days, and have healthy input for entertainment.

18) I know my way around where I live and where to find resources I need.

19) I am comfortable experiencing altered states of mind.

20) I am in a state of creative play often.

21) I remain healthy, feel comfortable, and am free from physical problems.

22) I have free will, I am responsible for myself and my life, and I provide all my own needs.

23) I enjoy spiritual feelings and have sufficient spiritual satisfaction.

24) I am content with the quality of my relationships.

25) I'm sure that I can take care of myself.

26) I feel a fulfilling sense of meaning & purpose in life; an ever-increasing understanding.

27) My intuition is strong and usually accurate.

28) I strategize effectively and use practical methods for resolving conflicts.

29) I am able to relax regularly and I enjoy sensual pleasure.

30) I spend most of my time doing things I like, and take pride in my accomplishments.

31) I have some general knowledge/skills and some specific knowledge/skills.

32) I use flexible, adaptive rationality and know how to find evidence to support my beliefs.

33) I am able to maintain a nice place to live.

34) I get all the natural sleep and dream time I need.

35) I am anxiety-free.

36) I have spent more than five years developing a particular skill.


See end of tutorial for scoring


Full self awareness gives accurate knowledge of our own capabilities and performance, gained by paying attention to and conducting an ongoing assessment of relationships between our mind (self) and various contexts of reality.

To maintain dynamic awareness despite perpetual change we need to have an idea of how things around us are going and a concept of how we are progressing in relation to our contexts and biology's overall development plan.

As we discussed above, the brain uses various systems for calculating this including self assessment (where am I at?), contextual assessment (where are things at?) and feedback analysis (how am I doing?) to update our self awareness in real time. Our data from these ongoing investigations and judgment about them gives our awareness and behavior the ability to change, adapt and improve.


self-assessment, contextual assessment, and feedback analysis


We have already done quite a lot of self assessing in these tutorials. Self-assessment; or self-appraisal is a necessary processing activity for both forming our self image and navigating a course through life. It is also our assessment of our behavior, our relationships, our performance in all domains which ultimately enables self-improvement and the ability to expand our options in life.

The art of good self assessment lies in understanding that although assessment requires objective judgment, a self-assessment is not a value or moral judgment. Assessment is of no use whatsoever unless it is the first part of a plan for improvement. Self assessment is the tool that enables self improvement more than any other. It is NOT self criticism. Self assessment is not about looking for faults. We are assessing what we are currently capable of in order to stretch our limits and continue to develop. To know how far to stretch and in what direction for optimal benefit; optimal growth; these are valuable pieces of information which can only come through clear awareness of what we are capable of NOW. Therefore, the more accurately we can assess ourselves, the more obvious our optimal path becomes and the faster we develop.

Accurate self assessment obviously relies on both awareness of subjective states, such as our emotions, personality, and attitudes; and how objective we are able to be at determining the current limits of our own abilities. In planning our progress, our memory and prediction skills are also important for our assessment of where we are in the present. And all of these depend on our current brain activity being congruous.

We did a 'do it now' exercise above, called 'test self image', to give you an opportunity to experience this. When we have to answer quickly, strong fast connections are necessary to include frontal lobe assessments, and if front and rear nets are not well-connected, our initial answers can be somewhat naive.

Processing information in a more deliberate manner (as in the second part of the exercise) is the way in which rear-frontal lobe coordination permits us to come to more realistic conclusions, and in a congruous system these results should enhance, not depreciate our self esteem (because self esteem relies on accurate self knowledge).

In healthy people, the more we activate the reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving networks in the orbitofrontal cortex, and the denser their connections to rear networks, the more accurate our view of ourself becomes. Effectively, without congruity we can only get 'half a picture'.

To engage these processes we need healthy connections between rear and frontal areas of the brain (see anatomy section above). Congruity enables us to assess our behaviors honestly in ways that increase rather than decrease our self-esteem; our feelings of inherent worthiness as a human being. Accurate self assessment is the opportunity to get to know ourselves sufficiently well to identify the optimal current path for ourself and plan our route down it.


Considering these issues, we will realize that although it can be fairly simple to assess how our attitudes change over time (that is, predict how we will feel at certain time and then actually measure our feelings at that time); it is more difficult to measure our current self-knowledge and ability accurately. However, doing so is very important. Self-assessment information together with our background ontology shapes our self-referential relationship with ourselves as minds (our 'self image'; see above), and consequently our self esteem. What's more, our judgment and decisions use self assessment as a main variable; along with contextual assessment and feedback analysis. If we are lacking in knowledge OF ourselves, our judgment and decisions are not likely to lead to optimal outcomes FOR ourselves.

Good self assessment relies on facts; not fancies. Here is an example:

DO IT NOW - assess physical fitness

You will need: a watch or clock or phone with a 'seconds' indicator, and a small solid object safe to step on and off repeatedly. The bottom step of a flight of stairs is ideal.

1. Take your pulse. Count how many beats per minute. This is 'reading A'. Write down the result.

2. Stand on the floor facing your step. Watching the clock, step on and off the step three times in every five seconds, for one minute.

3. IMMEDIATELY, sit down and make a note of the time. Rest for exactly one minute.

4. Take your pulse and write down the result. This is 'reading B'.


See notes at end of tutorial.


The ability to remain objective is important for learning from mistakes without experiencing lowered self esteem. This comes with experience of knowing that in the short-term self-assessment may be surprising if we realize that we may not have achieved as highly as we would like; however in the long term this means that we are able to focus on weak points and improve them in order to achieve greater things in the future. When we realize the value of this ability our self-esteem is enhanced further than where it had been before self-assessment, because the plain fact is, most people are not able to self assess very accurately or very well. Chances are nobody ever taught them how. There are some useful exercises to help with objective self assessment, which are included in the NHA guide and hacks & exercises sections below.


contextual assessment

Our minds do not regard themselves as isolated objects; contexts are our 'containers' and events are our 'conduits' for interaction. What is really being 'assessed' in contextual assessment is our interactions in relation to contexts (whilst feedback analysis assesses our interactions in relation to events).

Being 'an individual' means you are a congruous entity which cannot be divided.[28] Yet unconsciously as adults we see our minds or 'selves' in terms of our relation to all the rest of reality; ie; according to how we relate to our contexts, as guided by our conscious ontology and unconscious awareness.

To say that self knowledge and individuality depend a great deal upon our relationships sounds like a contradiction in terms; however, we cannot escape the reality of our humanity and as such, unconsciously we have no choice but to look AT reality from a humanistic (anthropocentric) point of view. Sure, we can imagine what it might be like to be, say, a machine intelligence or a hawk or a mermaid, but ultimately wysiwyg; our mind is embedded in biology, we are primates, we have hardware much like that of other mammals, and we experience the same real world and the same physical laws as do other land-dwelling life forms of similar size. Unconsciously, we look at the world from an essentially straightforward mammalian pov. That which sets us apart is the capacity of our brains for running the software of conscious creative exploration, expression and deliberation, including deliberation about ourselves, which leads to self knowledge; and our contexts, which leads to creativity and innovation.

Our humanistic point of view necessitates that we view everything initially in terms of its relationship to ourselves and to our own development; and this is where relationships are relevant. Even a small amount of introspection reveals our mind's interconnected relationships within various contexts.

All of our relationships are contexts for interaction, and it is from mind + context that interaction emerges and creates more than the sum of its parts. We know that we can have many different kinds of interaction in relationships; for example we are able to relate to people, things and events in a selection of the following contexts or several at once:

physical /sensorimotor /material /sensual

physiological /behavioral /sexual /explorative

emotional /environmental /subjective /analogical /philosophical

psychological /cultural /objective /metaphorical /practical /procedural

cognitive /analytical /abstract /logical /rational /experimental

holistic /spiritual /metaphysical


The nature of all beneficial relationships in a dynamic system is reciprocal; a good example of a reciprocal relationship being: the physical brain 'uses' and shapes the mind just as much as the mind can be considered to 'use' and shape the brain. Every time we perceive an apparent duality in biopsychology, the solution turns out to be complementation or reciprocation; in other words the mind/context interaction formula is usually X + Y rather than X or Y.

There is no denying our minds' effect on our contexts. WE are HERE on every dimension. And we not only know that we're here; we express it at every opportunity by constantly creatively transforming the given, both in the concrete and abstract sense. Consequently we have done more to transform the face of this world than any other lifeform, with the possible exception of the first ones; those ancient, single celled, oxygen-producing replicators who ultimately transformed into us.

The earth from space no longer proceeds like all the other heavenly bodies surrounding our star; blindly and silently rolling through the darkness of space; our world carries intelligent life and so proceeds (currently) as a unique and rare individual, with telescopes and radar as eyes and ears, surrounded by haloes of winking satellites. It glows with the power of human communication; shines out with electric lights and reverberates with electromagnetic signals carrying human music, conversations, and artistic creations around its girth and out into space. Humanity announces, 'WE ARE HERE' to the universe on every available frequency and in every way possible, simply as a side effect of being here.[29] And now we're taking selfies from Saturn.[30]

There is information of ever-increasing complexity being contained and exchanged on this planet, and that makes earth a very special place compared with most similar-sized chunks of the known universe (the greater percentage of which contain and exchange very little information).[31]

Our relationship with this world has changed both of us in ways both marvelous and sublime. As much as our thoughts, emotions and behavior shape our contexts, our contexts shape a great deal of our thoughts, emotions and behavior (hence the efficacy of input control). Our personalities - and our awareness of them - emerge through autonomous creative interaction with varying contexts; these same contexts and interactions transcribe our genes. Mind and its creative cognition shapes those contexts in return, so that we and the contexts adapt to better suit one another.

The mind does a great deal of contextual assessment unconsciously; assessing our contexts in terms of 'vibes'; in the 1960s slang sense of "instinctive feelings" (short for 'vibrations'). If you visit someone and they have just had an anxious encounter, for example, you 'pick up the bad vibes, man'. 'Vibes' may allude to pheromonal sensory input as well as unconscious awareness of face and body language conveying subliminal alarm or welcome messages.

This is not enough for a contextual assessment and other processes get to work as we explore a given context guided by the 'vibes'; ideally using empathy, honesty and respect. We begin to assign our own mental constructs (ontology, framing, subject positioning etc) to the context. A critical mass of input triggers this process -we have the basics and can start to 'fill in the details'. N3 is figuring out, 'what's the story?' 'What is this context like?'

Every individual interaction is an opportunity for learning and bonding and each follows the learning cycle. Conscious contextual assessment begins when we make judgments based on our calculations; collapse the wave of 'probabilities' into our chosen 'actuality'; decide what we believe is going on and how to respond accordingly. This series of processes occurs very fast in real time for everything we do, and our success or failure in any given context relies on the degree of our genuine understanding of the context.

Contextual assessment is a main source of data for forming our initial ontology, which strongly affects our judgment and decision making.


feedback analysis

Reflexive thought is the ability to reflect on the way in which we think; but it also allows us to think about who we are and how we are perceived. Accordingly, we are constantly redefining ourselves in response to feedback.

Feedback comes from our own bodies and from observing the results of everything we do involving things, people, and events.

Like contextual analysis, a lot of feedback analysis is unconscious. When we venture halfway in a learning situation, including learning about ourselves, we are met halfway by feedback; that feedback being whatever we discover which adds to the data we seek. The usefulness of conscious feedback is limited by our ability to ask the right questions, and the ideal feedback comes from that 'Goldilocks Zone' for understanding; where the input data have enough points of similarity to associate with what we already know, but stretch our knowledge a little and add new concepts.

All input including sensory input is in some sense feedback; data selected in response to our attention. If we are not paying attention, the mind ignores sensory input (ever caught yourself daydreaming 'staring at the screen' with no idea what is on the actual screen because you were too busy thinking about stuff? Or finding yourself just 'staring into space' while you think something through? That's what we mean.) We have to 'go halfway' by paying selective attention in order to start analyzing feedback. Now we can see the importance of attention control.

By controlling our attention we can also control our feedback. There are several different ways to deliberately gather and use feedback data, but N5's speciality is to use it for assessment. From N2's childhood concrete 'quantity-surveying' processing trials of 'how many of these objects fit into this container?', network 5 deftly abstracts the estimation, prediction and ergonomics programs and puts them to work making practical assessments such as, 'will X amount of work fit into Y amount of time?' or resource assessments such as, 'will resources A suffice for population B?' or self assessments such as, 'How much have I improved at X?'

At each stage of development, reality provides that our interactions produce feedback, enabling us to assess our own progress unconsciously and make the changes which enable better interactions. The overall design is open-ended and limited only by our ability to interact and our awareness of the possibilities for interaction in any given situation. Each stage brings us greater flexibility and freedom.

Paying attention to (mindfulness of) the details of our bodies and their performance gives us first hand experience of what changes feel like and of how to adjust for homeostasis and autonomous control. Paying attention to our emotional stability likewise enables us to interact with and fine-tune it. Similarly, paying attention to our minds and their performance results in increasingly-accurate feedback and increasingly-accurate self-knowledge, enabling us to fine tune our own processing for faster development. Paying deliberate attention to data from our own performance is used for self assessment, a primary source of data for self-knowledge.

Technology has enhanced our feedback awareness via biofeedback and neurofeedback devices, which are discussed in tutorials 5, 6, 7 and 10. A useful psychological tool for eliciting accurate feedback in self assessment is the 'Why Chain Analysis', which we include an example of in the NHA Guide to Methods & Tech section below.

Feedback analysis is a main source of data for structuring our personality, which strongly affects our judgment and decision making. We weight feedback as we do any input; according to its importance for intelligence development. The most useful feedback for intelligence development comes from interactions with intelligence, and one of our good sources for this is (or at least, should be) other people.

Via the feedback from relationships and interactions, we are able to analyze and assess the effects of our own personalities and behaviors, judge whether we are behaving in ways that are nasty or nice, better or worse, correct or mistaken, decide whether we are fulfilling our potential, and adjust ourselves accordingly.


relationships with others

Among our cultural adaptations is our capacity for cooperation. We are able to interact with each other in a multitude of different ways. So are ants; but the issue is that we are able to maintain our individuality in such relationships and drop in and out of individual / group interactions as easily as we change our hats. Certainly we are biologically programmed to want to interact, but our choices are (a) legion and (b) directed by free will.

The underlying program for interpersonal interaction is the same 'learning program' regardless of details, so we can apply it to any relationship in order to assess how far that relationship has developed.

DO IT NOW – assess relationships status

Successful relationships/friendships/interactions develop according to the familiar emergence process. Choose three examples of other people with whom you have ongoing relationships/ friendships/ interactions, and assess how far through the program each relationship has currently progressed:


1 Concentration & attention: people who are interested in each other watch and listen to each other. Paying attention is the vital key for all that follows, but attention must be paid due to genuine interest. Paying attention to someone because we are afraid of them or concerned about what they might do to us isn't the sign of a healthy relationship. Do you pay genuine attention to any of these three people?

2 Observation & seeking: we find out what the other person needs most for current development and do your best to help them get it; physically, emotionally, psychologically. We also find out what currently harms/limits the other person and do our best to help them overcome it. Have you taken this step in any of these three relationships?

3 Modeling & bonding: Core conditions honesty, empathy and respect are our tools for interaction and enable embodiment. In sharing skills we learn from each other, modeling each others' best abilities to align our development with theirs. Are you able to do this is any of these relationships?

4 Practice & Sync: we do things together -not just talking, movie-watching or sex (although these are fine, they are more relevant in stages 1 – 3); but projects, creative endeavors, problem-solving, planning and strategy. Our personal development proceeds along parallel paths with each other and the relationship endures over time. Do you think this is happening in any of these relationships? How long have these relationships endured so far? Can you remember when you first met these people?

5 Variation & feedback: we use feedback from each other (and of course our own unconscious) to fine tune our relationship and further develop ourselves; aware that constant change is taking place and that we will change and develop together in order to maintain sync. If only one partner in a relationship is developing and growing, or both are growing in different directions, there is not full interaction. Sync is being IN time together, Variation is being able to CHANGE time together. (Think of two musicians. In stage 4 they are 'in time' - able to play in time with each other. In stage 5 they are attuned to each other sufficiently to maintain keeping time with each other whenever one or the other changes the beat; as in improvization.) This level of relationship uses creative dynamic improvisation -it is both 'in time' and 'in tune' and can navigate successfully through a wide variety of experiences or changes by working together. Any individual in the relationship can initiate a change, and the other/s will follow, yet nobody is 'in charge' of the relationship. Are your relationships resilient during change? Do you work together to overcome difficulties or take advantage of opportunities?

6 Competence & full interaction: the whole can achieve far more than its parts, and displays properties which neither could alone, yet each is an individual. Fulfilling relationships bring real joy, and great neurotransmitters.[32]


See notes at end of tutorial


The more we can be certain of the facts in any field of study, the more we are able to interact within that field. Accurate awareness of ourselves thus contributes to greater autonomy in interaction.

The mechanisms behind self awareness that we have looked at here all contribute to our judgment and decision-making abilities; not just in everyday life but in our original and ongoing construction of our ontology and our personality. Learning about these processes helps us understand how our ontology is intrinsic in the framing of reality and contexts and in subject positioning; and we use these as a background for all our decisions.

In order to make a decision regarding ourselves, what is going on, or what we believe, the mind must judge what that decision 'should' be, and in order to make accurate judgments we need accurate information. The more we can get, the more accurate our judgments will be and the more congruously our ontology and personality will emerge.

Our ontology and beliefs -including those about ourselves – affect everything we do, think and feel; but also everything we process (and an incongruous ontology can really screw up processing). Our intelligence relies on good input to come to good (ie, correct) conclusions; to form congruous ontologies and personalities. Both can, of course, be updated (and indeed regularly should be, since they are dynamic). Consequently what we believe today will not be the quite same as what we believe in ten years' time; not necessarily because what we believe now is wrong (although some of it probably is), but because we will each know more about reality and ourselves through different learning experiences.


What happens if things go wrong?


Faulty ontology & personality construction

The requirements for development of any life form or intelligent entity are basic: your entity needs a safe place or platform to run its programmes from, energy to run its programs, and input to run its programs about. We have called these three the requirements for a context or matrix in which intelligence can develop.

It may seem like stating the obvious to say it also needs the liberty to pursue intent without interference (to be free to develop without interference); but here we need to consider this. Since this is a self-developing system it will only grasp higher-order processing if it has enough practice with supporting applications and is free to run the programs (develop) as intended without coercion or interference.

Even when all the requirements for life are provided, it is easy to understand how interacting with the execution of this innate self-ordering system can augment, assist and optimize its development, and how interfering with it could delay, obstruct or prevent its development. We will only discover methods for doing the former by gathering sufficient knowledge and experience of the development process. Interference without awareness causes interruption of development; delay or dysfunction. We need the freedom to grow.

Anything which gets in the way of development causes delays because although all the requirements for growth are there, intelligence is prevented from using them, which causes anxiety. The interaction program cannot run when cortisol is high. The body and brain are in 'protection mode', so our attention turns to pacifying anxiety while intelligence waits for the problem to be solved. If it never is, development is stuck until we remove the anxiety.

All coercion causes anxiety because the mind knows when it is not running optimal programs, and the longer it goes on running the wrong programs or analysing the wrong input, the more anxious the unconscious becomes. Proceeding of its own volition and learning control by experience is the way our unconscious mind guides us towards or away from benefits or hazards and grows intelligence by playful exploration. If our desire to explore and play and learn is hampered, if the interaction program is prevented from running, supporting networks will not develop as quickly as they should. Right from the start we need freedom to seek and play with whatever we currently need for new input and to exercise our intent (which is after all the will of biology to develop optimally.)

We need TO explore and discover and strive for new learning, ability and independence; free from coercion or external interference -indeed, in the first two stages, ideally aided and assisted by our allies. Parenting is not just a policy of 'no interference'; it is (or should be) a policy of helping a new intelligence to do whatever it wants to do as much as possible. The only boundaries to exploration should be genuine dangers -a clear and present danger of death or serious injury. Part of a parents' job is to prevent such circumstances from arising by creating a safe space. Being there provides part of that space -the safe space for an infant is in the arms of a carer. As we grow, we learn to navigate more hazardous places, using parents as bodyguards and safety nets. If anything goes wrong, those who care about us are always within range to respond to our signals.

Left to itself, biology's plan thus aims for synergy; the ability to interact in harmony with our contexts; autonomy; the freedom for innovation and diversity; and entelechy; striving for the best in what we are and what we do. If these programs run uninterrupted, they enable optimal learning via experience (knowledge as the ability to do) and facts (knowledge as information).

Self knowledge is a part of this knowledge. From our known facts and experiences and expectations of reality we construct our ontology; our concept-set of 'where it's all at'. From our known facts and experiences of ourselves we construct our personality; our concept-set of 'where we're at'. If all goes well, both are congruous and we come to the conclusion (about reality), 'It's ok, I'm ok'; and (about ourselves) 'I'm ok, you're ok'. When all is well, 'ok' indicates that the situation or subject is understood enough to be 'copable with'.


Q – What are the two main causes of interruption to natural development, and why?


A - ...if you really can't guess the answers, you need to review previous tutorials.


If all doesn't go well, a number of things can go wrong. We have seen how with wrong input a personality can slip out of optimal structuring into 'I'm ok, you're not ok'; 'I'm not ok, you're ok'; or 'I'm not ok, you're not ok'.

Our ontology can do something similar, slipping into a pov of the constructs: 'I'm ok, but reality's not ok; 'Reality's ok but I'm not ok'; or 'I'm not ok and neither is reality'.

These are often adopted due to mistaking society and counterfeit games for culture and reality. We may be tempted to argue that reality is not at all ok, if we mistake society for reality. While culture is included in biology's equation for successful development, society is not; and is not an issue here. 'It's ok' means “this universe makes enough sense for me to interact in. I can cope with it”.

Extra problems arise when our ontology or personality are based on false constructs, because these are the crucial sources for our judgment and decision-making skills, which in turn affect all our behavior, thoughts and feelings as well as shaping the nature of our lives.

If our ontology frames society as 'the world', for example, every judgment, every decision, every calculation our intellect makes about reality will be fundamentally wrong. Real life will not go smoothly, ideological dilemmas will arise, the truth will be hard to discern, and many apparent problems will be insurmountable. When reality does not make sense, we do not feel at all confident to cope with it. In fact, we're afraid of it.

The only way out of this is practice at understanding and 'coping with' the real world via interaction with good input. Any time spent mulling over wrong input is time wasted not developing ourselves. As far as biology's concerned, the practical thing to do with a system which isn't being used as intended is to allow it to fall apart and recycle the parts. This makes perfect sense from an ergonomic pov in terms of physics, and we expect entropy in static situations. Understanding how the same rules apply to our minds is often a turning point in personal development. If we are stuck, we need to start moving forward again. All that takes is good input, tailored to meet our personal needs by us.

'Understanding reality' does not mean we need a science degree; it means we understand reality sufficiently well to interact with it, gain benefits and avoid harm -we are able to survive and thrive in it. Much of this understanding is unconscious, and our conscious understanding must agree with our unconscious knowledge in order to make sense.


Problems with self assessment

self assessment is not self criticism

Some of us (most often rear loaders) tend to avoid consciously assessing ourselves unless we feel we have made a mistake. Others (most often front loaders) go the other way, end up obsessed with themselves and self-appraisal and get stuck there, endlessly analyzing and evaluating everything they do. Both these behaviors are based on anxiety.

Without congruity, people cannot clearly recognize the difference between their self and their
behaviors; thus if their behaviors were 'wrong', 'they' were wrong, and doing things wrongly is bad, so we feel guilty...right?

Wrong. Being wrong is VITAL to learning, and being wrong is exactly how practice makes perfect.

Incongruity also usually implies viewing reality from a position of non-equal power relations ('I'm not ok, you're ok'; 'I'm ok, you're not ok', or 'I'm not ok, you're not ok'). The more we view ourselves from unequal power relations (for example assuming we are better than others), the less we connect rear to front networks and the less accurate our assessments become.

Incongruity thus causes big problems with self assessment. Research has shown that the less we are able to access frontal lobes in self assessment, the more we tend to see ourselves in unrealistic terms. [65]


assessing a fictional character

Another main problem with pursuing self knowledge is that instead of assessing their real self people set about assessing society's ideal self; their counterfeit game character. Thus they fall into the habit of assessing according to a system of 'types or traits', which are imagined as permanent and static. You can immediately see why this won't work for assessing a real dynamic system, right? What we are doing, in effect, is assessing a fictional character! This will not help us get to know our real self or how we are progressing. We must be clearly aware of the difference between what we might want to 'seem' like, and what we are really like. Only the latter will help us.

DO IT NOW -Spotting counterfeit categorical systems

There are many such systems in counterfeit games. Name three systems which (a) invent a set of categories based on arbitrary factors (eg, age, sex, color), (b) assign imaginary traits to each category, (c) assume association between real people and these categories and (d) judge them accordingly.

Answers at end of tutorial


Problems with contextual assessment

Contextual Delusion

Only understanding and interacting with real life contexts will enable development. Anything else is, after all, delusion.

'Delusion' in psychological terms is usually only referred to in extreme cases; for example, if someone believes they are Napoleon, or on the planet Venus, they are deluded. We use it in cases of schizophrenia (which means, 'delusions about reality') or when someone takes a cocktail of drugs which results in hallucination; or when someone is so paranoid they believe everyone is trying to kill them.

However, if we interpret 'delusion' as 'inaccurate assessment of reality'; we find that most people are delusional to some degree. We all, almost certainly, believe something which will at some point turn out to be not true. This is not delusional in the pathological sense; it is simply a result of not having 100% perfect perception and processing. It is in fact the psychological equivalent of physiological illusion such as optical illusion or auditory illusion. Relying on the same networks for processing both concrete and abstract phenomena means that wherever there is a limitation in concrete processing, there will be an equivalent limitation in processing the abstract. Our judgment (inner perception of what's going on) can be deluded as effectively as our senses (outer perception of what's going on) can be deluded.

We are all then to some extent 'delusional' and the nature of our development is an attempt to experience reality as clearly as possible and overcome our perceptual limitations by various creative means (currently such as telescopes, microscopes, x rays and MRI).

The degree of our own delusion due to wrong input (conditioning and layers of counterfeit games) is the biggest obstacle we may have to face in achieving full development. Delusion and congruity are as mutually exclusive as darkness and light, which is humanity's favorite metaphor for truth versus delusion. Our intuition serves us well; the way out of this is to use the light of understanding, of knowing the truth, of intelligence, to render limitations and boundaries breakable and the darkness of the unknown explorable. Delusion must be replaced with clarity and genuine understanding. Once again, this is only available via sufficient interaction with real life.

An extra tool our frontal lobes provide in this quest is the ability to reason; to question the validity of information, to think things through for ourselves; and our culture uses formulas, methods, experiments and measuring technology to help us do this. Thus we build a body of evidence and proof for that which we may legitimately call knowledge, and in these ways we avoid delusion. Solid proof for our beliefs is the foundation of our confident interaction as well as being necessary for a congruous ontology.

Our archetypal 'Hero's Journey' stories of good versus evil; light versus darkness; portray our own evolutionary journey to fully conscious awareness and our own personal development of fully actualized intelligence. It is the path taken to overcome delusion which transforms 'the faithful servant' into the ultimate programmer. The Hero's Journey is just N3's way of understanding our development in stages and the challenges we face along the way; our own personal anxiety 'dragons'.


Feedback problems

insecurity & counterfeit relationships

In many of those we meet, conscious thoughts, creativity, intellect and output are either shut down due to anxiety or fully occupied playing whatever counterfeit games they conclude are necessary to survive in a reality which makes no congruous sense, while the unconscious mind remains frustrated in blocked development, struggling to avoid atrophy, exercising to stay alive in any way it can. Breaking out of this state and achieving congruous autonomy is essential for successful relationships to form and endure (not to mention successful ongoing development).

If there is any unconscious anxiety (insecurity) lurking beneath our relationships, we are not cooperating in symbiosis; we are either dependent or coercing (if the insecurity is on our part) or we are helping to make/keep someone dependent (if the insecurity is on theirs) by pacifying them. Often it's both. We pander to each others' insecurities in an attempt to avoid anxiety, perceived social exclusion, loneliness, and abandonment.

These shallow, 'band-aid', counterfeit relationships permeate our lives. They work just fine for interactions with strangers on a daily basis but they are not fulfilling relationships and they do not provide the feedback or the neurochemical changes needed for further development which we acquire only through relationships of greater depth.

The judgment or opinions of anyone who is deluded or who is 'not themselves' is of no use for feedback. We will be getting opinions based on delusion and warped by sentiment, rather than facts based on proof and confirmed by emotions & intuition.

We have focused on the problems wrong input causes because it takes up time which is needed for running good input and distracts us from pursuing development. Here we must also consider the inevitable simple truth -if you put the wrong input into a system, it will compute the wrong output. Here are some examples:


      How we may see ourselves                                                              Feedback from an anxious person


I'm able to rely on my intuition                                                                                                You act on wild hunches

I'm concerned my partner is home late                                                                                    You're jealous they're with someone else 

I explain things in a clear scientific way                                                                                 You're a frontloader who overcomplicates things 

I'm more rational than emotional                                                                                              You're cold, unfeeling, and robot-like

I'm often correct if there is disputation                                                                                  You're pedantic, faultfinding and hypercritical

I'm efficient and get the job done                                                                                           You don't care about people

I can give instructions clearly                                                                                                  You're a pompous, humorless authoritarian

I'm stylish, creative and artistic                                                                                               You're eccentric, weird and a bit camp

I'm innovative and spontaneous                                                                                                 You take too many risks

I'm open minded                                                                                                                       You're gullible and naive

I'm spiritual                                                                                                                             You're deluded

I'm decisive                                                                                                                              You're always trying to take over

I'm idealistic                                                                                                                             You're unrealistic

I'm reliable and dependable                                                                                                      You're boring, mundane and predictable

I'm confident and proud of myself                                                                                            You're arrogant, pompous and narcissistic

I'm excited and inspired                                                                                                           You're angry and freaking out

I'm happy and laughing                                                                                                              You're laughing at me to be cruel

I'm polite and respectful                                                                                                           You're a groveling ass-kisser

I'm individual and nonconformist                                                                                               You're a dropout weirdo

I'm laid back and calm                                                                                                               You're lazy and boring


We can see why this sort of feedback is of no use to us in self assessment It conveys no useful data for self improvement at all. Feedback from the anxious may seem best ignored as wrong input, but there are a few benefits to it.

First we get awareness of who is anxious and who is not; whom to listen to and whom to ignore. This is useful in input control.

Second, it broadens our perspective by giving us the awareness of how anxious people may see ourselves and each other. This is useful in interaction; we can employ output control to help reduce their anxiety.

Third, we can use it to recognize and be thankful that our own perception is not so warped, and appreciate our clarity; we have done well to progress beyond delusion.

And fourth, we can assess ourselves by considering how much our own perception may be warped by anxiety. We may believe we are 'confident' but can our confidence be justified? Such considerations allow deep psychological introspection and better fine-tuning of self awareness.

By focusing on these benefits, we can avoid the harmful effects of wrong input while extracting the benefits. Instead of taking it personally and subjectively, we are analyzing it objectively, and we are able to do this because of our knowledge of its inappropriacy due to source delusions created by anxiety. Knowledge of the facts has given these anxious, sentiment-ridden opinions the correct emotional weighting


Problems with relationships in counterfeit games

Nonuse in impoverished environments and our unconscious attempts to avoid it

The unconscious always keeps trying to turn us back to our real goal of prompting the dynamic changes required for ongoing development. No matter how cut off from our unconscious knowledge we make ourselves, this program is still running. If healthy input is not available, it takes its cues from whatever input IS available, for even that is better than no input at all. If the input is wrong, the output will be wrong, but the program will keep on running, driven by intent to do what it is designed to do.

This intent exists because intelligence is designed to face challenges all the time in order to develop; once we avoid the 'natural' dangers of being eaten or attacked, our unconscious will assume we are competent to deal with more complex challenges and will contrive to alter our behavior in order to seek them.

In the healthy individual, this is simply the course of ongoing development; for example, once we have mastered physical issues and concrete operational thinking, we are expected to learn how to master emotional issues, and later formal operations. When we get familiar with current relationships, when there is sparse, shallow input, when everyday life becomes 'mundane'; we are supposed to get inventive and start providing our own input and motivation; otherwise we atrophy. Biology knows that; and when we need new input we get bored. As soon as all the 'known' stuff is automatic, off the mind goes seeking something else exciting to play with, and in a healthy mind this results in finding new possibilities to improve current relationships and/or start new ones. Healthy people develop all the time, and remain interesting because there is always something new about them or what they are doing, so relationships tend to remain interesting on an ongoing basis.

In a bored, unhealthy mind in a counterfeit relationship the same process tries to run. In a counterfeit game though, it has the wrong input: the rules often forbid many options for change and imagination can only furnish anxious possibilities in context of the game (such as, 'Should I leave?' 'Will they leave?' 'Dare I have an affair?' 'we can't split up because of the children', 'if we get married, they won't leave', 'I can't do x, or y will be upset/angry'.) Memory can only recall bad experiences. Anxiety raises paranoia and we imagine without any proof that this or that is going on, we make assumptions, jump to conclusions, we are very easily conned, vulnerable because anxiety and paranoia make us above all gullible. We want to believe -anything that makes us less anxious and more certain, but cannot think outside the game context, for we are usually unaware that we are stuck in a non-workable game based on fictional rules which are on the whole wrong, not true, not relevant to reality and blocking our development.

Feeling bored makes us anxious, and under the control of anxiety in an impoverished environment (a counterfeit game) with impoverished input, creativity can only copy what it sees and create constant paranoid melodramas and confabulations in order to attempt to make current life more exciting -just like the writers of newspapers, soap operas, celebrities and others in the game teach their audience by daily example. If we don't have (or cause) a freak out, nothing ever happens, and even distress is preferable to that deadly dull, zombie-like boredom. Bereft of real challenge, we make mountains out of every molehill and 'overreact' by default, interpreting everything with the worst possible framing because this is 'normal'; this is what everybody else we hang out with does, this is what to expect, and because that appears to be the only option.

Thus we unconsciously create our own 'issues' in relationships to avoid lack of input and as an attempt to blame our unconscious anxiety on something. We eagerly point the finger at a counterfeit scenario: “Well of COURSE I'm anxious -look what's going on in my life! Alice has stopped going to church! My partner finds Bob attractive!' Burying the vital piece of missing data – (Other people's choices are none of our business and it is pretty arrogant to assume otherwise!) - we put huge sentimental weightings, judgments and values on the behavior of others and consequently give them important meanings, while in reality they honestly have nothing to do with us. We even get hooked on the adrenaline rush of sentimental trauma in having rows, because it makes us feel more alive than the old, tedious, static routine with its accompanying disillusion and disappointment. People trapped in such games think, 'There must be more to life than this'; and they are right; there is. We feel this disillusion because unconsciously we know that something much more important and fulfilling SHOULD be happening to us; ie, the experience of full development and the exciting life of a free mature intelligence. Our biological birthright.

Unconsciously we also know that routine automation - repetition without change - literally causes our minds to fade away; and in the absence of any good input to compute better possibilities from, our unconscious will in desperation opt for conflict or trauma rather than no new input at all.

Consciously we can clearly fool ourselves in anxious relationships as well as misleading each other, but unconsciously there is the ever-uncomfortable feeling of insincerity at the roots of counterfeit relationships. That intuition often leads to more self-deceit in order to avoid the guilt of admitting we're deceiving ourselves in the first place; an unpleasant loop because there is only one way out -admitting that we did what we did because of anxiety, incompetence, or were misled due to inexperience. Whichever it is, we have clearly made a mistake – and have probably been conditioned to frame mistakes, especially public ones (what would people think?!), as shameful and something to hide and feel guilty about. Consequently this lowers self-esteem and raises anxiety in all those who consider others' opinions more important than their own freedom to learn and grow.

Meanwhile, our attention remains distracted from addressing the REAL issues that genuinely do need exploration in order for our species to remain on this world and thrive; and here, in the end, only an intelligence which can adapt to all possibilities survives all possibilities. The helpless and dependent cannot adapt when whatever they were depending on disappears.[33]

Unconsciously we know this too, and it is why self-dependence (autonomy) is a foundation block for self knowledge and self-esteem. Knowing that we have a high probability of surviving or navigating around whatever is thrown at us does a great deal for self confidence. By developing independence we develop ourselves. Once we are no longer insecure or dependent, no longer inappropriately diverted by judging others' lives, real relationships are the only kind that matter. The more attention we pay to nurturing healthy relationships through their natural developmental stages, the faster our relationships (and personalities) will develop depth. 


Problems with power relations & subject positioning

The subject position of 'I'm ok, you're ok' assumes equal power relations. When power relations are not viewed as equal, a false construct is always made.

False constructs come in two types; one type made in 'bully mode' where we see ourselves as in some way 'better than' others and one made in 'wimp mode' where we see ourselves as 'worse than' others. They carry the subject positions of 'I'm ok, you're not ok' and 'I'm not ok, you're ok' respectively. As we have come to expect, wrong input or lack of input is at their roots.

Power relations are not about physical properties or physical strength, nor are they about how much we know or don't know or what sort of life we lead. Power relations are about the power of intelligence -which in human terms is the ability to interact, and in software terms our power to interact is assessed by calculating (a) how much information we have the potential to exchange in a given amount of time with minimal energy wastage and minimal loss of data and (b) how much we are currently exchanging. The concept is akin to bit rate in computing, but only 'relevant data' counts. In this case, relevant data means 'successful interaction' (ideally, ALL our behavior should be successful interaction). Our unconscious measures our performance by assessing these issues, and improves it by taking measures which close the gap between them.

This does not mean that we are all equally able to interact; it means that intelligence deliberately takes into account the differences between us and makes the attempt to find common ground; to find a conduit.

The nominal power of intelligence itself (as a process) is currently unknown; we do not even know if it is finite (although we do know the opportunity for life on earth is finite, since the planet will not last forever.) The unconscious knows that just as our bodies and brains are all made from the same material building blocks, so our unconscious intelligence uses the same processes and formats in all of us (or should). The unconscious expects every individual intelligence to do its best to develop itself optimally because it is programmed to do so, and also knows that the best foundation for improving itself is to exchange more information (interact).

However, any given intelligent being is interacting with other intelligent beings at all levels of development all the time, so we are designed to be adept at communicating in different formats to put us on 'equal footing' with each one we communicate with. Thus we adapt to a child's view of reality and the relevant formats to use in order to communicate with someone at that level of development. THIS is engineering power relations for smooth communication. We interact on an 'equal footing' -that is what power relations means.

Information is exchanged most efficiently when both sides of the conduit are able to synchronize (using the same formats, firmly connected (bonding) and with the same mood and brainwave patterns). Anyone who's tried to get two different operating systems to interact will know that some of the considerations are exactly the same.

Engineering power relations to be equal (between software or wetware) is part of what intelligence does to enable smooth, easily understood communication in a rapid exchange of data that both sides can understand optimally.

The easier understanding becomes, the more successful interactions are. Thus intelligence engineers equal power relations because equals communicate most accurately and efficiently. To achieve this optimally in discourse, even when speaking the same language we may have to define or explain some terms others may not understand, and we may also have to learn some of theirs. We may have to 'dumb our subject down' for a newbie or talk in more formal terms for a frontloader or adjust communication style to take into account others' emotions and ontology.

Tweaking power relations is a process for optimizing bandwidth for both ourselves and whomever we are interacting with. On our part, it may include temporarily adopting different formats or translating from different metaphoric frames, the idea being to find common ground for understanding.

Through genuine interactions we fine-tune power relations until we are equal; until nobody is able to play wimp or bully, inferior or superior, authority or subordinate (and avoiding this happening is the central rule for successful interaction, because communication without equal power relations always conveys false data often furnished by paranoia, prejudice or stereotyping, and false data is always wrong input.)

So, achieving equal power relations does not mean we all start out (or end with) equal ability to interact, it means deliberately engineering communications so that they may take place from a context in which we do. This is how a master shares skills with a student -by repeatedly enabling the student to behave as an equal in ever-more complex contexts. They don't have equal power, but they do have equal power relations.

As we learned in Tutorial 10, when we interact successfully there must be a sharing of power and we must never try to force anything or coerce anybody. In relationships, healthy interaction can only 'do its thing' with no coercion and an equal sharing of personal power. This means absolute, unconditional equality of respect between all individuals involved and respect for the nature of intelligence. Respect and behavioral boundaries: understanding arrogance Respecting someone means treating them always as the intelligence that is their real selves, creatively bypassing any anxiety-triggered deviations from that. By 'behaving as though', we remind others of who they really are and open a door for them to respond as their real selves. In a bonded relationship, as we mentioned before, all individuals have autonomy of choice and nothing is assumed. Each may behave freely as they wish, and does not try to control the other/s. When they are together, they choose to interact together for greater mutual benefit; not out of any anxious dependence or need. When they are apart there is no anxious insecurity. There can be no one 'in charge', no one is superior, and no coercion can be used in a relationship if we aim to bring out the best in both of us.

Arrogance is unjustified confidence; that is to say if we believe stuff about ourselves or reality which we cannot prove by theory or demonstration, we are being arrogant.

Quite a lot of people never grasp that this includes our ideas of appropriate interaction, which should consciously match our unconscious intuition. Deep relationships proceed from the 'I'm ok, you're ok' subject position, with equal power relations, mutual respect, and high autonomy. That includes assuming no 'right' to know about, ask about, or most especially assign value judgements to, any other individual's behavior.

In the real world, biology knows that we have no 'right' to interfere in each others' lives in any way; thus all information we choose to exchange we do so of our own free will. Until we know another person deeply, however, we are not competent to make value judgments on their behavior. We should be treating each other as powerful, competent, potentially ongoing allies.

Biology has very clear ideas about communicating respect, designed by trial and error, in the natural selection of optimal alliance-making behaviors. They are unconscious, and in order to use them consciously we obviously need congruity. We see conscious awareness of biology's game rules in some tribal interactions; here are some examples:

You do not call at or go to a strangers' dwelling unless you are invited, are delivering something, or need urgent help.

You do not bother a stranger on first meeting, except for greeting.

While it is good to build a space to share with someone, you must still maintain your own space.

You do not reveal a weakness to a person until you have concluded that they are an ally

You do not share information with a person until you have concluded that they are an ally

Nobody automatically 'owes you' their company; every second they spend with you is by their own free choice.

Since we are all free, independent entities, what others do when not with you is absolutely none of your business.

You do not push unrequested information or opinions on anyone.


Consciously, various tribal cultures might say breaking these rules is avoided because to do so is 'rude', 'arrogant', 'offensive', or maybe 'taboo'. Less consciously, breaking such rules is avoided because it 'just feels uncomfortable', but unconsciously we know these rules were honed over millennia to increase benefits and avoid harm, and breaking them endangers us. This is a perfect example of congruity; unconscious and conscious working in synchrony for optimal results.

It may be difficult to see why (for example) 'going to a strangers dwelling' is considered arrogant or unjustfiably over-confident; understanding that it is 'assuming that we automatically have a right to do this' -to go into someone else's private space without their knowledge or consent- which is unjustified. We have no such right, and assuming that we do is assuming (and unconsciously, stating) that we are in some way 'better than' they.

Biology also has strategic 'rules' for making allies, getting to know each other better, courting, cooperating, and so on. Which specific rule is employed depends upon both context and details. Like all other mammals, we are programmed to make allies, gain benefits, and avoid coming to harm, and must calculate the benefits versus the hazards to know where to appropriately progress or withdraw. Interaction in relationships is a dance between gaining benefits and not offending or causing harm.

These basic behavioral guiding rules, and others like them, are as inherent in our memories as any other evolutionarily beneficial data, and they form the basis for natural human morality; a subject we shall discuss in depth in future tutorials. For now, we need to be aware that such biological imperatives do exist, can be very strong, and that unconscious anxiety is caused when we transgress them. Thinking about the regularity with which we break some of these rules in order to conform to society's requirements will give you a clearer idea of why we can't achieve congruity in counterfeit games.

Getting used to the idea that other people's lives and thoughts are none of your business and reminding yourself that others don't necessarily want to know about yours are good steps to avoiding arrogance (and for avoiding paranoia). Accepting the fact that biology will always make us feel uncomfortable if we break its rules helps us to avoid breaking them, which is good, because we cannot break biological rules without creating ongoing problems of decline. If it is to be helpful to our progress, whatever we do has to work WITH the rules, the same as is true with physics or biochemistry or any other source of valid information about the real world. Doing do is 'rectitude' or 'correctness', and brings the warm feeling of being comfortable with ourselves and being justifiably proud of doing the right thing. Lots of serotonin, acetylcholine and norepinephrine is our neurochemical benefit, plus rectitude increases our immunity and our resilience.


False personality constructs

Our personalities are supposed to accurately express our real selves and enable us to interact with others in genuine ways. Development of an integrated personality only occurs if we have free will (autonomy), because only from a perspective of free will can we take an active role in how we collect and interpret knowledge and think for ourselves in order to form constructs.

If we fail to merge unconscious knowledge with conscious awareness we become static, automatic characters; passive subjects who are at the whims of the associations, coercions and conditioning we encounter in our environments, our unconscious wishes and past experiences. Instead of constructing a coherent personality we either end up with not much of a personality at all, or constructing a false personality from our own interpretation of what we think others will approve and disapprove of (or society, or whatever institutions we have embodied, would prefer us to be). This is known as a false personality construct; a counterfeit character who becomes our avatar.

Such constructs are usually shallow and dull, for inevitably they present themselves as, and emulate, stereotypes. In effect, they are pretending to be 'society's ideal self' at the expense of their own development.

Their chosen stereotypes often show up in discourse as self-positioning; for example:

'In my professional opinion'

'Speaking as a mother'

'I am an upright, god-fearing American'

'As a woman scientist in a predominantly male world'

'I'm delighted to serve you; have a nice day!'

'I'm not an animal'

'I'm a law-abiding citizen'

'I'm just the little guy'

'I'm employee of the month'


Statements such as these used in discourse analysis tell us a lot about people and how they have positioned themselves with regard to each other, culture, reality, and themselves.


DO IT NOW discourse analysis

Below are some self-stereotyping statements. For each one, can you determine:

(a) which subject positions the speakers are probably taking?

(b) what are the most likely accompanying behaviors?

(c) which way the power relations are warped?

(d) which one of these statements is most blatantly untrue?



1 'I am an upright, god-fearing American'

2 'As a woman scientist in a predominantly male world'

3 'I'm not an animal'

4 'I'm a law-abiding citizen'

5 'I'm just the little guy'

6 'It's because I'm black'


Answers at end of tutorial


Using a false personality construct prevents us and our responses from ever being honest, genuine or spontaneous. Everything we do or say has to be 'vetted' -'what would a good person say?' and then acted out; pretended; with appropriate facial expression and body language. Keeping this up for any length of time is exhausting, and often leads to burnout.

False personality constructs are shallow because they are formed by our framing ourselves in seriously limited ways. Those stuck in counterfeit games always use the criteria of the game to frame or define themselves and others.

For example; the question 'what do you do?' in real life would take a long time for most of us to honestly answer, since we all do a great number of different things. In context of the game, however, the question really means, 'what role do you play in this game?' -and most will reply with their occupation in the game (eg 'I'm a bus driver'; 'I'm a student'; 'I'm a waiter'); arbitrary factors which in reality have little to do with the people that they really are, the things that they enjoy doing, or their creative output and ingenuity they are capable of.


“the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.

They make one story become the only story.” [34]


Stereotypes reduce those not exactly like us to only the polar differences between us. We then judge each other not from reality -where a diversity of perspectives produces better innovation and better solutions to problems than the smartest set of like-minded experts; but from a counterfeit game in which A is always better than B and only 'people like us' are A.

Defining ourselves by a false personality construct in a single role, title or occupation has two effects: One, it limits our own and others' framing of us to one shallow dimension; and two, it automatically qualifies us for others' stereotyping according to their own assumptions about that role or occupation (for example, academics are boring old farts, priests are pedophiles, intellectuals are wimps who have no balls, footballers are illiterate and violent, soldiers are dumb jarheads, etc, etc). But the vital bit of data that we cannot see – ('what I am communicating is that this role is ALL I am; or at least, all that really matters about me') – is usually missed.


how unjustified assumption leads to misunderstanding in relationships

Q: What do the following situations have in common?:

Assuming we are better than others

Assuming we are worse than others

Assuming we know more than others, when really we don't

Assuming others know more than us, when really they don't

Assuming we know everything about a situation, when really we know very little

Assuming others understand how we feel or what we mean, when really they don't

Assuming others don't understand, when really they do

Assuming others know what we mean, how we feel, and what the appropriate response is, when really they don't






A: They are all forms of prejudice; based on unjustified assumptions made due to lack of awareness, lack of accurate perception and an incongruous understanding of reality.

They are also all forms of misunderstanding via failing to accurately perceive and understand what is going on reality. Instead of taking time to interact and find out the truth, we use unjustified assumptions to 'fill the gap' of what we don't yet know about a person. Stereotypical assumptions usually assume the worst of people, so we start out with a picture of others as 'guilty until proven innocent'.

Much of the missing information could be filled in by communicating, asking questions, and pursuing the real truth, but we often fail to do these things because of anxiety.

Consider: Only we REALLY know what we are feeling and thinking, knowing and experiencing, during any given behavior in any given context. Expecting others to be telepathic or immediately capable of strong empathy is unreasonable. Not communicating these things in ways that others can understand therefore leaves them guessing. When we are left guessing, the conscious mind makes assumptions the unconscious cannot support. If unconscious and conscious are disconnected, however, we won't notice the logical dilemma; we'll just go right on assuming our assumptions are facts.

You will have noticed Paranoia, Arrogance, Superstition and Hubris are also in the list of assumptions; as follows: Paranoia is assuming danger without justification; Arrogance is assuming competence without justification; Superstition is assuming associations without justification, and Hubris is assuming achievement without justification. All are inaccurate assessments of reality and show a lack of self awareness. All are forms of prejudice (judgments/assumptions based on inadequate facts or evidence).

Stereotypical assumptions and inadequate perception always impact relationships in harmful ways.


DO IT NOW – spot the assumptions

Read the following two paragraphs, then answer the questions below.


Alice just moved into town. She knows that she is not going to be at her best starting this new job, because her mum just died and they were very close. Alice is feeling upset and confused and finds it difficult to concentrate without being overwhelmed by emotion. Because she is anxious about appearing unprofessional, and really wants to keep this job, she doesn't tell anyone.

Bob, who knows NONE of this, assesses newcomer Alice from her current behavior, as 'morose, unfocused and unhelpful, never smiles'. He them proceeds on the assumption that these are permanent factual 'traits' of Alice's personality, and treats -and speaks of her- accordingly as 'Grumpy Alice'. Other colleagues who have never even met Alice accept Bob's 'facts'; approaching Alice with the automatic expectation she will behave in these ways, using appropriate action/reaction scripts, and also interpreting her behavior in terms of the subject position Bob has created for her from his own unjustified assumptions.


Question 1: how many of the following assumptions may Bob have made when subject-positioning Alice?

A Assuming he is better than her

B Assuming he is worse than her

C Assuming he knows more than she, when really he doesn't

D Assuming she knows more than he, when really she doesn't

E Assuming he knows everything about a situation, when really he knows very little

F Assuming he understands how she feels or what she means, when really he doesn't

G Assuming she doesn't understand him, when really she does

H Assuming he knows what she means, how she feels, and what the appropriate response is, when really he doesn't


Question 2: can you think of any other assumptions Bob may have made?

Answers at end of tutorial


Like perception, our personality is swayed by our current mood, especially when we're feeling down or anxious. This is because a big factor in personality construction is the frequency and intensity of experience of particular behaviors and associated emotions. Research highlights how the reciprocal relationship works both ways - with our personality influencing our current emotional state and our current emotional state influencing personality.


personality disorders

A group of disorders in which habitual patterns of thought and behavior cause persistent life problems. An affected person often fails to see that his or her personality is unusual and may or may not be aware that it is causing problems in everyday life.

Personality disorders can develop at any time of life due to injury, disease, decline, trauma, genetic problems or harmful epigenetic changes including those caused by anxiety.

Personality disorders are divided into three broad groups as follows:

A Sentimental or erratic (Can be antisocial (bully extro); histrionic (wimp extro); narcissistic; or ‘borderline’)

B Eccentric or odd (paranoid; pronoid; schizoid; or schizotypal)

C Anxious or fearful (may manifest as ‘Avoidant’ (wimp intro); Passive-aggressive (bully intro); Obsessive-compulsive; or Dependent)

Note that the descriptions for disorders focus on the type of problematic behavior they cause; they are NOT implying there is a particular 'type of person' who gets personality disorders. Thus we are not looking for an 'antisocial person', we are looking for behavioral symptoms of an underlying mental condition which is impairing perception & awareness and undermining our personality; as we are not able to express ourselves genuinely when they affect us. We are, in effect, 'not ourselves'. Everyone finds their perception and awareness impaired momentarily from time to time; it happens most days, and certainly most weeks, to all of us. We also enjoy impairing our own perception and awareness regularly with alcohol and a variety of other stuff. None of this indicates a personality disorder. Where a disorder IS present, we find our perception and awareness warped against our will (and often without our knowledge) for long periods of time; much as it is in hypothermia, heatstroke or concussion.

If there is a clear cause; such as shock, injury or trauma, disturbances in personality will most likely be temporary, but as personality disorders can be indicative of more serious problems (such as tumors or dementia), it is always wise to investigate and deal with them promptly. Also, the more time a problem has to become habitual or 'chronic', the longer it can take to shift it. Below is a brief description of the types of symptomatic behavior (remember, they only indicate a problem if they are frequently or permanently present). Because behavior functions in sync with neurochemistry, we have included some possible 'tell-tale' neurotransmission issues with each description, which could indicate remedial NH measures. We should NOT however attempt to self-diagnose these disorders; that would be a bit like trying to understand that we have hypothermia while suffering from hypothermia! Sometimes we really do need a 'second opinion' and it is wise to seek one from those who know a lot about the neurochemistry involved.


Sentimental or Erratic


Antisocial behavior is typically bully-extro, impulsive, destructive behavior that often disregards the emotions and rights of others. A person with this disorder shows arrogance and they cannot tolerate frustration. They cannot wait for anything. They may have problems with relationships or trouble with the law. GABA, Oxytocin and/or acetylcholine deficiency can be a factor.


histrionic (wimp extro) behavior expresses sentiments that are exaggerated and shallow. People with this disorder become self-centred, inconsiderate, easily bored, and constantly demand reassurance or approval. Can occur with hypochondriasis. Serotonin and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


narcissistic behavior occurs when someone believes themselves to be more than unique; such as genius, special, and inherently superior to others. They constantly seek attention and admiration and lack any concern for the problems of others or any interest in others' lives.


‘borderline’ behavior presents as multiple abnormalities that may include an uncertainty about our personal identity, poor self esteem and an inability to form stable relationships. People who have this disorder feel habitually bored, may have anhedonia, and may indulge in excess promiscuity, excess hedonism, and/or excess substance abuse. They may also harm themselves or threaten suicide. Serotonin and/or dopamine deficiency can be a factor.


Eccentric or Odd


paranoid behavior tends to be mistrustful, jealous and self-important. Someone with this disorder readily interprets other people’s actions as hostile and they may feel continually rebuffed and convinced that others are (a) deeply interested in them and (b) hostile. Can occur with hypochondriasis. GABA, Serotonin and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


pronoid behavior tends to be narcissistic, arrogant, naïve, self-deluding and self-important. Someone with this disorder interprets other people’s actions as servile and they may feel everyone likes them, fancies them, loves them, is interested in them, and thinks they are as wonderful as they do. Dopamine, acetylcholine and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


schizoid behavior is emotionally cold and indifferent to others. People with this disorder tend to be prone to fantasy, resent being disturbed and are ill at ease in company. Note the name of this disorder is NOT related to schizophrenia. Oxytocin and/or dopamine deficiency can be a factor.


schizotypal behaviors display as superstitious and suspicious, are often accompanied by odd ideas, such as a belief in supernatural forces or mystical/magical beings or powers. People with this disorder may lose the ability of self care, have an unhygienic or unkempt appearance and/or vague, abstract speech patterns and/or may talk to themselves. Hallucinations may or may not be present. Serotonin, acetylcholine and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


Anxious or Fearful


‘avoidant’ behavior is wimp-intro; timid, shy, oversensitive to rejection, and nervous of new experiences or responsibilities. Those with this disorder are generally ill at ease in social situations. Oxytocin and/or dopamine deficiency can be a factor.


Passive-aggressive (wimp extro) behavior causes people with this disorder to react to any demands made on them by being stubborn or argumentative. They put off tasks and are deliberately inefficient and critical of people in authority. Acetylcholine and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


obsessive-compulsive behavior is marked by a continual striving for perfection that disregards both our own wellbeing and the emotions of other people. Generally people with this disorder become judgemental, inflexible, and narrow-minded. Somatic symptoms are repetitive and can include hand washing, checking and rechecking, or hoarding. Can occur with hypochondriasis and/or kleptomania. Serotonin and/or oxytocin deficiency can be a factor.


dependent behavior is also wimp-intro, and shows as weak-willed and submissive, those with this disorder considering themselves ‘victims’. They appear helpless, lack self-reliance, and leave all decisions to other people. Can occur with hypochondriasis. Glutamate, Dopamine deficiencies and/or low PFC neurotransmission in general can be a factor.


There may be genetic factors in the tendency to any of these disorders, and the only common factor is anxiety.

Therapy is the usual course of action, although drugs might be used to control the symptoms. If treated, the prognosis is excellent, but the underlying anxiety must be addressed and lifestyle may have to be changed. Generally, a personality disorder tends to improve by itself over time, but if it becomes more severe it can predispose us to other mental illness, and as has been noted can also indicate more serious problems; so we should always pay attention to it.


The difference between self awareness and self obsession

Whilst it's very beneficial to know yourself, it's not at all beneficial to obsess about ourselves on a permanent basis, or to imagine that the whole world is interested in us and our opinions. This is often a problem accompanying paranoia, where sufferers have an inflated idea of their own importance in the greater scheme of things (for example; the government/secret societies/aliens are looking for/following/bugging them). Another symptom is framing things in absolutes (eg, 'Everybody is always laughing at me'; I never get a break; I'm always saying/doing that).

Self obsession manifesting without paranoia is narcissism, and usually presents with sentiments such as arrogance (unjustified confidence) and hubris (unjustified pride). It can be difficult for such people to understand humility, and they rarely feel embarrassed about being pushy, because they don't have a 'big picture' perspective. They talk about themselves all the time, without a clue how boring this is for others who are not particularly interested. Hypochondriasis (constantly thinking they are ill) can be an accompanying problem.

With good anxiety reduction and input control, this shouldn't occur, and if we find ourselves stuck in this space despite such measures, it is likely that neurotransmission is going awry and steps should be taken to figure out why and what to do about it (often, diet and/or sleep patterns are at fault). States of mind may of course become habitual, so if you've gotten into the habit of thinking or talking about yourself all the time, take steps to replace the habit by thinking and talking about other subjects that you are interested in. Usually, once self-obsessors become less self-obsessed, they are interesting to talk to and can apply their analytical skills to other subjects.

We include a hack for reducing suspected self obsession in the Hacks & Exercises section of this tutorial.



the most important bits to remember

With wrong input a personality or ontology can slip out of optimal structuring.


'I'm ok, you're not ok' (the Missionary position)

'I'm not ok, you're ok' (the Blues position)

'I'm not ok, you're not ok' (the Grunge Metal position)


'I'm ok, but reality's not ok (the Goth position)

'Reality's ok but I'm not ok' (the Emo position)

'I'm not ok and neither is reality' (the Punk position)

These are often adopted due to mistaking society and counterfeit games for culture and reality.


Self assessment is not self criticism.

The degree of our own delusion due to wrong input (conditioning and layers of counterfeit games) is the biggest obstacle we may have to face in achieving full development. Delusion must be replaced with clarity and genuine understanding. Once again, this is only available via sufficient interaction with real life.

Feedback from the anxious may seem best ignored as wrong input, but there are a few benefits to it.

In impoverished counterfeit game contexts, we can unconsciously create our own melodramatic 'issues' or conflicts in relationships to avoid lack of input and as an attempt to blame our unconscious anxiety on something.

When power relations are not viewed as equal, a false construct is always made.

Arrogance is unjustified confidence; that is to say if we believe stuff about ourselves or reality which we cannot prove by theory or demonstration, we are being arrogant.

False personality constructs are shallow because they are formed by our framing ourselves in seriously limited ways. Those stuck in counterfeit games always use the criteria of the game to frame or define themselves and others.

We are familiar with the dynamics of personality in our everyday lives - even our most vivacious friends can seem less friendly and sociable when they -or we- are going through 'a bummer'. With strangers though, especially in brief interactions, it's easy to forget these effects and make unjustified assumptions that behavior derives from a 'fixed' personality rather than temporary mood.[35]

A person with a personality disorder is generally unaware that there is anything ‘wrong’, but this is not always true for NH students, especially at this level. If you suspect such a problem your behavior should be assessed, and also look at how it affects others. You should then look for provoking factors, such as possible alcohol abuse, coincident damage/illness, or the presence of another disorder. Also remember: if your brain doesn't get what it needs, your mind won't do what you want.


DO IT NOW – assess inspirational input

Consider your life experience over the last seven days, thinking about where you have been and what you have done in these various places. Think about what people you have seen and spent time with, and what activities, projects and issues you have been involved in. Then choose ONE of the following statements to describe the last seven days in terms of inspirational input or an enriched environment:


1 Pretty much none of my input this last 7 days was inspirational

2 Less than half my input this last 7 days was inspirational

3 About a half of my input this last 7 days was inspirational

4 More than half my input this last 7 days was inspirational

5 Pretty much all my input this last 7 days was inspirational


See end of tutorial for notes



the construction of personality

'Personality' refers to an individual minds' characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior, together with the psychological mechanisms of processing - hidden or not - behind those patterns and the nature of our output; how we present ourselves. Despite constant dynamic change, the fundamental characteristic of personality is consistency; there is generally a recognizable order and regularity to types of attitudes, modes and behaviors employed in different roles. Essentially, people respond in 'their own' individual ways in a variety of contexts.

In Tutorial 12 we learned that the self as an individual emerges out of the logic of differentiation between 'self' and 'other' as infants. Personality is a psychological construct much like our ontology, and research shows that it too is grounded in our biological processes and needs, which makes good evolutionary sense. It modulates all behaviors and interactions – a healthy personality does not just influence how we move and respond in our contexts; it also enables us to interact in certain ways which may not be accessible to others.

Personality is displayed in much more than just behavior; it can also be seen in our thoughts, processes, emotions, interactions, close relationships, creativity and other cultural interactions. A congruous personality, or its absence, makes a critical difference in human behavior.[36] In other words, our congruous personality should be a central concept in our self awareness.

By understanding how thoughts and discourses contribute to the ongoing construction of our personality, we can expand our perspective on the relational origins of individuality and direct our own personality development.

The first important thing to grasp about personality is that, like all processes of life, it is dynamic. Thoughts and discourses (the conversations and texts in our lives) are not just internal/external influences on an already-existing construct, rather they constitute and interactively construct the current personality. In other words, our personality is formed by -made up of- the constructs of meaning that are exchanged in the ongoing interactions of our lives. As we imagine and constantly reconstruct reality in order to achieve perception ('reality-awareness'), so we imagine and constantly reconstruct ourselves in order to achieve self awareness.

The real self, emerging in healthy autonomy and constructing a healthy, well-balanced personality, cannot be taken for granted. Having a personality and feeling real is more than just awareness of existing; it is finding the essential way to exist and communicate as yourself; to relate to others as a unique individual, and to express your own ideas in creative and rational ways.

The architecture of our brains and the way our minds both perceive and express themselves as personalities are correlated. This is not a one-way relationship in which one 'causes' the other; it is another incidence where we have to use 'both' thinking; in order to perceive what is taking place and understand the complexity of personality. The relationship between physiology and thought is a reciprocal relationship; that is to say, the structure of our brains affects our personality and our personality affects the structure of our brains.

Plasticity and epigenetics are at work here, and the current behaviors we use most will determine current and future architecture in the related brain areas. Already-existing networks formed by past behaviors adapt and adjust as our memories do; updating themselves in line with our current knowledge, beliefs, thoughts and discourses, but most importantly, with healthy use. Experiences change the brain as it develops, and changes in the brain change personality.[37]

Personality, like genome expression or perception, is therefore not fixed but reconstructed on an ongoing basis from the thoughts, beliefs, emotions and communications we pay attention to in the here and now, coupled with prediction and memory, and ultimately from the underlying unconscious constructs they call upon for reference.

Both personality and ontology rely on memory – our body of knowledge – and imagination -our capacity to predict- being congruous 'across the board'; and the strength and consistency of association between memory, imagination and relevant events in the here and now is what gives a personality 'depth'. Without congruity we have access only to the 'shallow end of the pool' for expression and the given impression is that one is talking to a machine rather than a human. 'Shallow' personalities, like shallow conversations, are boring; they seem insincere because they convey sparse data with little meaning beyond a specific parochial context and make the speaker seem either dull or indifferent and emotionally 'flat'. Shallow, sparse, fixed personalities result from incongruous conditioning; and deep, complex, dynamic personalities result from healthy thought, play and interaction.

When a person is in a state of incongruity, some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in their self-image. According to Rogers, incongruity is "a discrepancy between the actual experience of the organism and the self-picture of the individual insofar as it represents that experience”.[38]

As we mentioned in the 'Brain' section above, it is from the connections or 'bridges' between unconscious and conscious thought that we make complex constructs. It should therefore be easy to see that these constructs are not going to be accurate if the unconscious either cannot connect to conscious awareness or disagrees with it about what is being perceived.

Remember doing the Stroop test in tutorial 11? That test gives us an experience of how confusing it can be when incongruity affect perception; for example when the unconscious thinks a set of symbols means 'green' and the conscious thinks the same set of symbols means 'red'; which makes it very difficult for us to consciously speak the correct word. Imagine if every interpretation we made were this confusing! We would constantly find ourselves thinking, -'But I didn't mean to say that!'

A second important finding of personality research is that human experiences and interactions are imbued with personal constructs of meaning. Having a 'personality' makes one a person. To treat someone as a 'person', rather than a mere mechanical system or animal, is to treat the mind as an intelligent being which builds constructs and interacts according to them; [39] partly driven by its needs to create and sustain meanings, and partly to assuage concerns fueled by its discomfort when not understanding what is going on.[40]

Although meaning-making is today studied in such different fields as the psychology of adaptation and well-being, [41] social psychology [42] and neuropsychology, [43] researchers rarely take into consideration the fact that meaning is always constructed within and framed by our ontology or worldview - a person's most basic beliefs, values, constructs, and scripts for understanding, evaluating, and interacting with reality, within which our specific desires, goals, intentions, etc., are embedded.

A person necessarily also forms and expresses their personality through this worldview - we can only, for example, behave 'morally or immorally', within an ontology; and we experience wellbeing in its distinctly human form through the worldview via our personality. And this is another reciprocal relationship; our personality influences our ontology and our ontology influences our personality.

Realistic psychological science must therefore treat our ontology and personality as not only directors of our perceptual constructs in their own right, but also back of and behind all of our judgment and, because it relies on judgment, all our decision-making. We will be looking more closely into this relationship in future tutorials.

Perception conforms to our beliefs about what is going on, as we interpret meaning. Recent research has discovered that visually identical facial expressions can produce different patterns of responses in our emotional brain areas when ontological constructs change their cultural meanings, and that these patterns of ontological sensitivity are strongly modulated by individual interactions (specifically, how we emotionally perceive and respond to others during interactions; either securely or insecurely, autonomously or anxiously).

Thus a smile could be perceived and interpreted either as praising an accomplishment (in a construct where everyone is viewed as a friend) or as mocking a failure (in a construct where everyone is viewed as an enemy), and a frown either as a sign of reproach or of frustration; depending on how we personally interpret the construct. Meaning is not intrinsic, but created.

The specific brain substrates underlying these individual differences in our response to emotional stimuli have recently been identified for the first time.[44]

When others are seen as allies (i.e. smiling in response to our success or looking unhappy when we fail), their happy faces activate the ventral striatum and ventral tegmental area, but this response is much weaker in people with an avoidant, anxious or insecure response. Unhappy faces, on the other hand, increase the activation of the amygdala, especially in participants with an anxious or insecure response. These activation patterns are ontology- specific, because no such responses are found for the facial expressions of those viewed as 'opponents'. Instead, 'opponent's' expressions trigger increased activity in brain regions associated with theory of mind and alertness (superior temporal sulcus and anterior cingulate gyrus).

The fact that the faces were visually identical in this research shows that specific expressions in faces are processed differently in our brain depending on our ontology and the framing construct that is running where the faces are perceived.

Moreover, these data provide novel biological support for a link between an individual's ontology and activity in brain systems implicated in personality structuring (benefit & harm processing). Because both the ventral striatum and amygdala are key brain structures for learning and predicting motivational outcomes, they may play a critical role for the establishment of personality and our forming idiosyncratic affective responses to input based on past experience or developmental history.

Because personality is constructed in this ongoing fashion and is dependent on our ontology, we can (if not careful) allow random input and counterfeit conditioning to structure our future personality or we can, as in other areas, take control of the process and direct and structure our own.


rogers fully functioning person

What would our optimal personality be like? Carl Rogers noted that for a person to "grow" a healthy congruous personality, they need an environment that provides them with the core conditions: genuineness (congruity and honesty), respect (acceptance, recognition; being treated with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood). We should also be engineering these conditions for ourselves by treating ourselves in these ways. Without core conditions, relationships and healthy personalities will not develop as they should inside or outside ourselves.

When healthy development does take place, 'self actualization' occurs. Rogers believed that all life has one basic motive, that is the tendency to self-actualize - i.e. to fulfill one's potential and achieve the highest level of development it can. Like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its surroundings and input, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their context and input are sufficient. In this context, obstacles to growth do exactly what one would expect -they obstruct development and can cause dysfunction. Unlike plants, however, we are highly capable of changing our own environment in multiple ways.

Rogers theory proceeds from the standpoint that healthy people are inherently good and creative. They become dysfunctional and destructive only when a faulty self-concept or external constraints (eg, wrong input) override natural development.

Rogers defines some characteristics of the self-actualized, 'fully functioning' person: they face the unknown without anxiety, for example sentiments are recognized and dealt with rather than denied or defended; they are able to live and fully appreciate the present, avoiding prejudging and blind assumptions; their unconscious instincts and gut-reactions are accurate, paid attention to and trusted; they are creative, inventive and flexible, able to adjust, adapt and change; and they feel happy and satisfied with life although they are always opportunistic and looking for new challenges, discoveries and experiences. On the whole, fully functioning people have well adjusted, well balanced personalities and are interesting to know and talk to.


Personality Structuring -Personal Construct Theory

Rogers was dedicated to strengthening the personality in the face of society, which he regarded as distorting the singular, true or real self. A useful tool for understanding and strengthening the personality is Personal Construct Theory.

Personal Construct Theory (PCT) was developed by the psychologist George A. Kelly.[45] Kelly sees humans much as Rogers portrayed, but emphasizes the fact that healthy minds are themselves ardent researchers; always searching for answers in order to improve their perception of reality. Left to themselves and given their needs, healthy humans behave like scientists in everyday life right from the start; building hypotheses about their day-to-day experiences, subjecting these to experiments to see if they hold true or are proved to be false, and then making corresponding adjustments to their hypotheses about reality and behavior as necessary. The same 'scientific method' that allows us to master walking is used for learning and growing throughout, including the development of our personality. This means that every momentary perception of reality is open to multiple different views and reinterpretations.

By creating our own model of reality in this experimental manner, we are free to interpret feedback on events for ourselves. We are the owners of our own experiences, which we can, at least theoretically, then use in alternative constructs. Following this method, the logic of individual constructs and systems of constructs is created in our unconscious as we experience and play with the world. This process of construction, in which the individual also evaluates and assesses themselves, their environment, and their relationship with others, is the exploratory process of mind (our self) whose expression we call our personality.

It is important to grasp the difference between a dynamic process and a static object. We have been used to thinking of our personality as the latter, and must get into the habit of thinking of it as the former. Personality is a dynamic process.

Constructs (sets of associated concepts organized in a logical way) in our model of reality and ourselves are not only categorized metaphorically and governed by formal logic, but also accompanied by emotional weighting. This process means that every person has his or her own subjective as well as objective view of the world – our own personal system of constructs – which forms the basis for all our interactions. Thus, when we interpret the relations between all the various phenomena present in any given situation, we orient ourselves and all events within our own personal system of constructs. Our constructs are both idiosyncratic (specific to our own individual selves) and idiographic (specific to our own individual behavioral patterns).

Furthermore, Kelly noticed that the concept sets which our personality-constructs represent are always shaped across a continuum bounded by pairs of opposite possibilities, creating a polarity between them. We construe our environment by using these structural polarities combined with our personal experience to make predictions regarding future developments.

We make decisions, both consciously and unconsciously (ideally in congruity), on which our interactions are then based – in other words, we assess situations, other people, and things by assessing current and recent abilities based on behaviors and interactions, such as, “Person X can be innovative in context Y.”

Differentiating behaviors are also referred to as constructs. A 'structural polarity' is always a construct formed on a continuum with a pair dichotomy. Thus, if we describe something as being “innovative,” we always (unconsciously) have a differentiating opposite in mind, such as “innovative” vs. “traditional,” or “innovative” vs “generic”.

Structural polarities underlie all categorization. For example, based on our experiences with music, we may feel that some pieces are 'loud and energetic' and others are 'quiet and peaceful'. When we hear new music, we may consciously or subconsciously categorize it according to that polar construct. Another person may use a different construct for exactly the same data; they might categorize music as either 'energizing' vs. 'chilled out'; a third might use 'powerful' vs. 'ambient'; a fourth might use 'rock' vs. 'classical', or 'stuff you can dance to' vs. 'stuff you can't'.

We all construct our own criteria for judgment; this is a very important thing to understand. They are called 'constructs' because WE are supposed to construct them. That is, we are supposed to form our own ontology and personality constructs from valid input using valid methods to ascertain the veracity of our own input data.

We are not supposed to adopt the constructs of others as our own unless we have understood for ourselves why their conclusions are valid, and share the construct.

Together, all of our constructs about ourselves or another person allocate them (and us) 'coordinates' on our unconscious continuum model of behavior and personality and we think of them (or ourselves) as 'that sort of' person. In context of NH it is important to add 'currently' to these assessments, because we know that neither behavior nor personality is fixed and static; both are dynamic and changing all the time.

An important element of Personal Construct Theory is that each individual at any given time has their own unique set of constructs that are relevant to them personally at this time.

In agreement with Carl Rogers' observations of the 'Fully Functional Individual', PCT hypothesizes that people are constantly challenging and growing their construct systems, but those systems remain unique to the individual, and the sum of each person’s ongoing experiences reshapes or maintains them largely only in response to new experience and learning. In addition, the differences in people’s construct weighting systems contribute to our different perceptions of the world and our behavior in it.

Taking the above example further, whether a new piece of music is 'classical or rock' might not be at all important to you in your own music-categorization scheme, but it might have a big 'importance weighting' to someone else.

For another example, when choosing a place to live, one person might organize their choices using a construct that rates locations according to how easy it is to get a fast internet connection, because they personally need one. Another person might organize their choice of location in terms of climate, transport availability, amount of peace and quiet, local crime statistics, quality of land, closeness to the beach, the pub, or some other personally-prioritized factor. Each one of us has our own unique system and prioritization of constructs, or way of construing reality and approaching decisions. We all think different things are 'relatively important'. The number of possible constructs for each person and for each object is finite, and in its sum total represents the entire range of our differentiating possibilities.

PCT is thus an objective approach to personality which takes into account variation and the differences as well as similarities between us, perpetual change, and the fact that things (and most especially other people) appear differently to every individual. Each of us is seen to develop a system of personal constructions of the world which is based on our individual experiences, and is our model for making sense of and interacting with reality, but none will be exactly the same because nobody's experiences are exactly the same and nobody's genome is exactly the same and nobody's neural wiring is exactly the same. Nature and nurture, and consequently ontology and personality, are absolutely unique in all of us.[46]

We are not objective background observers in personality construction, but subjective participators. We are in the middle of a dynamic system where everyone is making these constructs, including ourselves. Alice might see Bob as 'too quiet and a bit serious'; but this is only one possible construction of Bob. Carl might see Bob as 'thoughtful and sensible'. Donna might see Bob as 'gentle and studious'. But the descriptions Alice and Carl and Donna use tell us more about them than about Bob; it is their minds interpreting his behavior in their own terms; they are in effect subject-positioning Bob. Eric, who goes drinking with Bob but has never seen him during the day, might see Bob as 'smart, funny and great at Pool'.

None of their speculation, with or without proof, tells us what Bob is REALLY like, or how Bob sees himself, or how it might feel to be Bob, and this reveals to us the pointlessness of outdated 'trait theories' and the revealing similarity between 'personality inventories' and stuff like astrological birth charts or caste systems. Trait theory was based on the old outdated idea that the genome was fixed, nurture had zero influence, and this resulted in a fixed 'personality type', which is simply not true. Personality (not to mention expression of the genome) is inherently dynamic, and we should expect a variety of behaviors throughout life from every individual, depending on their ongoing context and circumstances.

Trait theories resurface every generation with a variety of maps, from astrological to clinical; hence from c. 460 – c. 370 BCE it was popularly assumed we were all classifiable as 'Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine or Phlegmatic'; more recently 'traits' such as 'neuroticism' (in reality, a personality disorder), 'extraversion and introversion' (in reality, types of behavior) and of course astrological 'star signs' (in reality, arbitrary patterns from a 2D perspective), have all been assumed to represent 'personality types' or 'types of people'.

Wonderful though it would be for biopsychology if this sort of thing worked, there can be no 'one size fits all' classification in any dynamic system, since the very items we are trying to study as 'fixed' characters are in fact constantly changing, as is the knowledge from which they are constructed in the first place.

All knowledge is 'situated'; that is to say constructed by the observer according to their own interpretation of concepts as associated with their own (not our own) ontology. In short, anyone's model for interpretation of others' personality or ontology is shaped entirely by their own personality and ontology! Assertions about personality 'type' therefore actually tell us much more about the person/s doing the rating via whatever 'test' system they have personally invented (constructed), than they do about any persons being 'rated'.


DO IT NOW -analyze the analyst

Below are two samples from old reports on personality traits, by two different researchers. Both were written during the second world war. One was written by a nazi scientist, the other was written by an american investigating anti-semitism. Can you guess which researcher wrote which report?

Sample A

“...an 'authoritarian' personality: rigid and closed-minded, intolerant of ambiguity, happiest in hierarchical organizations, holds obedience to authority in high esteem, dislikes modern art...”

Sample B

“...an 'authoritarian' personality: strong-willed, disciplined, has clear unmuddled ideas...”

Answer at end of tutorial.


Personality traits (including astrological ones) are now revealed as fictional categories (usually constructed from opposing pairs of stereotypes) chosen by the raters from their own or somebody else's ontological associations. They then interpret and label others' behavior in order to make it fit one of their categories more closely than others, and are likely to be frustrated by, for example, persons claiming to be both 'intellectual' and 'creative'.


How we construct constructs

The process of using constructs in a healthy mind works in much the same way as a scientist utilizing an hypothesis. First, we begin by hypothesizing that a particular construct will 'probably' apply to a particular event. We then test this hypothesis by applying the construct and predicting the outcome, then observing events. If our prediction is correct, then we know that the construct is useful in this situation and we retain it for future use. If our predictions don't come true, we might reconsider how and when we apply the construct, we might alter the construct, or we might decide to abandon the construct altogether.

Recurrences play an important role in personal construct theory. Constructs emerge because they reflect things that frequently recur in our real life experience. Constructs also (as part of memory) tend to be organized in a hierarchical fashion; more basic constructs lie at the supporting base of our body of knowledge, while more complex and abstract constructs are found at higher levels.

Constructs always rely on a background continuum with bipolar possibilities as their context; essentially, each continuum bridges the gap between and includes a pair of complementary (but NOT opposing) concepts; for example, stretching & relaxing are complementary polar concepts on a 'learning' continuum. Both are beneficial, both are necessary in different contexts. So are gathering together and spreading apart; separation and unity, synthesis and analysis.

...You know all those complementary pairs which form 'both' answers to causal questions such as 'nature or nurture'? They are ALL polar constructs for some continuum. Some more examples include "animal or vegetable" (on a 'types of life' continuum) "red or yellow," (on a 'colors' continuum) and “large or small” (on a 'size' continuum). Nature and nurture, of course, form complementary poles on the continuum of development.

The dominant side of a polar construct, which we consciously apply to an event, is known as the conscious or 'emergent pole' of a construct. The 'reference' side that is implied is the unconscious or 'implicit pole' of the construct. So if I believe that a rabbit is an animal, I imply that there are other categories of life somewhere which I also believe a rabbit is not in (such as 'vegetable'), and thus 'animal' is the conscious or emergent pole and 'vegetable' the unconscious implicit pole of my 'life on earth continuum' construct. We always use the emergent conscious pole when assessing or describing stuff (for example if asked to explain what a rabbit is, I would not say, 'a rabbit is not a vegetable'. Generally, there may be an infinite amount of things an item is not). To find the implicit pole we have to consider what it might be and bring it into conscious awareness.

At any given time, either side of a polar construct may become the dominant, conscious pole depending on the context. But regardless of which is dominant, one pole will always be conscious and the other unconscious. Polar constructs bridge the gap between unconscious and conscious (as well as concrete and abstract) concepts. The same algorithm used for translating concrete concepts to abstract ones are used for constructing unconscious to conscious association.

We conceptualize everything in terms of its relationship to something else and narrow it down by looking at similarities and differences. Thus it is from the connections or 'bridges' between unconscious and conscious thought that we make our constructs. (It should therefore be easy to see that congruous constructs are not going to be made if the unconscious either cannot connect to conscious awareness or disagrees with it about what is being perceived, as we discussed in the 'If Things Go Wrong' section.)

It is essential to remember the emphasis on individuality in personal construct theory. Constructs are inherently personal because they are based upon our own personal life experiences. Each person's system of constructs is unique, and it is the individual nature of these experiences that forms the differences between our personalities.

All events that happen are open to multiple interpretations, and when trying to make sense of an event or situation a healthy mind is able to pick and choose which constructs we want to use. This sometimes happens as an event unfolds, but we can also reflect back on our experiences and then choose to view events via different constructs. Changes in our constructs (and consequently personalities) over time reflect our ongoing learning, development and experience.


superordinate constructs

Our own 'self' construct (what we think of as our personality) and our ontology are known in psychology as 'Superordinate constructs'.

Rearloader definition: for example 'red' is the superordinate construct for 'scarlet', 'vermilion', and 'crimson'.

Frontloader definition: IF a construct is subordinate to another, THEN elements in both poles of the subordinate construct will be subsumed under one and the same pole of the superordinate construct.[47]

Note, at this stage you should understand both these definitions and they should be congruous with each other, if all networks are healthy.

What makes superordinate constructs so important? The fact that we experience everything through the "lens" of our creative structuring of personality and our ontological framing of reality and contexts. They are used to predict, anticipate and respond to events, which in turn direct further behaviors, feelings, responses and thoughts via feedback; they are essential variables in our judgments, decision making and successful interaction. Understanding individual differences in personality is about recognizing different world views. Understanding personality construction in ourselves is an essential step in directing beneficial change and forming a more integrated, congruous personality.

By discovering which superordinate constructs our ordinary constructs 'fit into' (as revealed by their continuum), we can reveal the particular way that each of us makes sense out of reality and how we see ourselves. The way in which we interpret the world in relation to ourselves is the reason why we behave as we do.

When we change that interpretation, we behave differently. From an NH standpoint, it is the reconstruction of our frameworks of interpretation (our ontology and personality) that serves as the basis for beneficial change and improvement. Realistic and congruous constructs not only determine the quality of our perception of ourselves and others, but also fine tune our awareness and perspective, leading to a more integrated and congruous experience of life.

Personal Construct Theory has its tools for revealing and exploring our personalities via their superordinate constructs, which we will play with shortly.


The importance of designing our own systems/models


"As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves."[48]


It will be realized from studying the above that designers of 'assessment systems' will always shape categories according to their own ontology. In fact, the most reliable tool we can have for self assessment is a system that we have designed ourselves. We know exactly what we mean, and are able to choose our own terms for assessment.

Anyone else's system will likely work very well for themselves, but is bound to be framed by their personal ontologies.


DO IT NOW – spot the assumptions 2

In the questionnaire examples below,

A Spot the assumptions in the personal ontology.

B Name at least one important category the options have missed out.


questionnaire examples:

1 Are you hindu or buddhist?

2 Do you vote left wing or right wing?

3 Do you support the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Chicago Cubs?

4 Do you work in the day, or do night shifts?

5 What is your christian name?

6 Are you single, or with a partner?

7 Are you heterosexual or homosexual?

8 Are you a wimp or a bully?


See end of tutorial for answers.


The moment others put labels on us, they behave like borders and boundaries restricting us within their own limited choices. This can even (if we are not careful) be used deliberately to frame our own responses according to their own value system and beliefs (remember, mind and its contexts and constructs are in a reciprocal relationship). The Marquis de Sade, for example might ask students, 'Do you prefer sleeping on cut glass, or razor blades?'

This is why you will come to realize we have to create our own self-assessments. Only your own criteria for categorization, working with what you truly believe and experience, will work optimally for your development.

It takes a certain amount of NH practice and experience at paying attention to ourselves to create a good, accurate self assessment. If we don't recognize the difference between emotion and sentiment from experience by knowing how each feels, and we don't know the latter is due to anxiety and chemical imbalance, we are never going to be able to understand our own moods and attitudes or recognize the associated behaviors and they will indeed 'take us by surprise'.

Our self knowledge is a product of the questions we have chosen to ask and emerges from the unique interaction between our own ontology and the broader cultural, environmental and relational contexts that are part of our lives. The more of our own constructs we can uncover, therefore, the better and faster we are able to assess ourselves, and Personal Construct Theory outlines a strategy for assessing our personal constructions. This helps to articulate meanings which are ordinarily out of our conscious reach. We include this main PCT assessment tool, the Repertory Grid, in the NHA Guide to Methods & Tech section below.


Golden Rule 5 - temet nosce


“You know what that means? It's Latin. Means 'Know Thyself'...”

(The Oracle, 'The Matrix')


Self-knowledge, acquired via introspection, self-analysis, self-assessment and feedback, builds a database of knowledge on the truth about ourselves which forms the basis of our self esteem. Self-confidence is the certainty that we know ourselves sufficiently to judge how we are likely to respond, what is most important to us, and what degree of personal control we currently wield; not just in familiar contexts where we are competent and confident of our power to interact; but also in whatever contexts may arise wherever we seek our next input for further development.

The way in which we can look inwards, to think about who we are and why we think, act, and behave as we do, is something that affects every aspect of our lives. Research on the self has largely focused on how our self-perceptions affect our thoughts, feelings, and interactions, but these effects only occur when we are self-aware.

We can imagine 'mind' as a program which runs in the brain, but is our awareness of the world around us and of ourself as an individual the result of specific, focused changes in our brain, or does that awareness come from a broad network of neural activity? How does our mind produce awareness of itself?

Researchers have taken significant steps toward answering these longstanding questions with recent imaging studies in which they discovered global changes in how brain areas communicate with one another during self awareness. These findings challenge previous theories which hypothesized much more restricted change was responsible for producing awareness.[49]

No one area or network of areas of the brain stands out as particularly more connected during awareness; the whole brain appears to become functionally more connected following reports of awareness; which appears to break down the modularity of networks and initiate a broad increase in functional connectivity between networks.

Thus, no one part of the brain is truly the "source" of self, but rather, mind's self awareness appears to be an emergent property of how information that needs to be acted upon gets propagated throughout the brain. One could say, awareness emerges in the interactions (processes) between attention and input.

Self awareness emphasizes both thought and conscious awareness as being central to self. At birth our personalities are, in effect, an unformed possibility within probabilities out of which we must establish our existence. The word 'existence' comes from the latin meaning 'to set apart', and this is exactly what personality formation achieves. The structure of existence is personality.[50]


the relationship between self-knowledge and personal integrity

Once mind is recognized as an integral, autonomous self, we can explore and give it structure by our interactions. Development of personality requires integrity of personality, which needs structural unity of the brain and the equivalent coherence of mind (congruity).

The goal of development is the creation of an autonomous intelligence, self-aware, individual, and interactive. Since personality is constructed and fine-tuned by reference to interactions and relationships, mind identifies with that to which it relates. So ongoing development must both expand the field of relationships and interactions (in order to expand awareness) and maintain the integrity of the self as a separate identity within relationships and interactions (in order to construct personality).

If we are not aware of when we are being ourselves and when we are not being ourselves, we have little chance of taking steps to improve ourselves or learning self control. Our conscious mind will make promises it cannot keep or may not even remember.

If development has proceeded in the right order, and sufficient bonds & contextual shifts have been made, running integrity and autonomy applications in parallel is no problem for a healthy mind. Integrity means 'the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished', and personal integrity means being true to ourselves; saying one thing and NOT doing another (the opposite of hypocrisy, if you like) and remaining true to our own inner morals & beliefs about 'decent' or 'acceptable' behavior. A mind with integrity can lie to others for reasons of self defense, but it can never lie to itself.

It can also be relied upon by allies to keep its word. If unconscious and conscious are incongruous, autonomy and integrity are working at cross-purposes to each other, and behavior will often belie words, or vice versa. We fail to tell the truth not from deliberate deception but because we cannot comprehend what the truth really is. In this state we can repeatedly apologize for unpleasant behavior of the day before, with no intent to change it because we don't know that we can. Saying 'I'm sorry, I behaved like an asshole yesterday' means nothing if we are going to behave like an asshole again tomorrow.

In brain development, our minds become integrated with each network in turn as we explore their possibilities within their given contexts. Our integrity is not only maintained but enhanced at each stage. With maturation comes the ability to interact using all these networks in any combination we like, in ever-more complex relationships and constructs.

Our self awareness is always growing; intelligence is the means by which the mind brings divergent concepts into functional, symbiotic relationships; the process which ensures further development. As autonomy unfolds in stages (like all other aspects of intelligence), we are biologically designed to engage our will to direct our development.

When the locus of our awareness becomes the subjective-objective view of mind itself, we can in effect 'turn around and look back at' - and start programming - our own brain functions. This ability to operate on brain functions is called 'Formal Operational Thinking'. With it, we can manipulate the very processes we use for thinking, but to do so requires full autonomy. Self is then fully identified with mind, which personality mirrors.

Mind, matured out of the brain, can now move to a perspective beyond its own brain systems and deliberately enhance or improve them. This intelligence, having been created, is now the creator in its own right; including the creator of its future self. The programmed has become the programmer; the created the creator.

Thinking can now range freely, and we can think about thinking by examining our own mental processes. We can now use intellect in creative ways and integrate it into the rest of our intelligence; playing with all the combinations possible between networks.

The study of self-knowledge has tended to focus on how accurate we are at determining our own internal states, such as our emotions, personality, and attitudes. However, self-knowledge can be broadened to include memory, like recalling how we felt in the past, and prospection, predicting how we will feel in the future. Knowing who we were and who we will be are as important to self-knowledge as knowing who we are in the present.

Although it can be fairly simple to assess how our attitudes and beliefs change over time - that is, predict how we will feel at certain time and then actually measure our feelings at that time - it is more difficult to measure our current self-knowledge accurately.

The golden rule 'know yourself' in NH refers therefore not only to issues of self assessment. It is indicative of the fact that we must be sufficiently aware of reality in relation to ourselves to interact with optimal results. If we do not really know who we are and what we are capable of, if we have never identified with ourselves as mind, if we do not know what we personally believe, we will never get accurate self assessments.

A good realistic starting point for self knowledge is to ask ourselves, 'How much time per day do I currently manage to be my real self?' Remember, only our real self knows us well enough to assemble an effective assessment. Counterfeit personalities will create a counterfeit assessment!

A good serendipitous analogy here is seen in The Matrix movie. The humans who are plugged into the Matrix (just like the billions of us staring at TV screens & newspapers) have no idea that their sensations are false, created artificially instead of arising from actual real life experiences and actual real life facts. Until Neo is yanked from the Matrix, he, too, has no idea that his life is a virtual reality. Neo eventually knows to take nothing at face value, and to question the existence of even those things that seem most real. This is an excellent prep. for assessment.

'Know Thyself' is a great deal older than The Matrix though. It was inscribed on the walls of the Oracle’s temple at delphi in ancient greece. Ancient Greeks considered Delphi to be the center of the world and revered the wisdom of the Oracle who resided there, in the Temple of Apollo. This Oracle’s prophecies were always cryptic. When Socrates visited the Oracle, he claimed that he knew nothing, and the Oracle replied that he was the wisest man on earth. Socrates disagreed, but he eventually discovered her ironic meaning. By claiming to know nothing, Socrates truly was the wisest because all others were under the false impression that they knew more than they actually knew, suggesting that true wisdom lies in recognizing one’s own ignorance.


NHA guide to Methods & Tech


A note about progress -'Practice is analog, but programming is digital'.

At this stage in NH maintaining tenacity, discipline and practice can be much more difficult if we do not know how the process of learning occurs. A useful thing to remember is: 'Practice is analog, but programming is digital'. This means that often during practice improvement seems very slow. This can be disheartening, until we remember that all we are doing is racking up in an analog manner the required critical mass of 'flight miles' and at some point we will reach it and there will be a sudden large improvement which will quickly consolidate with time and can rather take us by surprise (although its a nice surprise). For some, such changes can seem to happen 'almost overnight', as in, when I went to bed I was mediocre at X and this morning it all seems so easy!

Remember this whilst racking up those flight miles. Processing is digital, and when it has all the data it needs, the mind can rewire at incredible speed, opening up whole new networks and endowing us with many extra abilities all at once. If you feel more comfortable with our starship analogy then consider: 'practice is impulse power, programming is warp speed', and you won't go far wrong.


help with objective self assessment

the Repertory Grid

The Repertory Grid ('repgrid') is a data extraction and analysis technique that has as its basis the Personal Construct Theory (PCT).[45]

The repgrid is often referred to as an 'idiographic' measurement procedure because it permits the individual to freely describe self and others using their own language. The basic method is as follows: the individual completing the grid first chooses a context and then provides the names of different people they relate to or interact with in that given context. The individual is then asked to compare and contrast people from the list in groups of three. For instance, the individual might be asked to consider, 'Mom', 'Dad', and 'Self' and describe how two of the three people are similar to each other and distinct from the third. The response is provided in bipolar form; e.g., energetic / laid back

The compared people are referred to as 'elements' and the bipolar responses are referred to as 'personal constructs.' The personal constructs essentially comprise and reveal the personal ontology the individual uses to make sense of their world.

The central theme of PCT (as we read above) is that we organize our experiences in the world into conceptual classifications that we can differentiate and describe using concept sets of those classifications called constructs. Usually, constructs manifest themselves as complementary opposites in a continuum, so we can easily classify the elements of our world.

As we have learned in past tutorials, all constructs are sets of concepts arranged in ordered ways, selected from our intrinsic unconscious association maps. Understanding the way we form our superordinate constructs reveals a lot about our personality.

By analyzing our construct formations it is possible to tell, for example, if we are using sentiment or stereotypes, and whether or not we may have a bias or prejudice in any area.

Our categorization systems are personal to us. For example, Alice categorizes her music according to mood (calm, peaceful stuff versus energetic, loud stuff,) and this tells us that Alice associates loudness with energy, but does not associate peace and quiet with energy; even though relaxation (recharging, consolidation, sleep, digestion) is where we get much of our energy from. Currently, Alice sees 'calm' and 'energy' as opposites, which is not congruous with reality, and due to this unconscious construct she possibly has trouble relaxing in noisy environments.

Bob on the other hand categorizes his music into 'private stuff' and 'stuff to play when others are round' -which tells us that Bob considers entertaining guests important, and/or that he maybe doesn't want to reveal what music he really likes to his friends (in fear of criticism?) Bob clearly sees 'private' and 'public' behavior as opposites -what else might this reveal about his personality? It's possible that Bob could more easily cultivate a counterfeit 'public face', or false personality.

As discussed above, sentiment and stereotypes show up in constructs which are opposite but not complementary. Healthy constructs contain a polarity yet neither pole is devalued; for example the opposite of loud is quiet, but loud isn't 'better than' quiet or 'worse than' quiet; they lie upon a continuum of 'volume', which requires context to determine whether loud or quiet is most appropriate in any given situation. In some instances, quiet will be beneficial, in others, loud will be a better choice.

Polarities with equal value are a hallmark of a congruous personality. Thus if we find ourselves automatically forming constructs with unequal value for polarities, (for example, if we see the opposite of 'quiet' as 'violent'), it's a sign that sentiment or stereotypes are creeping in and further development of constructs is required to achieve congruity.

Kelly developed the Repertory Grid as an assessment technique that attempts to minimize external construct bias and systematically extract constructs for a particular domain that are important to participants.

The goal of the Role Construct Repertory Test is to understand how an individual views (that is, construes) their world, especially in relation to those people with whom they play different roles. This is particularly valuable for self assessment.

The Repertory Grid Process

The repertory grid ('RepGrid'; 'Role Construct Repertory Test') technique is a scientifically well-established method of recording a person’s full range of differentiations, and an ingenious and simple idiographic device to consciously explore how we unconsciously experience the world. There are lots of different versions of Repgrids and we will explore some different types in this and future tutorials.

Why is it called the Repertory Grid? First, Repertory comes from the word repertoire, which refers to a participant’s (in this case our) repertoire of constructs. The Grid refers to the data extraction and analysis procedure we use to gather and compare information from a number of constructs in a given context. In self-assessment, application of the Repertory Grid is to help identify the constructs we most commonly use in interacting with those around us.

Traditionally, researchers begin a Repertory Grid study by choosing several 'important examples' in a particular domain (context) with which they interact. Ideally, we end up with a selection of different construct examples that represent a wide variety of approaches and associations. Don't worry if it sounds confusing; we'll show you how to do this.

The RepGrid is a table in which, apart from the outer two columns, the other columns are headed by the names of the significant examples in the given context (traditionally up to 21 of them, but it is easier to begin with 6-12). These are known as 'elements'. They are often simply people's names.

The 'given context' is chosen by the individual doing the assessment, and can be about any interactive context; some examples are: 'my close relationships', 'people I respect', 'most interesting people', 'important people in my life', 'view of my friends', 'my main interactions'.

A given context must involve those whom we are interacting with in that context as our chosen elements. These do not have to be all real people we know, but can include fictional characters or people we have never met. For example if our given context was 'people who inspire me', the elements could include both fictional characters and people who have expired but whose works still inspire; such as Beethoven.

How to construct your RepGrid:

Here is an example of what a repgrid looks like at the start, based on the given context, 'People I respect', using eight elements:

Polarity 1 (\)









Captain picard



Polarity 2 (X)










































































The 'significant items' or Elements are the names of the people I respect and are placed across the top of the grid, between the outer columns (which we always mark polarities 1 and 2; we will get to those in a moment). Note this is a small example and most repgrids will have more elements.

Se we begin by choosing our context (such as, 'people I respect') and we list the significant people related to this context as our elements across the top between the polarity columns.

The elements are then written/printed out separately on cards or bits of paper, which we select in a random way (for example, picking out of a hat or after shuffling); three at a time.

We work through each group of three, always asking the same question: “How are two of these similar and the third one different?”

The criteria which we answer by constitute our “constructs”; the continuua of concept sets upon which we literally 'construct' and categorize our model of reality.

Obvious objective physical constructs, such as “black/white”, “male/female”, “tall/short” are too obvious and commonplace to be of much interest to us; it is the more personal subjective constructs which say a lot about us, but for beginners any practice is good practice so don't worry if the main constructs which come to you at first are physical factors such as hair, skin or eye color. It takes practice to discover personal constructs.

Parochial terms from counterfeit games (for example, nationality, occupation or religion) are no use as constructs because they are monopoles with no complement (ie, the only opposite of 'being french' is 'not being french'; there is no 'complementary' nationality). If parochial terms crop up in our constructs they are a sign that our categorization system is unclear about differentiating real and counterfeit constructs and ultimately between fact and fiction (such issues should be dealt with before attempting repgrids).

Many of us are not familiar with qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) assessment, and students undertaking repertory grids for the first time may struggle with language to really capture what it is they mean. Constructs are not meant to be 'dictionary opposites'; they are meant to be personal interpretations of complementary factors. For example, for different individuals, “laid back” might have a more meaningful opposite in “energetic” or “excitable”. We choose our own complementary terms.

When looking for construct poles, think about 'the contrasting pole' rather than the opposite pole. Learn to ask yourself the question, ‘How would I describe the complementary pole, by contrast?’ It is the personal, subjective connotations for us as individuals which count, rather than "objective", grammatical, or common stereotypical denotations (and for this reason we need to exercise great caution in interpretation if ever comparing the grids of different people).

As we work through the triplets, our constructs are placed on the grid (see example below). As each triplet of cards is chosen, they are marked on the grid with a backslash \ . When we decide which one is the 'odd one out' and why, we mark it with an X instead, and we write/type our selection criteria (the polarized constructs which show WHY polarity 1 is the odd one out) in the side columns of that row, as in the example below. It is important to try to do this part as quickly as we can without any deep thought or discussion. Treat it as a game.


'People I Respect' Repertory Grid -placing the first construct

Polarity 2 (\)









Captain picard



Polarity 1




Laid back & comical









Energetic and serious




















































The cards 'mum' 'me' and 'nelson mandela' were my first triplet, so I marked them all \

Then I thought of a difference between us; nelson mandela came across as energetic and serious in conversation, but my mum and I have a much more laid back and comical conversation style. So Nelson, being the 'odd one out' is marked with an X.

I then typed in the reason nelson is the odd one out, in the column marked 'polarity 1', and the complementary description goes under 'polarity 2'. Here the reasons for difference are behavioral- rather than appearance-based, but equally good constructs for a beginner could be:

Nelson can play the saxophone and my mum and I can't

Nelson is taller than 1.7m and my mum and I are not

Nelson has lived in Africa and my mum and I haven't

Nelson is interested in politics and my mum and I are not


Any difference will do in your early repgrids. You will get to know from experience what sort of constructs give you the most information.

We put the used cards back into the whole collection, mix them up/shuffle them and select again at random. With each triplet we repeat this process, building a selection of construct polarities down the side columns, and their appropriate symbols in the grid. We are giving a short example here for reasons of space, and ideally one should keep on going in a RepGrid until constructs begin to repeat themselves (we could end up with 20-30 constructs before this happens, so be prepared to add some rows!) The aim is to elicit as many constructs as possible.

When we are finished with this stage, the grid will look something like this:


'People I Respect' Repertory Grid

Polarity 1 (\)









Captain picard



Polarity 2 (X)



Laid back & comical









Energetic and serious

Gentle and quiet









Exuberant and noisy

Reclusive contemplative









24 hour party people






























Risk taker


We now rate each element according to the chosen constructs, adding a number to each cell on a scale of 1 - 8 (because there are 8 elements); where 1 represents 'most like' polarity 1 and 8 represents 'most like' polarity 2.

For example, the most laid back, comical person on the list gets a 1, whereas the most energetic and serious person on the list gets an 8. Everybody else is rated according to where they 'fit in' on this continuum. Depending on the number of examples and constructs identified during the triading step, this rating process can take some time, so be sure to allow for it in your scheduling. Your results will look something like the example below:


'People I Respect' Repertory Grid


Polarity 1 (\)









Captain picard



Polarity 2 (X)



Laid back & comical

\ 4





\ 3


X 7

Energetic and serious

Gentle and quiet


\ 1


\ 4

X 7




Exuberant and noisy

Reclusive contemplative



X 8

\ 3



\ 2


24 hour party people



\ 1


\ 2




X 7



\ 3





X 6

\ 2





\ 1


\ 2



X 8


Risk taker


You can see which triads were used at each 'turn'. The repertory grid now represents cross-referenced ideas around a context, set by the investigator (in this case me). It is a practical way of examining our implicit theories about a particular domain (context).


Interpreting your grid

We can analyze the results of a Repertory Grid study both qualitatively and quantitatively. Often, a qualitative analysis is enough to develop a good understanding of the constructs that are important to us. By reviewing the triading sessions and constructing a mind map of our constructs and the language we use to describe others, we can identify themes that inform our decision making for this domain.

We can see how we view the subject by looking at our chosen constructs and asking ourselves why these constructs emerged, what underlying beliefs they are based on, and how we apply these same concepts to similar domains (contexts).

We may wish to put our matrix of elements rated on constructs through a statistical analysis. Statistical analyses of repgrid data fall into two camps: multivariate analysis and dendritic analysis. A multivariate analysis manipulates the matrix of elements and constructs so that the relationships between them can be plotted on a graph.[51]

A dendritic analysis calculates which two elements are most closely correlated, places them next to each other (move the columns) in the matrix and makes them into a ‘connected’ element, and goes on doing that until all the elements are shown grouped in ‘families’ according to their degree of correlation; and then we do the same thing for the constructs.

The dendritic analysis approach may be more useful because it does not lose any of the information – as is inevitable with a multivariate analysis – and because the presentation of the analysis makes it easy to go on growing the grid by looking for the areas where more clarity is needed.

If you do a selection of repgrids over time you will see your constructs change and grow. Try making a before-and-after comparison, say, six months apart.

Content analysis may be combined with frequency counts. Like any other form of content analysis, you look at the data (usually the constructs), see what themes suggest themselves, and sort into those themes.

In my example above, note how all the conscious, emergent poles were types of extro behavior related to confidence; obviously these are qualities I tend to notice first in others. Note how this emerged in my example even though I included 'test' fictional characters like Alice & Bob and had to imagine what they might be like!

The presumption is that people have more constructs about issues they know well; so your analysis is likely to focus on the relative proportions of different themes.

For example, if we were structuring a grid in order to help understand why some of our relationships were unsuccessful, and there were a lot of constructs about trust, we might explore why trust seemed to be such a big issue.

There is practical data here too (such as, who among those we respect is most beneficial to hang out with more in order to learn the abilities we most need).

The number of constructs generated before we begin to repeat them can be revealing. 24—30 is about the norm. People with obsessional dysfunctions (“one-track minds”) may generate far fewer, schizophrenics often generate far more.

If we ask ourselves ask “why?” we have developed a particular construct, the resulting explanation reveals aspects of the “superordinate” construct of our personality, as we consider the constructs that are important from our own perspective. Often the constructs that are most important to us are surprising—however, this is the key aspect of the exercise—to uncover what sort of constructs are important to ourselves. Someone's grid is supposed to represent the truth as they see it.

Repgrids may also be used in conflict resolution where there is misunderstanding, since conflict could be described in terms of people having different construct systems.

The more we play with rep grids, the more we start to grasp how we use the same constructs to judge or assess many different contexts -indeed some seem to turn up in relation to every context. We've included a repgrid for self-assessment to try out at the end of this section.

Don't worry if you don't understand repgrids or their potential right away. It takes some practice to grasp how unconscious thought is being revealed via constructs, so take it slowly and treat it as a game.


Other methods of acquiring accurate information on our feelings or our personality are to compare reports from peers and study their nonverbal behavior; attempting to be as objective as we can when considering our behaviors, trying to see ourselves through the eyes of other people, and to become more aware of findings from psychological science.[52]


methods that help build resilience

Recognizing our capacity for resilience and growth is very important as it encourages us to be optimistic and hopeful even if in the current moment we are experiencing significant symptoms and dysfunction.


If it feels good, do it

The best way to increase resilience is to do something you really enjoy and push yourself to try stuff that's difficult. For some that will mean deliberately involving physical challenge in your life, for some, mental challenge; ideally we should incorporate both for optimal development and avoiding decline.

Resilience, it has been discovered, develops faster when regular exciting input is coupled with psychological input control, whether in deliberately adopting a conscientious, open, friendly approach to learning, or using a task-oriented coping style in stressful situations such as attempting to climb a rock face that's a little bit advanced for your level of skill.

Creative endeavors and interactive problem-solving are also positively linked with resilience, whereas reacting sentimentally to stress is negatively linked.[53]


Input control, psychological and physical

Making sure our lives contain frequent moments of positive experience and emotions increases our resilience against challenges.[54] Focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating healthy responsive emotions is the way to go, and mindfulness can be helpful in focusing on the here-and-now-moments which can help express healthy emotion here or there throughout the day. If we get too caught up in the future or past we miss the funny, exciting, interesting, kind or beautiful stuff in the here and now.

In times where circumstances are dull, our choice of entertainment can include examples of people responding with resilience under stress. Watching these examples further builds our own awareness of resilience and of coping mechanisms.


Laugh it up, fuzzball

Practice helps healthy emotions blossom, and comedy relaxes us, helping us become less anxious and more open to experience. That openness then helps us interact to build resources that can help us rebound better from adversity and problems, ward off depression and continue to grow. The levels of healthy emotions that produce good benefits are quite low, so you should see fairly fast improvement once practice begins. One good laugh a day at least is recommended (regardless of how you achieve it).


Restructuring a problem to frame it in terms that promote autonomy

Our autonomy is positively linked with our ability to solve problems effectively, and we can reframe problems to take advantage of this.

1. Choose a current or past problem which, at the time, you felt unable to do anything to change. Analyze the reasons for the problem occurring, as you see them. Reasons might include:


That place was not a good place

I made mistakes

somebody else made mistakes

Others involved hated me

I was ill

Others involved were too stupid

I did something stupid

The tech was not working

The method was wrong

The instructions were unclear

I missed the deadline

It was someone else's fault

Others were late

I was late

I was wrong

Others were wrong

The data was wrong

Something was missing



2. Staying with the reasons you choose, now apply the following formula to every reason:

'I was responsible for this because...' (and explain how you were responsible.)

For examples; if one of your reasons is, 'that place was a bad place', your statement might be: “I was responsible for this because I chose to go into a bad place.”

If one of your reasons is 'Others involved hated me', your statement might be, “I was responsible for this because I chose to hang out with or tried to work with unprofessional/ incompetent people.”


In this way we get to see the full degree of our own responsibility for what happens to us, and once we accept responsibility, we get the experience of autonomy and independence within the problem and the power to interact with it and do something about it.

From this perspective we come up with a neat list of universal 'reality advice guides'. For example, from the above:

1 don't go into stupid places and expect successful interactions

2 don't try to work with incompetent people and expect successful interactions


Since we also have full autonomy to follow our own advice, problems are likely to decrease much more rapidly when we can instantly learn from our mistakes than they do if we feel helpless to change them. It is taking responsibility for our own real life role in things, contexts and events which gives us the power to change them.

Never fall into the trap of thinking, 'but I was forced to do X or lose my job', or 'but my partner said if I didn't do X they would leave me'. You CHOSE to do X because the alternative was job or partner loss and you deemed the choice worthwhile.

Practice this on various different problems. Notice how the reasons for problems happening all merge down to a few responsibilities, such as where we are and what we pay attention to.


Why Chain Analysis

“The answer is............42”

(Douglas Adams, HGTG)


“Behavior is not the answer to the psychologist’s question; it is the question.”

(Kelly, 1969).


Accurate, useful feedback from self assessment or communications with others depends on asking the right questions; otherwise the answers may be useless to us.

Often in self assessment we may become baffled by one or another aspects of ourselves; our behavior, the way we expressed ourselves, something we said, and so on; or issues in our lives such as why x or y occurred. If we find ourselves stuck with an unsolved question, 'Why Chain Analysis' can be a useful technique.

The idea is to question our questions until they are refined into something answerable; first by ascertaining the veracity and genuineness of our questions and second by asking ourselves why we are asking them. This analysis can reveal lots about unfounded assumptions and unwarranted anxieties and is good for solving time-consuming quandaries.

How to do it:

1 Select one unsolved issue which baffles you; a question which for you has not yet been answered.

(Student examples: 'Why won't Julie speak to me?'; 'Why do I never know what to say?'; 'Why don't Dan and I get along?')

2 Submit your question to the following four questions:

a) Why do I believe this is true?

b) What evidence do I have that it's true?

c) Is there any evidence against this?

d) What could an alternative possibility be?


At this stage we try to change the question to be more accurate in light of our inquiries. It has quite likely been refined.

(Student examples:

'Why won't Julie speak to me?' becomes, 'Why do I believe that Julie won't speak to me?'

'Why do I never know what to say?' becomes, 'Why do I feel like I never know what to say?' 'Why don't Dan and I get along?' becomes, 'Why do I get the impression that Dan and I don't seem to get along?')


These are better, more accurate, more truthful questions about reality. Try to answer yours. Occasionally this step alone solves the initial query (ie, we discover our original assumption was wrong.)

3 If the new question is still difficult to answer, we submit it to four further inquiries:

e) Why does this issue concern me?

f) Why does this appear to be important?

g) Why may this not be safely ignored?

h) Why is this any of my business?


Once again we try to change the question in light of these new inquiries.

(Student examples: 'Why don't I just ignore it if Julie won't speak to me?'; 'Why does it matter if I feel like I never know what to say?'; 'Why does it concern me if Dan and I don't seem to get along?')


Now try to answer the questions. Sometimes the original question is revealed as irrelevant here (when being truthful, we discover we were feeling insecure or anxious and misweighting the importance of things.) The new question becomes 'Why am I wasting time worrying about trivia?' and the problem is solved.

4 If it isn't, we can continue to analyze the issues with further questions. Sometimes, the best question is simply, 'why?' We should be able to apply our own questions to issues with a bit of creative thinking, but here are some suggestions to start off:

Why does this behavior arise?

Why am I assuming this is true?

Why does this matter to me?

Why is this a problem for me?

Why will this affect me?

Why is this being ignored?

Why is this being forgotten?

Why is this being prioritized?

Why is this relevant to my development?

Why is this not sensible?

Why is this a harmful/beneficial thing?

Why am I involved?

Why don't I change things?

Why am I asking this question?

Why is this not resolved?


Practical assignments

self assessment 1: assess current resilience & autonomy

Give each statement 1-6 points, according to how much you feel it describes your behavior accurately, where:

1 = hardly ever true of me

2 = rarely true of me

3 = not sure

4 = sometimes true of me

5 = usually true of me

6 = almost always true of me



1 When I make plans, I follow through with them.

2 I usually manage one way or another.

3 I am able to depend on myself more than anyone else.

4 Keeping interested in things is important to me.

5 I can be on my own if I have to.

6 I feel proud that I have accomplished things in life.

7 I usually take things in stride.

8 I am friends with myself.

9 I can cheer myself up or calm myself down.

10 I am determined.

11 I seldom wonder what the point of it all is.

12 I can comfort myself in difficult times.

13 I am able to cope with unpleasant or painful emotions like sadness, grief or offense.

14 I have self-discipline.

15 I learn from my mistakes.

16 I can usually find something to laugh about.

17 My belief in myself gets me through hard times.

18 In an emergency, I'm someone people can generally rely on.

19 I can usually look at a situation in a number of ways.

20 I tend to bounce back after illness, injury or other hardships

21 My life has meaning.

22 I do not dwell on things that I can't do anything about.

23 When I'm in a difficult situation, I can usually find my way out of it.

24 I have enough energy to do what I have to do.

25 It's okay if there are people who don't like me.


See end of tutorial for scoring


self assessment 2

coping style assessment

Rate how likely you are to engage in each activity in the list below when you encounter a difficult, stressful, or upsetting situation; where 1 = very unlikely, 2 = hardly ever likely, 3 =sometimes likely, 4 = fairly likely and 5 = very likely.

To help your perspective on this, consider various (preferably recent) past problems and which of the activities you engaged in. The more accurate you can be, the more useful your results will be.


Activities (types of responses/reactions to stressors/problems):

01 Ask relatives or friends for help

02 Focus on the problem

03 Think about good times

04 need to be with others

05 figure out who to blame

06 Take the best course to improve things asap

07 Get so drunk/high I can't think about it

08 Blame myself for the situation

09 Drink or use drugs to reduce anxiety

10 Determine priorities

11 Get some sleep

12 Treat myself to a healthy snack

13 Worry about not being able to cope

14 Become anxious or get depressed

15 Consider similar problems

16 wait until I calm down before doing anything

17 consult a professional to deal with the problem

18 eat junk food

19 Get too upset to think straight

20 Ask those I respect for their opinion, but make my own decisions

21 Find a shoulder to cry on

22 feel guilty for not having a solution

23 Go to a party

24 ensure I understand the situation

25 Hit somebody or break things

26 pray, attend confession, or talk to a priest

27 Think about and learn from past mistakes

28 Wish that I could change

29 Seek company, but don't discuss the problem

30 Get help

31 need a special person

32 Go for a walk

33 Meditate

34 Focus on myself

35 need to talk to someone

36 Analyze the problem

37 freeze, panic or freak out

38 Become angry

39 Change priorities

40 Watch a movie to chill out

41 refuse to talk about it or deal with it

42 Follow my loved ones' advice

43 Consider different solutions to the problem

44 Consult a professional for extra info

45 Take it out on others

46 Use the situation to challenge myself

47 Use organizations for support

48 Listen to calming music


See end of tutorial for interpretation of scores. (If you cut & paste the assessment into a separate document, it's easy to view both at once).


Self assessment 3 -Thematic apperception test

Here we are presented with an ambiguous picture which we have to interpret.

The thematic apperception test (TAT) taps into a person’s unconscious mind to reveal the implicit aspects of their personality.

When doing your own TAT you can choose your own picture. Although the picture, illustration, drawing or cartoon that is used must be interesting enough to encourage creative imagination, it should be vague enough not to suggest any 'specific' story.

Example pictures:


We look at the chosen picture and tell a brief dramatic action/adventure/mystery story about it. For example; imagine and write down:

o What might have led up to the event shown?
o What is happening at the moment?
o What are the characters thinking and feeling?
o What might the outcome of the story be

Proponents of this technique assert that our responses reveal our underlying ontology through the stories we make up about ambiguous pictures of people.[55] The rationale behind the technique is that people tend to interpret ambiguous situations in accordance with their own past experiences and current motivations, which may be conscious or unconscious.

The TAT is not a 'test' in as much as there are no scores or 'pass marks'; it is intended to reveal our view of the world and our attitudes toward our self and others.

Here are two student examples of stories for the first picture shown above:

Story A
The kids had decided to go camping. They were having a great time as they waved goodbye to their parents, and thinking about all the fun they would have.
On the first night a load of goats came along and ate their tent, and they awoke shivering in the cold. They were not being picked up for three days and the night temperatures were freezing. What could they do?
Together they gathered branches and built themselves a shelter by bending the branches into an arch and burying the ends. They covered their shelter with more branches and ferns like a thatch, then they blocked off one end and lit a fire outside the other. What was left of the tent they tied over the top. Just before it went dark, they pulled spiny bushes all around their shelter to stop the goats getting in.
They had a great time and their folks were really surprised to find them in a bushman shelter instead of a tent. After that they always took care to protect against goats.

Story B
Four of us went on a camping holiday that year... Little did we know that we would end up making a great discovery!
It was on the second day that Alice found the fossil. It was half buried in the sand so she got us all to help her dig it out. The digging went on...and on...until suddenly we all fell downwards as the place where we were digging collapsed and we found ourselves in an underground cave full of treasure!
The big trouble was we could not climb out, could not get a signal on our phones, and for a while did not know what to do. Then Bob remembered a movie he had seen where the heroes were trapped down a hole and had escaped by piling up the fallen rocks into a stairway. We tried this, but our stairs only got halfway up the wall and it was already beginning to go dark.
So we started piling the treasure on top of the stairway, and eventually we made it almost back to the top by clambering up gold. But we could still not quite reach. It would be ironic, being suddenly so rich, and then starving down a hole.
Then Alice, who was the lightest, suggested if she stood on Bob's shoulders (he was the tallest) she might reach the top. We were all very delighted when she did.
Alice quickly got our rope and rescued the rest of us, and we all had a well deserved pot of tea. Tomorrow, using their climbing gear, they would organize a search of the cave.

Both these stories show that the authors are creative and good at problem solving. They make their characters do what they would do.

Which story did you find most interesting? Most would say the second, as it contains more surprises. The author of story B is clearly imaginative and inventive. This story is also written as if the author is one of the characters, which helps us associate more closely with them. An archetypal rule is followed (whether consciously or unconsciously), as the characters have to try three times to escape. It also leaves open the possibility of a 'chapter 2'. Student B considers the future and is probably good at planning & strategy.

Both authors are optimists and expect happy endings to most scenarios, therefore they probably have good interactive and cooperation skills. Notice how the characters all work as a team, are highly autonomous, and nobody falls prey to anxiety. Both stories imply the campers are well-equipped, and both authors are probably well organized.

We can see how analyzing our output in this way assists our self awareness. Our stories tell us as much about ourselves as they do about the fictional characters. By observing how we construct and direct a story, we are observing the manner in which we construct and direct our lives.

By doing discourse analysis on our story, we could reveal more about our constructs and associations.


self assessment 4 archetypes repgrid

For the elements in this grid, select the names of eight people who each fit one of the following descriptions (you cannot choose the same person twice):

1 A person who has played the role of carer in your life

2 A person who has played the role of faithful companion in your life

3 A person who has played the role of hero or young seeker in your life

4 A person who has played the role of explorer in your life

5 A person who has played the role of guide in your life

6 A person who has played the role of healer in your life

7 A person who has played the role of wise master in your life

8 A person who has played the role of good instructor in your life

9 A person who has played the role of benefactor in your life

10 A person who has played the role of supporter in your life

11 A person who has played the role of good example in your life

12 A person who has played the role of truly inspiring you

Choose EIGHT elements only. Place the elements across the top of your repgrid (example given below) and write them on separate pieces of card, as in the previous example (above).


Self Assessment 'Archetypes' Repertory Grid (Example)

Polarity 2 (\)











Polarity 1 (X)
























(you will have lots more rows than we have illustrated here)


Now start doing your triplets.


lets say my first triplet is:

Alice, Donna, George

The odd one out (for me) of these three is Donna because she is very energetic, as opposed to laid back. So I fill in my grid accordingly:


Self Assessment 'Archetypes'Repertory Grid (Example)

Polarity 2 (\)











Polarity 1




Laid back






















Now construct and fill in your own grid in the same way. You should have enough information in this tutorial to fill in the rest of your grid by yourself.

This may be a lengthy process requiring much thought but it doesn't have to happen all at once; it's useful to keep repgrids in your Captain's Log and do them here and there when you have spare time, much like crosswords.

When you are finished, grade each element as in the example first given in this tutorial. This assessment should reveal a lot about how you see the chosen elements in relation to each other and their contribution to personality as a whole.


What do you do if you end up with a triplet of elements you can't seem to get any constructs out of (for example if you really can't think of any reason one is the 'odd one out'?) Simply replace all the cards in the set, shuffle and choose another triplet. Don't give up right away though -do your best to find one differentiating characteristic.


We hope some or all of these methods will be of use to you in your own journey of self-discovery.



Towards entelechy


You are the source

Of all things bad or good,

You've got to make it right,

'Cause there's no one else who could.

The hardest thing,

Is to straighten yourself,

Before you try

To straighten out anyone else.


You've got to find yourself,

Before you look for anyone else.

You've got to find yourself,

Before you really know anyone else.


Don't forget your life for another,

However great their need,

The best way to help your brother

Is to make sure you can see.


(M.Elton/A.Glass 1980)


"The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves.

We are star-stuff. We are the Universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out.

And, as we have both learned, sometimes the Universe needs a change of perspective."
(Delenn; A Distant Star; Babylon 5 )



The most important bits to remember

 All knowledge is 'situated'; that is to say constructed by the observer according to their own interpretation of concepts as associated with their own (not our own) ontology. In short, anyone's model for interpretation of others' personality or ontology is shaped entirely by their own personality and ontology! Assertions about personality 'type' therefore actually tell us much more about the person/s doing the rating via whatever 'test' system they have personally invented (constructed), than they do about any persons being 'rated'.

...It should by now be starting to occur to you why people's opinions about each other are pretty meaningless, and usually just projections of their own ontology & personality.

Constructs always rely on a background continuum with bipolar possibilities as their context; essentially, each continuum bridges the gap between and includes a pair of complementary (but NOT opposing) concepts.

The dominant side of a polar construct, which we consciously apply to an event, is known as the conscious or 'emergent pole' of a construct. The 'reference' side that is implied is the unconscious or 'implicit pole' of the construct.

We always use the emergent conscious pole when assessing or describing stuff.

Polar constructs bridge the gap between unconscious and conscious (as well as concrete and abstract) concepts. The same algorithm used for translating concrete concepts to abstract ones are used for constructing unconscious to conscious association.

We conceptualize everything in terms of its relationship to something else and narrow it down by looking at similarities and differences. Thus it is from the connections or 'bridges' between unconscious and conscious thought that we make our constructs.

Constructs are inherently personal because they are based upon our own personal life experiences. Each person's system of constructs is unique, and it is the individual nature of these experiences that forms the differences between our personalities.

Changes in our constructs (and consequently personalities) over time reflect our ongoing learning, development and experience.

Realistic and congruous constructs not only determine the quality of our perception of ourselves and others, but also fine tune our awareness and perspective, leading to a more integrated and congruous experience of life.


At the beginning of this tutorial we said that by its end you should have an overview of the brain structures involved in autonomy, decision making and the exercise of free will; and know the results of the most recent clinical observations and research. You should understand how self awareness contributes to autonomy, how counterfeit personalities occur, the relationship between self-knowledge and personal integrity, and why we have a golden rule stating, 'Know Yourself'.

...Do you? If not, review the tutorial for any particular issues you have not grasped, using these phrases as keywords.


Hacks & Exercises



Gratitude hack

Research shows that people who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. Experiencing gratitude is strongly associated with improved health.

We feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. We can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past fun), the present (not taking everything for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).

Studies have shown [56] that gratitude can produce a number of measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

increase of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, testosterone

decrease of cortisol, cytokines

decrease of blood pressure and blood sugar.


Gratitude helps us refocus our attention toward what's good and right in our life, rather than dwelling on the negatives or things we may feel are lacking.

Here are some ways to increase gratitude:

One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you're grateful for or happy about each day. In one study [57] people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and they had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.

If someone does something nice, send them a thankyou email.

Once a week, reflect on events for which you are grateful, and write them down. As you do, feel the sensations of happiness and thankfulness you felt at the time it happened, going over it again in your mind.

Practicing meditation with a theme means that you're actively paying attention to the theme alone. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but we can also focus on something that we're grateful for, such as our abilities, our health, or a happy memory.

Starting each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for is one way to put your mind on the right track. Also, remember that your future depends largely on the thoughts you think today. So each moment of every day is an opportunity to turn your thinking around, thereby helping or hindering your ability to think and feel more positively in the very next moment.


Hack to increase resilience against distraction

New research [58] reveals that by learning to make discriminations of a sound amidst progressively more disruptive distractions, we can diminish our distractibility. A similar strategy might also help people with attention problems or other mental challenges.

Distractibility, or the inability to sustain focus on a goal due to attention to irrelevant stimuli, can have a negative effect on basic daily activities, and it is a hallmark of the aging mind.

To do this hack you will need to make your own recording: researchers used different sounds as 'targets' and 'distractors', with the goal of having trainees focus on the target frequencies while ignoring the distractor frequencies. Then they had to continue to correctly identify that target sound amidst progressively more challenging 'distractor' sounds. Distractor sounds were progressively made more similar to the target sound.

Training led to diminished distraction-related errors, and trainees' memory and attention spans improved. Also, EEG recordings revealed that neural responses to distractors were reduced.


Hack to increase truth-hunting abilities

Visual illusions provide a glimpse of how our brain can misinterpret reality without our intent or awareness.

Viewing some of you favorite visual illusions immediately before approaching a new subject increases our awareness of the possibility of misinterpretation, and primes the unconscious to 'keep an open mind' and question new information; avoiding unjustified assumptions and considering alternate possibilities.[59]


Hack self esteem & improve coping skills -evaluating and challenging negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk can become an automatic habitual reaction to stressful events. Reframing assists in becoming aware of any internal monologue; and widens our perspective in particularly challenging situations. Awareness of intrusion from internal dialogue relates to emotional awareness and regulation, and self-awareness.[60] Furthermore, modification of negative self-talk is important in the process of learning to regulate feelings. Recognizing self-talk helps us reproduce perspectives of others in private speech and incorporate multiple perspectives into relational and emotional problem solving. Moreover, self-awareness, monitoring, and communication of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are essential prerequisites for healthy emotional functioning.

Steps involved in this hack are (a) becoming aware of one’s thoughts, (b) evaluating the content, and challenging negative perceptions by questioning their validity, (c) the reframing activity, which utilizes the answers to the questions in part (b).

a) Consider the problem or issue you are working on. What are your thoughts and feelings? Be honest.

b) Ask yourself the following questions (they are designed to challenge erroneous beliefs or cognitions.):


1.Are these thoughts really true?

2.Are the negative aspects of this situation being overemphasized or overweighted in memory?

3.What is the worst thing that could really happen?

4.Is there anything that might be positive about this situation?

5.Is a negative outcome assumed? Why?

6.How do you know the situation will turn out badly?

7.Is there another way to look at this situation?

8.What difference will this make next week? In a month? In a year?

9.If you had one month to live, how important would this be?

10.Are you setting unrealistic standards for yourself? Would you be this harsh if the event had happened to a friend?


c) Using your answers to these questions, write a positive reframe for the scenario.

Student example:

Original scenario: I just had a bad disagreement with my best friend in which I got anxious and used sentiment and dysfunctional behavior. It ended badly and I will not be able to talk to them until tomorrow.

Reframing: I cannot read their mind so I will not jump to conclusions about what they are thinking. A little time away from the situation may be good. If we're both sensible and have time to think, we should be able to sort it out tomorrow.


hacks for reducing suspected self obsession

There are various methods for redirecting our attention away from thinking about ourselves all the time. One of the best, perhaps surprisingly, is gardening or taking care of plants. But the key thing in all methods is to occupy the mind with healthy input -and get into the habit of deliberately seeking out healthy input (about any subject except yourself!) whenever you catch yourself mulling over self-interested thoughts & feelings.

Challenging irrational beliefs is always good for disarming paranoia and also good for avoiding self obsession. Useful questions:

1 What makes you think you are more important than others?
2 Why have you got into the habit of constant self-analysis?
3 What makes you think others are interested in you, or your opinions & beliefs?
4 Does feedback confirm your beliefs that others are interested in you?


exercises for improving thinking skills

The following exercises are used by a Certain Intelligence Agency to improve thinking skills.[61]

Breaking mental ruts

If you get stuck with a creative output problem, talk about it out loud. Go somewhere private, sit or lie down, relax, and talk. Good questions are: "What is the point of this paragraph? What am I trying to communicate?" "The point I am trying to get across is that ...," Answer yourself out loud as though talking to someone else. Often, it just comes. Saying it out loud breaks the block, and words start coming together in different ways.

Researchers have learned why this happens; written language and spoken language are processed in different parts of the brain. Often, speaking frees up the unconscious to do some lateral thinking in its spare time.

Sometimes ruts are caused by too much repetitive work or self-restricting habits. Reconsider:

We do not necessarily need to be constrained by what the 'mainstream' or others believe. Some things we think we already 'know' could be wrong.

We do not necessarily need to be constrained by existing frameworks. Frames can be changed if you need a broader perspective.

We do not necessarily need to be constrained by the data available. Often there is a chance to find out more; however small.


Questioning assumptions and conclusions

It is a truism that we need to question our own and others' assumptions. Experience tells us that when analytical judgments turn out to be wrong, it usually was not because the information was wrong. It was because an analyst made one or more faulty assumptions or unjustified conclusions that went unchallenged. Sometimes, assumptions that worked well in the past continue to be applied to new situations long after they have become outmoded.

One approach is to do an informal sensitivity analysis. How sensitive is the ultimate judgment/decision to changes in any of the major variables or driving forces in the situation? Those lynchpin assumptions are the ones that need to be questioned. We should ask ourselves what could happen to make any of these assumptions out of date or wrong, and how we can know this has not already happened. We should try to disprove assumptions rather than confirm them. If we cannot think of anything that would cause us to change our mind, our mind-set may be so deeply entrenched that we cannot see the conflicting evidence. If this is a problem the 'competing hypotheses approach' (see below) helps identify the lynchpin assumptions that swing a conclusion in one direction or another.

We should also try to identify alternative models, conceptual frameworks, or interpretations of the data by seeking out individuals who disagree with them rather than those who agree. Most people do not do that very often. It is much more comfortable to talk with people in one's own group who share the same basic mind-set.

One kind of assumption we should always recognize and question is 'mirror-imaging' (filling gaps in our own knowledge by assuming that the other person is likely to act in a certain way because that is how we would act under similar circumstances. To say, "That's what I would do if I were them …" or, “In their position, I would...” is mirror-imaging. Mirror-imaging leads to dangerous assumptions, because other people DO NOT think the way we do. The frequent assumption that they do is termed the "everybody-thinks-like-me mind-set."

some useful perspectives

A useful technique for exploring new ground and forward planning is 'thinking backwards'. As an intellectual exercise, start with an assumption that some event you did not expect has actually occurred. Then, put yourself into the future, looking back to explain how this could have happened. Think what must have happened six months or a year earlier to set the stage for that outcome, what must have happened six months or a year before that to prepare the way, and so on back to the present.

Thinking backwards changes our focus from whether something might happen to how it might happen. Putting ourselves into the future creates a different perspective that keeps us from getting anchored in the present. Analysts will often find, to their surprise, that by doing this they can construct a quite plausible scenario for an event which they had previously thought unlikely.

Try playing 'the devil's advocate' and deliberately see if you can construct an opposing pov. You may not necessarily agree with that view, but try to represent it as strenuously as possible. The goal is to expose conflicting interpretations and show how alternative assumptions and images make the world look different. It often requires time, energy, practice and commitment to see how the world looks from a different perspective.

'competing hypotheses approach'

Analysis of competing hypotheses, sometimes abbreviated 'ACH', is a tool to aid judgment on important issues requiring careful weighing of alternative explanations or conclusions. It helps us overcome, or at least minimize, some of the cognitive limitations that make certainty more difficult to achieve.

ACH is an eight-step procedure grounded in basic insights from cognitive psychology, decision analysis, and the scientific method. It is a surprisingly effective, proven process that helps avoid common analytical pitfalls. Because of its thoroughness, it is particularly appropriate for controversial issues when we want to show what we considered and how we arrived at our decisions.

The term "hypothesis" in its broadest sense as a potential explanation or conclusion that is to be tested by collecting and viewing (and presenting) evidence.

How to do it:

1. Identify the possible hypotheses to be considered. Use different perspectives to brainstorm the possibilities.

2. Make a list of significant evidence and arguments for and against each hypothesis.

3. Prepare a mind map with hypotheses across the top and evidence beneath each. Identify which items are most helpful in judging the relative likelihood of the hypotheses.

4. Refine the diagram. Reconsider the hypotheses and delete evidence and arguments that have no diagnostic value.

5. Draw tentative conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis. Proceed by trying to disprove each hypothesis rather than prove it.

6. Analyze how sensitive your conclusion is to a few critical items of evidence. Consider the consequences for your analysis if that evidence were wrong, misleading, or subject to a different interpretation.

7. Add conclusions. Discuss the relative likelihood of all the hypotheses; not just the most likely one.

8. Identify milestones for future observation that may indicate whether events are taking a different course than expected.

It is important to distinguish hypotheses that appear to be disproved from those that are simply unproven. For an unproven hypothesis, there is no evidence that it is correct. For a disproved hypothesis, there is positive evidence that it is wrong.


self hypnosis practice: 3 vital hypnosis techniques

1: Rehearsal

Put simply, this is just a way of using the imagination constructively. It is a fundamental technique in hypnosis. As we know, imagination is an unbelievably powerful tool that can be used by others to coerce us, or that we can control and learn to use for our own benefit.

If we constantly imagine things going wrong, we are constantly going to feel anxious. If we are able to imagine things going right, and in a detailed, relaxed way, we are likely to feel more optimistic and calm. Plus (and it's a big plus) we are much more likely to get the responses we want from ourselves in the situation we have rehearsed. Learning to use rehearsal well allows us to prepare ourselves to perform the way we want, be it in relationships, in learning, for sports, performances; anything.

The 2 stages of rehearsal

There are two stages to good rehearsal: Stage 1: Dissociated: this simply means to see ourselves in an experience as if we were watching ourselves on a screen. We feel less (if any) emotion when viewing an experience in this way. Stage 2: Associated:this means to imagine an experience as if it were happening now; seeing the world through our own eyes. We feel more emotion when imagining an experience in this way.

The best way to go about rehearsal is firstly to imagine ourselves on a screen looking and sounding the way we want to be in the situation we are rehearsing. Then, once we have got a good idea of how that would look, 'float' into the screen and experience it from within ourselves. Once in this position, we should really focus on how we want to feel; what we would see, hear, feel and touch in the situation (behave as though).


2: Association anchoring

Amplifying resources. Sometimes just called 'anchoring', this technique focuses on the area of our life where we feel good, or can do something well, and 'transfers' it into another area where we feel less capable. This technique is unbeatable for helping with public speaking, confrontational situations, cultural anxiety and many other scenarios people have difficulty with.

How does it work? 'Anchoring' works due to our programming ourselves with an association-sensation link. It works the same way as conditioning except that here, we are doing the programming and making a deliberate association for our own benefit. Used well, this is perhaps the most effective and important technique for self hypnosis.

How to do 'Association anchoring' in Self Hypnosis:

we set up an association between a stimulus (anchor) and a positive state. The stimulus we use is touching the first finger and thumb together on the same hand.

First, we create deep relaxation and a positive state by using nominalisations. Some people like to use drugs, music, alcohol or physical exercise to help achieve the initial relaxed but happy, carefree, and playful state. Often a good memory will come to mind in this state. Next we bring our finger and thumb together to create an association between this physical 'anchor' and the positive emotional state.

We repeat application of the anchor until we observe that we feel good when the anchor is applied.

Next we imagine a situation where those resources would be useful. Bring the finger and thumb together. Notice the differences as you experience the situation whilst feeling really good.

We can now use this association anchor in real life.


3: Pattern Interruption

Breaking habit patterns. Although it may not seem like self hypnosis at first, this technique is highly hypnotic. It is good for getting rid of bad habit patterns and addictions.

How does it work? Pattern interruption works by 'breaking the flow' of a habit, interrupting the unconscious process by making it conscious.

If we are driving a car or riding a bike or playing a well-known tune, and someone asks us to describe what we are doing, it can quickly become difficult to continue, much like it was when we first learnt. This is because we are suddenly making a smooth‐running unconscious process more conscious. Using this sort of interruption during harmful habitual processes works just as well.

Here’s how to do it: To disrupt an old sequential pattern of problem behaviour, first imagine you have to describe the steps of your habit to an alien. Work out the steps of the habit from start to finish. You will find that there is a common 'beginning' step, even if further steps vary.

Student's example:

Bad habit is immature behavior. Stages: 1 Sensation of threat or anxiety 2 Look around for a nearby material object 3 Hit, smash, kick or throw object 4 Feel unfulfilled and angry with self 5 Repeat step 3 again 6 Feel embarrassed 7 Leave room 8 Feel guilty 9 Pick up damaged things 10 Pretend it never happened.

Remembering past tutorials, you will recall that we cannot just 'give up' habits but must replace them if change is to be permanent, so there will be a healthy, desirable behaviour you would like to 'substitute' for the unwanted habit; write that down too.

Next, go through the steps in order. Close your eyes to imagine each step happening on its own, then open them again before going onto the next step.

Now do the same thing with your 'good habit' or replacement activity.

Student's example:

Replacement habit is mature behaviour. Stages: 1 Be aware of anxiety at onset 2 If necessary tell others not feeling too good 3 Take immediate long, slow breaths 4 sit down 5 remain still 6 use association anchoring or other techniques to reduce anxiety 7 get myself a drink of herb tea or cocoa, failing that, water 8 Relax and enjoy sense of achievement at having beaten this stupid habit.

Then begin to go through the steps of the bad habit again, but this time, imagine moving from step 1 of the bad habit straight into step 1 of your replacement behavior. Rehearse this sequence in your imagination.

Student's example:

Stages: 1 Sensation of threat or anxiety 2 Be aware of anxiety at onset 3 If necessary tell others not feeling too good 4 Take immediate long, slow breaths 5 sit down 6 remain still 7 use association anchoring or other techniques to reduce anxiety 8 get myself a drink of herb tea or cocoa, failing that, water 9 Relax and enjoy sense of achievement at having beaten this stupid habit.


Exercises for objective self assessment

Objectify an aspect of yourself using analogization:

Schedule for an hour free. If you don't get the analogy, you won't be able to do the exercise, so read it through first.


Imagine that your body is the outside 'hull' of your starship and you begin the game as the Captain. As the Captain you expect the crew to take good care of the ship, and today you are going to inspect it to see if they are doing their job well or if they need more instruction. To do the inspection, here is your maintenance crew's check list to tick off:

1 The outside skin should be clean and free from parasites; any scratches, injuries or other damage should be under repair. Clean if necessary, taking note of any surface problems.

2 Fuel intake, waste disposal systems and docking bays should be clean and unobstructed. Clean if necessary, take note of any problems.

3 Determine current weight of ship in air @ 1G, and note.

4 All sensors should be in good working order and unobstructed. Test if necessary.

5 The ship's AI will know if there have been any problems lately. Ask it to recall any physical issues still needing attention.

6 Put the ship through its paces - Can it pitch, roll and yaw without discomfort? (see diagram)


Pitch, roll & yaw



7 Send all your notes to the First Officer in network 5

Now you play the First Officer. Look at your Captain's report. What sections of the crew may need more resources or other input to do their jobs better? Plan and implement the means to achieve this. Congratulate your crew and yourself for jobs well done but point out what is currently lacking and how it may be improved. Explain your plans and warn them if you may need to change routines slightly to achieve better results.

Now you have a very clear idea of the state of your physical body and what you are doing to improve it, and all you did was play a game. This is how real learning, and real improvement, come about. Inventing your own analogical scenarios works even better, as the characters you must play will associate more closely with your real self than ours do.


Remaining objective about intuition

1. Be comfortable with not knowing some things and accept that you don't know yet. View the intuitions or impressions you’ve received as stand alone data, and don't be in a rush to know what it means or to trust it straight away. Trust that you will see whether it pans out when you know more and trust that if it is sound, there will be conscious evidence to back it up. Look for some.

2. Give it time. Sometimes the simple act of sitting with something long enough helps you feel differently about it or brings it into conscious awareness. Either is useful.

3. Let go and detach from outcomes. Meditation is a great way of learning how to do this. The simple act of letting thoughts rise and fall, without latching on to them is certainly a useful skill. It can help immensely in detaching from our own subjective views.

4. If you are fortunate enough to know other intelligent people whom you trust, get a second opinion. Depending on how you’ve received the intuitive hunch or insight, you might want to ask what a trusted friend thinks. Just talking something through with someone you trust can help you understand it better yourself. Don't depend on others to decide what to do for you; tell them your proposed solutions along with the problem.

5. Keep anxiety down. If you become anxious whilst thinking about a problem, stop and do some anxiety reduction before continuing to work on it.


footnotes & refs

1 Old English freo "free, exempt from, not in bondage," also "noble; joyful," from Proto-Germanic *frijaz (cf. Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon and Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis "free"), from PIE *prijos "dear, beloved," from root *pri- "to love" (cf. Sanskrit priyah "own, dear, beloved," priyate "loves;" prijatelji "friend;" Welsh rhydd "free").
The primary sense seems to have been "beloved, friend, to love;" which in some languages (notably Germanic and Celtic) developed also a sense of "free," perhaps from the terms "beloved" or "friend" being applied to the free members of one's clan (as opposed to slaves, cf. Latin liberi, meaning both "free" and "children"). Cf. Gothic frijon "to love;" Old English freod "affection, friendship," friga "love," friðu "peace;" Old Norse friðr, German Friede "peace;" Old Norse Frigg (partner of Odin), literally "beloved" or "loving."

2 the others are: Inheritance, High rate of population growth, and Differential survival & reproduction. http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/selection/selection.html

3 'Neuroscientist reveals how nonconformists achieve success'; Emory University http://www.physorg. com/news14149608 4.html

4 Dick Proenneke; https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHhsu-Vn6jZpBMVJ5Wncizf0wrCw1C0-V

AND 'Hold Fast'; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lwbHYOFD-4

5 Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5537 ; "A new brain-based marker of stress susceptibility." July 29th, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-07-brain-based-marker-stress-susceptibility.html

6 'Early exposure of cultured hippocampal neurons to excitatory amino acids protects from later excitotoxicity'; Linda K. Friedman and Menahem Segal; 11 November 2009.

AND Clerch LB, Massaro D 1992 'Rat lung antioxidant enzymes: differences in perinatal gene expression and regulation'; Am J Physiol 263:L466-L470. Research has been slow to notice this because the natural response of a healthy brain to a spike in glutamate is the matching release of GABA. Because the GABA was not artificially administered, researchers have failed to see the part it plays in neuroprotection. We can prove that glutamate does not work alone by preventing GABA release after the initial glutamate spike or giving such a large dose of glutamate that there is insufficient GABA to make up the balance. This practice, sure enough, does not afford protection (see paper).

7 http://theconversation.com/mondays-medical-myth-no-pain-no-gain-12298 The “no pain, no gain” myth came to prominence in the early 1980s via (no, don't laugh) Jane Fonda aerobic workout videos. It is not based on any science of exercise physiology but on designer soundbite catchphrases for celebrity sports marketing; and it’s a recipe for injury.

8 Marian Kohut, Young-Je Sim, Shan Yu, Kyoungjin Yoon and Christie Loiacono; Journal of Infectious Diseases Nov 1st 2013

AND Éric Bourg; Étienne Toffin; Antoine Massé; Biogerontology, Volume 5,Number 6, November 2004 , pp. 431-443(13).

9 G M Lewitus and M Schwartz; 'Behavioral immunization: immunity to self-antigens contributes to psychological stress resilience'; Mol Psychiatry. 2009 May;14(5):532-6. doi: 10.1038/mp.2008.103. Epub 2008 Sep 9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18779818

10 Neuron, Bhanji et al.: "Perceived control influences neural responses to setbacks and promotes persistence." www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(14)00687-4

11 Note for anyone with latin-phobia: there is an edit function in your word processing app that will allow you to replace this with 'formulas' throughout, if you like.

12 footnote: on the understandable basis that much of their congregation might be discovered not to have one.

13 Nature Neuroscience; http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n12/abs/nrn2497.html?lang=en

14 "New brain research refutes results of earlier studies that cast doubts on free will." August 7th, 2012. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-08-brain-refutes-results-earlier-free.html

AND http://www.coma.ulg.ac.be/CATIA/meetings/Haggard_royal_academy.pdf

15 http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22144-brain-might-not-stand-in-the-way-of-free-will.html

16 Haggard, Patrick (2005). "Conscious intention and motor cognition". Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (6): 290–5. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2005.04.012. PMID 15925808

17 'An accumulator model for spontaneous neural activity prior to self-initiated movement', PNAS, Published online before print August 6, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1210467109

18 Ingvar, D.H. and Philipson, L.: 'Distribution of cerebral blood flow in the dominant hemisphere during motor ideation and motor performance'; Annals of Neurology 2 (3), 230-237, 1977.

19 Frith, C.D.; Friston, K.; Liddle, P.E. and Frackowiack, R.S.J.: 'Willed action and the prefrontal cortex in man. A study with PET'. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 244, 241-246, 1991.

20 http://www.indecs.eu/2009/indecs2009-pp38-53.pdf

21 "Interactions between Dorsolateral and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Underlie Context-Dependent Stimulus Valuation in Goal-Directed Choice." Journal of Neuroscience, November 26, 2014, 34(48):15988 –15996.

AND "How various brain areas interact in decisions." November 26th, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-11-brain-areas-interact-decisions.html

22 Alexander, G.E.; DeLong, M.R. and Strick, P.L.: 'Parallel organization of functionally segregated circuits linking basal ganglia and cortex'. Annual Review of Neuroscience 9, 357-381, 1986.

23 Zvezdan Pirtošek*, Dejan Georgiev, Milica Gregorič-Kramberger; Decision Making and the Brain: Neurologists' View; Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems 7(2), 38-53, 2009.

24 Alexandra Vlassova, Chris Donkin, and Joel Pearson; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; 'Unconscious information changes decision accuracy but not confidence', PNAS, Alexandra Vlassova, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1403619111

AND "Study offers evidence of unconscious thinking impacting conscious decision making." October 28th, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-evidence-unconscious-impacting-conscious-decision.html

25 J. Chilton-Pearce; 'Magical Child'; ISBN 0-452-26789-7

26 Allman & Hasenstaub, 1999 AND http://www.simplypsychology.org/the%20self%20concept.pdf

27 Brown & Dutton, 1995.

28 late Middle English < Medieval Latin indīviduālis, equivalent to Latin indīvidu(us) indivisible (in- + dīvid(ere) to divide + -uus deverbal adj. suffix) + -ālis -al

29 footnote: SETI is just for recording any return calls.

30 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17172

31 David Deutsch; 'The Beginning of Infinity'; ISBN 978-0-140-27816-3. - Possibly one of the most beautiful books I have ever read (AR).

32 footnote: Some conclude from this model that humanity is ultimately designed to develop in groups, however many individuals are able to develop sufficiently (in adulthood) in relative solitude if using a powerful matrix (context) (see refs [4]). It is more likely that we are able to adapt our own development according to circumstances, and ongoing interaction seems to do the trick regardless of what or whom we are interacting with.

33 footnote: if you don't believe this, consider the past. Five times in the past, known as the 'great extinctions', earth lost a great percentage of all its life. The helpless and dependent rarely survive the real challenges of the world. At best, they get fossilized.

34 http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en

35 Querengässer, J., & Schindler, S. (2014). 'Sad but true?' BMC Psychology, 2 (1) DOI: 10.1186/2050-7283-2-14

36 Allport 1943, p459

37 "Brain structure corresponds to personality." June 22nd, 2010. www.physorg.com/news196434378.html

38 Rogers, C. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill.

39 Hacker, 2007

40 Nilsson, 2013

41 Janoff-Bulman, 1992; Wong, 2012

42 Greenberg et al., 1986; Heine et al., 2006

43 Gazzaniga, 2005

44 Vrtièka P, Andersson F, Grandjean D, Sander D, Vuilleumier P (2008) Individual Attachment Style Modulates Human Amygdala and Striatum Activation during Social Appraisal. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2868. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone. 0002868 http://dx.plos. org/10.1371/ journal.pone. 0002868 Source: Public Library of Science; http://www.physorg. com/news13721478 5.html

45 http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/fl/What-Is-Personal-Construct-Theory.htm

46 'Individual Differences'; Trevor Butt; Critical Readings in Social Psychology, OU press, 2007.

47 Chiari, Mancini, Nicolo, & Nuzzo (1990).

48 Rogers, 1951, p. 487.

49 'Breakdown of the brain's functional network modularity with awareness', Douglass Godwin, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414466112 Provided by Vanderbilt University

AND "Network theory sheds new light on origins of consciousness." March 11th, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-network-theory-consciousness.html

50 J. Chilton-Pearce; 'Magical Child Matures'; ISBN: 0-553-25881-8

51 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivariate_statistics

52 Association for Psychological Science http://www.physorg.com/news166960696.html

53 Laura Campbell-Sills et al; “Relationship of Resilience to Personality, Coping, and Psychiatric Symptoms in Young Adults,” Behaviour Research and Therapy; 2004

54 Barbara Fredrickson, Michael A. Cohn, Stephanie L. Brown, Joseph A. Mikels and Anne M. Conway; “Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience”; Emotion; June 2009.

55 Schacter, Daniel, Daniel Gilbert, and Daniel Wegner. 'Psychology'. 2nd. New York: Worth Publishers, 2009. 18. Print.

56 Harvard Mental Health Letter November 2011

57 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003: 84(2); 377-389 (PDF)

58 Mishra et al.: "Adaptive Training Diminishes Distractibility in Aging across Species" www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(14)00954-4 November 20, 2014 in Neuron.

59 William Hart; http://www.bama.ua.edu/~wphart/Social_Cognition_Lab/Welcome.html

60 Depape,Hakim-Larson,Voelker,Page, & Jackson, 2006.

61 ...found on a flash drive left in a briefcase on a tube train? -no, not really; 1997.

62 Nestojko, J. F., Bui, D. C., Kornell, N., & Bjork, E. L. (2014).

AND Expecting to teach enhances learning and organization of knowledge in free recall of text passages. Memory & Cognition. DOI: 10.3758/s13421-014-0416-z [PDF]

63 Guerrettaz, J., & Arkin, R. (2014). 'Who Am I? How Asking the Question Changes the Answer' Self and Identity, 14 (1), 90-103.

64 Brian Cox, The Infinite Monkey Cage; BBC Radio 4; February 2015.

65  “Brain activity levels affect self-perception” January 7th, 2010 in Medicine & Health / Neuroscience http://www.physorg.com/news182090540.html


Answers & DO IT NOW notes

Notes for DO IT NOW declarative memory speed-learning hack

Researchers have uncovered this simple technique which measurably improves declarative memory for passages of text. All that's required is to imagine and consciously 'behave as though' you're going to teach the material to someone else, which increases the unconscious 'importance' weighing during input thus ensuring more accurate long term storage in declarative memory.[62]


Notes for DO IT NOW Test Self Image

Your list of answers to the question “Who are you?” probably include examples of each or several of the following types of responses:

1) Physical Description: “I’m tall, have blue eyes”...etc.

2) Personal Behaviors: These are another type of our self-descriptions. “I write software”...” “I’m generous with resources...” “I live in ---------”...etc.

3) Personal emotions: “I'm quite a kind person”... “I tend to worry a lot...” “I’m impulsive sometimes...”

4) Cultural Roles: We are all beings whose behavior is shaped to some extent by the roles we play. Such roles as student, software programmer, or member of the football team is another way we describe ourselves to others.

5) Nominalizations (eg, “I'm John Smith”, Director of -----)

6) Existential Statements (abstract ones): These can range from "I’m a child of the universe" to "I’m a human being" to "I’m a spiritual being”, “I'm a mind”, “I'm the universe trying to understand itself"...etc.

What can we learn from our answers? Typically, the more answers we place in one category the more likely the related network was dominant in processing our answers.

In the second and third parts of the exercise you looked for proof for your answers and then made an assessment of your current self esteem. Here's a key finding - students who claim to know themselves very well usually find it more difficult to find proof demonstrating their own claims about themselves. What's more, struggling to find examples of proof leaves their self-esteem feeling reduced, as compared with those who are initially less sure of themselves.

Usually, it is people initially overconfident in their sense of self whose self-esteem is most undermined by challenging questions about who they are. Those who are more modest or uncertain about their level of self-knowledge may actually know themselves better![63]


Scoring notes for DO IT NOW Test self esteem

This identifies beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that affect low self-esteem. If you scored:

0-34 this indicates currently low self esteem

35-66 this indicates average self esteem

67-100 this indicates high self esteem


Scoring for DO IT NOW Test self actualization

The sum of your marks for statements 1, 9, 21, 29, 34, 35 is your Network 1 actualization score

The sum of your marks for statements 2, 4, 14, 18, 25, 33 is your Network 2 actualization score

The sum of your marks for statements 12, 13, 16, 19, 24, 27 is your Network 3 actualization score

The sum of your marks for statements 6, 7, 10, 28, 31, 36 is your Network 4 actualization score

The sum of your marks for statements 3, 5, 15, 22, 30, 32 is your Network 5 actualization score

The sum of your marks for statements 8, 11, 17, 20, 23, 26 is your Network 6 actualization score

The sum of all marks together is your actualization score.


Abraham Maslow authored the Hierarchy of Needs theory, stating that living beings are motivated by whatever level of needs remain unsatisfied, and that certain lower needs have to be satisfied before higher needs can be attended to. It is debatable that needs fulfilment occurs in as correlatory a fashion with self actualization as Maslow presents (or that Maslow's needs structure is entirely accurate), but you can consider that for yourself. Also, higher needs tend to be more complex and vague in what qualifies as need satisfaction. The following results are listed in the context of networks.

Physiological competence : you need more than a score of 20 to have adequate competence in self care. Maslow specifies that without satisfying basic needs (sleep, food, health) one cannot achieve higher levels of development. We say if the brain doesn't get what it needs, the mind won't do what you want. Neuroscience research supports this, as higher anxiety increases cortisol levels, which reduce blood flow; impairing memory and thinking functions. This is how dependence can lead to degeneration; the more dependent we become on any level, the more stressful the most minimal tasks and stimuli become.

Behavioral competence: you need more than a score of 20 to have adequate behavioral competence. Maslow speculates that without this (which brings with it stability, security, consistency), we can't progress to higher levels of development.

Emotional competence: you need more than a score of 20 to be competent in the quality of your emotional connections. Research shows that discontentment in our connections with others stalls development. Whether the resolution of emotional needs comes with good relationships and/or learning to be more internally fulfilled is a question Maslow does not answer. But history shows that many healthy minds had few relationships, so this stage would seem to be more about resolving any internal emotional insecurities than measuring or achieving competence by quantity or quality of external relationships.

Psychological competence: you need more than a score of 20 for psychological skill competence. Maslow also speculates that until we develop at least one cultural skill (talent, interest, procedure) that we are good at, we will be unable to develop further as an individual. This could mean being a good musician, artist, healer, carpenter, engineer, programmer, diplomat etc. On some level this stage also requires getting over the need to be appreciated for that skill, internally and/or externally; and doing it simply because we love doing it. Even if we develop a skill, we still might have conditional regard (ie, be dependent on having other people validate us in order not to internally doubt ourselves). Then again, we might not be appreciated, or appreciate ourselves because our skills are as yet undeveloped.

Cognitive competence: you need more than a score of 20 for cognitive competence. Justified confidence in our own abilities to provide our own resources, cope with difficulties and solve problems for ourselves is a requirement for full autonomy. This means pursuing a life that really fits who we are and want to be optimally (not based on external or societal expectations). The self actualized person is free from superficial concerns and is internally honest. Without cognitive competence we are constantly struggling to 'keep on top of things' and are not comfortable with change.

Spiritual competence: you need more than a score of 20 for spiritual competence. Maslow speculates that individual development ('self-actualization') is the pinnacle of existence. How we interpret that is up to us, but it is fair to assume that what is meant (regardless of the metaphors we choose to express it) is 'achieving optimal development'.


Notes for DO IT NOW: assess physical fitness

Numbers don't lie.

If your pulse is the same in both readings, you are very physically fit.

If your pulse is 1-5 bpm faster in the second reading (B), you are fairly physically fit.

The higher the second reading in relation to the first, the less physically fit you are.

This is the ideal result as a formula: A = B

If you record your results and then do it again in 2 months, you will notice if there is any change. This is real truth-hunting; real science; revealing real facts about the real you.


Notes for DO IT NOW – assess relationship status

This is your assessment of your own current experience in some chosen relationships, and therefore specific to you. Your aim is to get as much genuine information as you can, so try to judge objectively and don't let anxiety talk you into pretending all your relationships are progressing perfectly -nobody's do.

Relationships on levels 1 & 2 are fairly shallow (even though they may involve sex and having children). The higher the level your relationships reach, the deeper they are and the more likely bonding is to be successful. Understanding the truth about what level our relationships have achieved helps us understand what to do if we want to make a given relationship closer or if we wish to withdraw from some relationships, or make them less formal or more formal. Your assessment is a tool to help you do this, so only honest answers and an objective pov will help you.

Here are a few useful questions to consider:

Did you find any of your examples had progressed past stage 3?

Did you find that you have achieved 'bits' of various stages or missed some stages out?

Now that you know the program healthy relationships naturally follow, does it help you understand how to adjust your own?


Answers to DO IT NOW -Spotting counterfeit categorical systems

Some counterfeit categorical systems: Agism, Astrology, Homophobia, Personality typing, Nationalism, Racism, Religious or political fundamentalism, Sexism. 

“If you want a system which categorizes people in arbitrary groups, assigns imaginary traits to each group and then judges people accordingly, racism is more effective that astrology”[64]


Answers to DO IT NOW discourse analysis

1 'I am an upright, god-fearing American' (a) I'm ok you're not ok' (b) complaining (intro bully behavior), (c)'I have more power than you'

2 'As a woman scientist in a predominantly male world' (a) I'm ok you're not ok' OR 'I'm not ok, you're ok' (b) complaining (intro bully behavior)OR playing 'victim' (extro wimp behavior), (c) 'You have more power than I'

3 'I'm not an animal' (a) I'm ok you're not ok' (b) complaining (intro bully behavior) (c) 'I have more power than you'

4 'I'm a law-abiding citizen' (a) I'm ok you're not ok' (b) complaining (intro bully behavior) (c) 'I have more power than you'

5 'I'm just the little guy' (a) I'm not ok you're ok' (b) playing 'victim' (extro wimp behavior) (c) 'You have more power than I'

6 'It's because I'm black' (a) I'm ok you're not ok' OR I'm not ok you're ok' (b)complaining (intro bully behavior)OR playing 'victim' (extro wimp behavior) (c) 'You have more power than I' (d) The most blatantly obvious falsehood is 'I am not an animal'


Answers to DO IT NOW – spot the assumptions

question 1: We can't be sure whether Bob is assuming A, B, C D or G; because we don't have enough data to decide. It's clear Bob may be assuming E, F and H

question 2: These may be legion, including stereotypical ones such as 'all women are bitches', 'all short people are mean', or 'all white people are morose'. To understand which specific assumptions someone may make in a given context, we need to know how they frame themselves and reality (because that determines how they construct and perceive different contexts).


Notes for DO IT NOW – assess inspirational input

Read the section relevant to the statement you chose


1 (Pretty much none of my input this last 7 days was inspirational)

Why? Whom do you think is responsible for your input quality? You! Right then, so what are you going to do for the next seven days to ensure you get more inspirational input? It's not difficult; we don't even have to get up or leave the computer to find something inspirational on purpose. All we need is actually taking the responsibility for going looking for it.

You are an advanced NH student, well-versed in input control and capable of aesthetic discrimination. Sort your input out.


2 (Less than half my input this last 7 days was inspirational)

Why? Who is responsible for your input quality? You! Right then, so what are you going to do for the next seven days to ensure you get more inspirational input? You are an advanced NH student, well-versed in input control and capable of aesthetic discrimination. Take more responsibility for your input.


3 (About a half of my input this last 7 days was inspirational)

Not at all bad, but could it be better? As an advanced student you should be in control of your own input and able to ascertain its quality.


4 (More than half my input this last 7 days was inspirational)

Well done; you are obviously aware of how to ensure healthy input. As an advanced NH student, we would expect this of you, and you should expect it of yourself as psychological self care.


5 (Pretty much all my input this last 7 days was inspirational)

Well done; you are obviously aware of how to ensure healthy input. Remain aware that calm can be just as inspirational as exciting, and you won't go far wrong.


Answer to DO IT NOW -analyze the analyst

Sample A was written by the american researcher; sample B by the nazi researcher. Their conclusions are clearly framed by their ontologies and tell us nothing about the person they discuss. Both defined the term 'authoritarian' according to their own constructs, coming out with opposite definitions for the chosen 'trait'. Authoritarian behavior is now known to be simply dysfunctional behavior that attempts to control others, which we encounter in unbalanced individuals.


Answers to DO IT NOW – spot the assumptions 2

1A Assumes we are all religious.

1B All other faiths, atheism and agnosticism are missed out.

2A Assumes we all vote.

2B all other choices plus not voting are missed out.

3A Assumes we are all into baseball.

3B All other teams plus 'no interest' groups are missed out.

4A Assumes everybody works.

4B Mixed shift workers, flexitime, freelance and non-workers are missed out.

5A Assumes everyone is a christian.

5B All other faiths, atheism and agnosticism are missed out.

6A Assumes there are only two approaches to relationships.

6B 'Both', 'neither, and multiple-partner relationships are missed out.

7A Assumes only two types of sexuality

7B Bisexuals and Asexuals are missed out.

8A Assumes there are only two modes of behavior and that they are static.

8B All other modes of behavior, plus the dynamic factor of change are missed out


scoring for assignments & self-assessments

scoring for self assessment 1 : test your resilience

25-49 = very low

50-74 = low

75-99 = medium

100-124 = high

125-150 = very high


scoring for self assessment 2 - coping style assessment

1 add up your points for questions 2, 6, 10, 15, 20, 24, 27, 36, 39, 43, 44 and 46. This is your Interactive score (I)

2 add up your points for questions 3, 9, 11, 12, 16, 23, 29, 32, 33, 34, 40, and 48. This is your Preparation score (P)

3 add up your scores for questions 1, 4, 7, 17, 18, 21, 26, 30, 31, 35, 42, and 47. This is your dependence score (D)

4 add up your points for questions 5, 8, 13, 14, 19, 22, 25, 28, 37, 38, 41 and 45. This is your sentiment-intrusion score (S)

5 Add score I to score P to get subtotal A. This is your positive coping score.

6 Add score D to score S to get subtotal B. This is your negative coping score.

7 Subtract subtotal B from subtotal A to get your total coping score. This may be a positive or negative number.

What your scores mean:

I  Interaction-oriented coping score : a primary control style that is adaptive whether situations are appraised as changeable or not. Focus is maintained on facts and emotions are taken into account while adopting an objective attitude. Recourse to others is sought only for additional data (for example, a second opinion or extra information). This can be difficult in strongly emotional problems.

P   Postponement-distracted coping score: a secondary control style adaptive when situations are appraised as unchangeable. This is adaptive in the short-term for uncontrollable problems. You just focus on something beneficial and diverting. The aim is to reduce anxiety, recover from shocks, and achieve a more productive mood. This strategy is also adaptive for short-term in resolvable problems.

D  Dependence-oriented action score: Recourse to others or society is sought in the face of threat, for avoidance of responsibility by diversion or through dependence. It is in your best interest to develop the skills needed to address problems yourself.

S   Sentiment-oriented reaction score: Uncontrolled sentiment increases anxiety and produces negative outcomes like accidents, illness or depression.


If your total score is positive: the higher the better, your positive score indicates how well you cope with difficulties without dependence or sentiment. You can use this self assessment every six months or so to see how your coping skills evolve as you gain autonomy.

If your total score is negative, you should be able to see which area is most holding you back: sentiment or dependence. Use your NH skills to improve matters and test yourself regularly to note improvements. Once you start seeing an improvement, motivation and autonomy will increase.

If you know you are a rearloader or have weak frontal nets, remember that it takes time to develop logical coping skills, and the more you practice, the easier and faster it gets. Try to incorporate more analysis and planning into how you deal with problems. Use postponement coping strategies wherever you need to for reducing anxiety, but schedule set times for addressing the problem and considering possible outcomes. It may help to do Interactional Analysis using 'Alice' and 'Bob' if the problem is emotional. Learn from experience that you can still take steps to improve things even if you feel sad. Sometimes grief is inevitable, but remain aware that it WILL pass.

If you know you are a frontloader or have weak rear nets, remember that executive processing skills require sufficient support from rear nets in order to make accurate analyses, and the more you improve them, the better your coping skills will be. Spend time planning before doing, and take into account past mistakes and successes. Bear in mind how emotional trauma slows down rational thinking in all of us, and take this into account during interaction. Remember the best strategy is one where everybody wins. 'Winning' while leaving a trail of pissed-off people behind you is a recipe for more crap in the future.

Improving our coping skills emphasizes the building of psychological strengths, rather than simply the remediation of symptoms. The more energetic our progress in using good methods, the faster our coping skills improve. Frequent practice builds networks!


Last Updated on Sunday, 11 February 2024 12:26