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September 21, 2010

My title isn’t capitalized, though a keynote of the following is a sense of difference between a sense of ‘self’ and a sense of ‘Self’, which I began to discuss at “realization vs. actualization.”

Firstly in thinking (initially, proximately), we—all in all (and lexically)—don’t make a distinction between non-capped and capped, except as a technical notion in a doctrine (e.g., Buddhism), which we commonly don’t presume.

A person is a self, inasmuch as we stop to ask: What do you mean by ‘self’? But we don’t usually say that; we don’t say “A person is a self.” Rather, we use ‘self’ to vaguely refer to someone’s psychological nature considered all in all, maybe expressing interest in someone as whom they uniquely are. In fact, we almost always don’t need a clear sense of the term, because we almost always don’t need clear senses. We go through our days needing only nebulous senses of things, because we usually talk instrumentally with others in literal contexts, interested in getting things done (or grooming relationships, doing maintenance, assuaging, soothing, serving, etc., etc.).

But it’s easy to cause any sense of ‘self’ (the word) to merge into presumptions about very large-scale contexts, like one’s being an entire life. What can that possibly mean: being an entire life? I am living a life, ever further into a life. I am the having-lived so many years. I am a life in life.

In life (i.e., biology), self is cellular belonging. An immune system functions by cellular “recognizing” (!) self from non-self. Biological selfhood is the aggregate belonging together of “the same.” (With no overtone of biologicality, beyond the end of metaphysicalism and late in life, Heidegger leads one’s thinking through “Identity and Difference” into a far horizon of conceptual cohering as “belonging together in the Same.” I’m not Heideggerian, but it’s an interesting counterpoint of possible conceptuality.)

However, normal for us, ‘self’ is not thought to be about, say, the entirety of our being human in which we might feel we so Belong (an existential correlate of Earth’s biologicality). We might ask: What is—or How goes—the scale of your sense of belonging? What is your heartfulness? Answer this and know whom you are.

I see good reason to not invest oneself in grand concepts of self, like absolutes that pretend to comprehend some essence of humanity in which one vainly pretends to comprehensively participate. I may profess some love for enhancing humanity, thus understanding myself relative to our belonging together in our humanity, but I would use such terms as implicit questioning about our humanity, our love, and enhancing that belongs to us, not especially to me. I appeal to you: This is not about me.

Back on Earth..... Proximally, ‘self’ means, firstly, “the entire person of an individual” ( ‘self’, Merriam-Webster Unabridged online, 1 a). So, what, then, would be the entire self of a person? In fact, we are very vague with our terms. person : individual :: self : person. self, person, individual—Is there good reason to make distinctions?

I’ve often indicated a sense of difference between self and personalness: All your friends might easily feel they know the same person, though each relationship is different. In fact, their sense of you is inevitably relative to their relationship to you. A part of you belongs to that relationship. A part of you—maybe feeling to be a great part—is known by a given other. It’s very useful to have a sense of relational relativity. There are kindreds (friends and family). There are intimates (some friends, not all of the family? one intimate above all?). A person’s life is partly composed of so many interpersonal relations, but the wholeness of that—one borne into futures, one born from so much time—is only felt by oneself. An intimate other of so many years may know very well how you are the singularity of all those partial personhoods, so to speak, but ultimately only you know who, all tolled (how so?), all told, you are, one who is living ever further into the having-lived so many years.

‘Self-’ (with a hypen, uncapped—not bolded—but beginning this sentence) is such an oddity to me. Look up ‘self’ in M-W, you get the first result at the top of a long list that is mostly populated with versions of ‘self-’. We put ‘self-’ in front of so much. It amazes me. Paramount is a recursiveness or reflectivity, like I discussed briefly at “realization vs. actualization.” Like cellular selfhood, ‘self-’ is about holding onto the “of”—being of. What is of one? Is this the same as holding onto what one is of? What is of one in relation to (“irt” for short, I write in private notes)—in relation to what one is of is a fascinating difference. I am, in a sense, of my time (realization), yet also my time is of me, made to be what my life means (actualization). My life, inasmuch as it’s truly mine, is of my giving time, in the ways I have chosen (inasmuch as I’m free to do so) to become of my time, knowing myelf further by letting myself go with my Flow. ‘Self-’ resonates with being oneself (realizing oneself) and being oneself (actuality). The reality of oneself is, in a sense, the resonance of being in being, actuality in ongoing realization, ever realizing what one is of, in terms of what is of one.

A reflectivity of recursiveness is intrinsic to the sense of ‘self-’: M-W1 a : oneself or itself <self-asserting> <self-loving> b : of oneself or itself....c : by oneself or itself : independent : automatic....2 a : to, with, for, or toward onself or itself....b : of or in oneself or itself inherently....c : from or by means of oneself or itself.”

So, ‘self’ is intimate with the integrity of life (from cellular belonging, “upward”—which contains us in an horizonality of our being alive) and a reflectivity of mental resonance.

Implicitly building “on” this (in-and-of such implicity), we have our conceptual schemas about selfness, which a dictionary may allusively capture: “1....b : the realization or embodiment of an abstract quality <she was beauty’s self>”; or godforbid: “3 a : the integrated unity of subjective experience specifically including those characteristics and attributes of the experiencing organism of which it is reflexively aware.” In short, we proffer concepts of self which may be very articulated.

So, why prefer one conception over another? A safe beginning is fidelity to lexical phenomena, though any two persons would venture differently with a shared fidelity. So, why prefer one venture over another? Consider 3 a above, going backward through the definition: An organism is reflexively aware of its experiencing in terms of characteristics and attributes. What organism could that be other than one of us? So, that’s to consider oneself as an organism. But the self isn’t only an integration of those characteristics and attributes, rather an integrated unity merely including those specifically. Which characteristics and attributes most belong? And what about unity itself that contains the specifics? What constitutes the integration? Certainly, a child’s happiness doesn’t yet anticipate the transgressive teen. The integrating of the unity is an ongoing endeavor, taking place nonconsciously (except with the weird ones who try to capture butterflies). The organism nonconsciously realizes choices through the years, some actually made, some becoming fidelities, anchors, values, and other parts of oneself.

In any case, one may choose to use ‘self’ in a way which doesn’t commit oneself to any well-formed unity. Other times, a well-formed unity is appropriate. But what is self as such, including standard uses of ‘self’? No doubt, one is an organism: Like a lowly cell, we contain (and are contained by) “3....b : the internal regulatory system of response and activity tendencies within the organism : the source of social adaptation and growth of the individual personality :”; and low and behold: “.... c : the dynamic organization of patterns of behavior acquired through social frustration,” including desire to integrate dictionary definitions—or not.

The great humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers distinguished one’s “self-concept” from an “organismic” sense of “who he or she is in reality” (ref.15: 485). Yet this pioneer of humanistic psychology had a very un-organismic (or post-organismic?), humanistic sense of self, distinct from one’s being an organismic Self. One is the ongoingness of the difference: Self-realization enacting itself, realizing itself in actualizing its terms: preferences, purposes, anchors, horizons, gardening a landscape of living a life....

Here’s a nice definition of ‘self’: “2 a : a personality or mode of behavior regarded as typical of a particular individual <his true self was at last revealed>.” If one (a particular individual) may have a typical personality (where personality is regarded as mode of behavior), how many personalties may one have, and what pressures may suppress atypical modes, such that a sense of manifoldness is compelled to seem easily typical or singular, contrary to its dance of life? Regarding a mode of behavior as true self is bad news.

But an important kind of point is evident: an easily-evidenced plurality of oneself: “2....b : an aspect of one’s personality predominant at a certain time or under certain conditions <his better self><his reckless self> <Had you not said “no sex” before coming over, I’d have not merely lain at your side as you beautifully expressed your self> <Later, I impishly lied and hurt my self because nothing seemed to matter><I loved your emergent self as I love myself>.

So, we have our modes, some of us being quite articulated into various comfort zones, inhabitations, fidelities to others’ displays, interpersonal modes of life, interpersonal lives (entire friendships) that realize themselves or pass away. One may appropriate oneself to one’s time in light of being appropriated somehow (in ongoing realization that is fatefully partial in its actual understanding, thus so reliant on intuition and confidence in feeling what is).

So, oneself may feel intimate with the integrity of life in time, so alive to one’s resonances which can never be fully actualized—never captured in a net of wording—so, we make conceptions like promissory notes about how the story may go best, and I am a cohering life, one self realizing some mystery of being of myself, some ever-realizing Self, being lived time, somehow in the Flowing. I feel secure in whom I am: myself, a confident identity, a selfidentity, but easily enchanted by mysteries of being in a lifetime, in a resonance if intimations, where vistas of opening, receiving, releasing, desiring, and appealing Self give way to closure, actuality, cohering, and fulfilling of oneself. Primordial mystery resonates in comfortable holding good.

Primal mystery lays on its back waiting to have its diapers changed, oftentimes (never often enough) ecstatically flailing arms and legs with its joyous face as if you’re the greatest being conceivable—though its mind can’t yet conceive much at all, yet it’s oneSelf.

And Self goes on learning while sleeping (which is why it’s good to study at night, then go to bed). Indeed, all the growing years of embodied mind effect themselves, realizing time, nonconsciously, for the most part. We call children language sponges, because they pick up language (multiple languages) by just being rapt in our presence. Such beings we were! OneSelf is some miracle of evolutionary good luck, and it just takes the world for granted, as if its gift to the world is to eat it: dirt, worms, books, loves—oneSelf running away from mommy in the grocery store because mommy will chase the being, so enraptured with its running to be caught. Its enactivity, the pure “I” enthralled has no conception of its joyful play, as it gradually gains a sense of “me” in notions of who “I am.” (Paradoxically, the “I” of articulation expresses a sense of “me,” whereas the ongoing enactivity or realization of myself is the I, I-ing itself, gradually in terms of “me” saying: “I am” this and that.)

One is the ongoingness of resonances: realizing, actualizing—I, me—Self bearing self. Self-realization enacts itself in being let to be, realizing Itself in actualizing one’s life. Realization of Self (Self realization) in time (Self-realizing itself) is also, let’s say, Self-actualization, which an ostensible ontogeny as oneself growing up (then having grown) is: actualization of oneSelf in time. Yes, the hypens and caps and all gets confusing, because the differences (recursive and enactive) are fluid, generatively so. There’s no clear reason to distinguish Self-realization from Self-actualization, except inasmuch as it serves appreciation of resonant differences of depth and surface, reflection and articulation—which deserve to be appreciated, but likely can’t be done so clearly, except relative to well-formed contexts of analysis (which gain only ideal-typical tenability).

So, I may seem to merely stipulate (and to no immediate good, perhaps): Self realization of Self-realization = Self-actualization: ontogeny. This fuses realization and actualization at the inaccessible point of its origin, which is inconceivably elusive. The sense of self-formativity one may feel in considering the whole ongoingness of a life is not basically the primal generativity of oneSelf as such, but the enactivity of being alive as feeling self-formative: OneSelf actualizes itself in one’s sense of having an origin, Self-actualizing in time, as realizing the life. Ontogeny itself is the phenomenologically-inaccessible backstage Self-realizing of oneSelf. I don’t mind that this seems obtuse or muddled. Language fails us at the far horizon. We try things, at least emblemizing lived mysteries.

It gets more cogent the closer we get to ordinary concerns about one’s life and relations with others, easily well-ordered such that new psychological language seems useful. Self actualization is quite ostensible: in the individuality we admit to, resulting from years of individuation. Self actualization shows as self-realization: individuation resulting in an accomplished (as if self-realizing) sense of oneself—quite different, by the way, from a sense of accomplishment which a happy life includes. Primal reflectivity shows in the I/me difference (between being—I—and representation of that: “me”). An articulate I/me difference begins in parental love of saying what baby is doing, which becomes (as baby gains toddler language) a game of what is being done, what can be done, whom I play, whom I play well, how I play, etc. I call this the self/personal difference. As we grow up, we gain a sense of who we’re seen to be (personal) which should not be compelled to fully comprehend whom one altogether is. Freedom in this difference is vital to authentic self-development, especially fidelity to intrinsic motivation, curiosity, ownmost interests (or selfidentical interests), desire to venture into new areas of imagination, problem-solving, and thinking. The self/personal difference is essential, I think, for real creativity (which is more than idiosyncratic novelty). Representing oneself (personally), yet thinking differently (or seeming to be thinking otherwise) is intrinsic to literary psychology (especially important to the godlike oddity called the omniscient narrator who’s allegedly not writing about herself or himself as simply the other).

One can easily think about this difference (whether or not effectively, depends on experience): how I am what I’ve given others to see, yet also different. The s/p difference is a boundless resource for reflectivity: self-possession of oneself possessed; self-absorption of oneself absorbed—selfpossession? selfabsorption? Such selfcentrism can be very fruitful: for creativity, for self expansion (broadening and deepening one’s horizons), and for self remediation. So-called ego-centrism (egocentrism, I’ll write) is, again, not as such egoistic.

One’s self realization is experienced in terms represented as an autonomous endeavor or self-actualization. One’s self-actualization commonly shows in terms of self representations or so-called “self images” or “having personality,” which is one’s [inter]personal clothing. For the very interpersonally-oriented identity, Personality means a lot. One is known by so many visibilities. “Know my choices, know me.” The vanity fair loves her/him. Proudly extraverted, the primary scene of self-reflection may be to appreciate that the s/p difference isn’t merely a difference between controlled presence and an emotional abyss. Actually, one is a beautiful mystery beyond dependent personae, which may be too much mystery at first.

Deepening self-reflectivity is like gaining a happy art of living differences. Far away from any dim sense of s/p difference, Self realization grants an autonomy of self-reflectivity which loves bearing “pure” reflectivity of/in/to oneself—to my mind: as a self-formativity (selformativity?) of ongoing self-actualization of Self actualization.

Yet, appreciation of this is hardly about going ‘round and ‘round about senses of ‘self’, realization, and actualization. I would leave all this and take you for a hike.

Lastly, though, I want to mention self identity or overt sense of self, as “who I am” generally—the kind of “thing” that’s imperceptibly resolved when the teen “identity crisis” is forgotten in a well-growing independence of adulthood, now owning its mysteries (conflicts, dilemmas, etc.) rather than feeling possessed by them (and running away, as if some god will chase them and sweep them up and away from the dirty world to embrace them again in loving safety).

Self identity is born of accomplishments of self-identification or self-identifying self, resulting in selfidentity, forever unfinished in a creative life, yet happy enough in one’s prevailing abundance of meaningful engagement. Fidelity to self (through easy [re]self-identification) finds easy self identification in terms of self-representations of self-fidelity or who “I” is, expressing (implicitly, at least) a holism of “personal well-being,” standardly modeled by “positive psychologists” these days in terms of “self acceptance, purpose in life, autonomy, personal growth, positive relationships, and environmental mastery” (ref.21: 20).

A good sense of self calls for far less than what I enjoy writing about, obviously. What exactly, for a given life, a good sense of self grows itself to be is no matter of conceptual prospecting, rather a matter of a real life, in terms of that life. Certainly, a good sense of self is just part of authentic happiness. Yet, in authentic happiness, a good sense of Self is, it seems to me, horizonal (futural), well-grown (the good past), and is the gravity of a good life in one’s presence.

But this discussion is no closure, no ending, just another preface.