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broadening oneself (breadth/depth of generativity)
december 19 & 25, 2010



The notion of a child building oneself, which I discussed last week (maybe being obscurely brief), is one keynote of C&F’s (ref. 3 again) model of learning, which is complemented by a notion of broadening oneself. Though I’m dwelling intermittantly with one article (C&F), it’s because I’m endorsing their learning model, but with my different approach (and reservations about theirs). A wonderful pragmatic can be made from the general character of their model, which I’ll discuss via a couple more pages of “flourishing of the smart child....”

Both “building” and “broadening,” as child-based engagements, are heuristic notions, as any particular individuation of a child takes place at the nebulous interface of focused desiring (the child’s) and having desire evinced into focus. Parenting and teaching educes, as well as responding (or, as they say, “resourcing”). So, individuation indeed depends at first on intersubjective (intimate) and interpersonal (social) engagements and educements (a topical focus which I’ll return to later, through a notion of “concerted cultivation”), and any degree of self-directed life involves, of course, intersubjective/personal engagements.

Yet, for creativity and prospects of high individuation, desiring self expansion is so efficacious that there’s little need for desire to be evinced—or rather, I’m interested here in activity that presumes high desire (or the “spirited” child): How does it go, when it’s going well? I’m interested to explore aspects of already-well-spirited desire, in particular now the developmental keynote of broadening oneself.

I will do that in my peculiar way (surprise, surprise), which is deliberately ambiguous about what pertains to a child and to an adult. In other words, I’m reading potential into developmental eras through an ambitious conception of development, gradually conceptualizing a sense of individuation as such, observable as development, lived as if self-formatively (which high creativity really becomes).


Naturally, maturing sensibility allows for greater senses of appeal in the world—a greater appeal of the world itself (in terms of all that’s appealing).

Increasing capability wants a higher tree, a farther hill; more opportunity for inspired imagination, more personification. Learning to feel imaginatively and constructively wants elation with more chances.

Filling oneself full of new perceptibility and purpose elaborates and enriches valuing of the world as fulfillment of oneself, inevitably hungering again for new kinds of engagement (born of the infant’s preference for novelty) growing into capability for new kinds and breadth of focus, satisfactions, purposes, and fulfillments.

We easily grasp the notion of self satisfaction through enrichment. The good question is: What kinds and breadths of satisfactions does one grow to most desire—due to what appeals for fulfillment, resources for fullfillment, opportunities and supports for fulfillment that are made available?

Desire at best is drawn by fulfillable (or fulfillment promising) aspiration, imagination, and idealization, like altogether being drawn by a gravitational light whose appeal channels activity, serving as a positive “constraint,” like a gyroscopic force that keeps something on course. The challenging tree gives one the height to want greater trees. The top of the hill opens one into a greater vista. The topography of reliable promise, love or admiration, and open prospects of mystery-dissolving discovery draw one into their ownmost garden.

Yes, the appeal of gaining height and breadth is easy to depict.

What about depth?


With “activist” (enactive) valuing, attention is broadened, perception is broadened; reasoning and social understanding are broadened. But also, the complexity of presumed things increases. Like a 2-dimensional photo becoming stereoscopic perception (3-d), the subject remains the “same,” yet essentially different. Then, the thing moves (Is it alive?), and the so-called 4-d presentness of the “same” thing is forever changed from what it was earlier. There’s no returning to seeing it as essentially 2-d, which becomes a simplifying abstraction.

Then, the thing gives itself to have more relations, as if any thing is a nexus in a weave, and the net can include potentials (futurity) of the thing, as well as the generation (pastness) of it. The thing as such may gain an aura of involvement in time and relations that may be broad and complex, highly engaged or implicative.

We have our tropes of breadth, height, and depth. We have our dim conceptions of a child’s development all tolled: an individuation ongoing of enactive worldliness, enacted capability, and enacting Self, somehow resulting from biohistorical happenstances of mates and tribes evincing lives, at best ineffably singular selves.

In principle, there’s no boundary to a scale of mind, the mindality of scale, the scalarity of a point.


The notion of scalarity can be applied by indicating the sense of broadening in C&F (ref.3: 15-16), which is not my preferred conceptuality, as their categories are guided (evidently) by empirical interests. But the domain of empirical appreciation is emblematic for the human interest in broadening. It’s up to others (e.g., me, later) to integrate empirical sensibility with more fleshed-out or highly-humanistic perspectives.

C&F understand broadening as a disposition toward amplifying or expanding given parameters: enriching “thought-action repertoires” or “mind-sets” (15) in light of “positive emotion.”

Their specifics can be organized (they don’t do this) into five modes of interest or sense:

sense of time: broadening of the momentary. But they don’t give attention to how trans-momentary time may become, beyond mere extensions of future and past (chronometrically conceived). Those are derivatives of lived time: anticipation and remembrance. We clock lived time, and make narratives of representations: fantasy and history. Also, of course, the present may be a lived presence resonant with scale, which we represent with narrative topographies or assemblages of images.

sense of purpose: Broadening is opportunity-creating, as one tends more to “produce patterns of thought that are notably unusual..., flexible and inclusive..., creative..., and receptive to new information...,” which expands one’s aims.

sense of action: There grows broadening of flexibility of “response tendencies, widening the array of thoughts and actions that come to mind.” Distinct from concrete, functional foci of action, broadening may involve finding appeal in non-specific, non-focused “response tendencies.” Action may seek non-narrowing, non-quick, non-decisive, non-direct, holistic and/or mediate (non-immediate) benefits—related to postponed gratification and expanded aims. Broadening may include, for given situations, more options for action and more-commonly multiply-optioned choices for action, including tendencies toward action-optioning (or increasing action-orienting imaginativeness): “more and more-varied potential actions.” Also, each action may become more imaginative, stylized, or creative.

sense of context: Broadening includes newfound sensitivity (attention) to what was previously peripheral. The scale of the present expands. Intimations of gestalt become more evident in sets of things or events, which could be called increasing gestalt-appealingness relative to specifics.

sense of others: I want to give this aspect the attention of a separate section.


C&F give most narrative attention to this (though brief, too, involving no more than what I render here). Broadening may involve an increasing disposition to build interpsychological appreciation (decreased egoism.1)—“enhanced attention to others”—and, if you will, psychoconceptual inclusiveness (decreased egoism.2): “reduced distinction between self and other.” Children gain “...more overlap between their concept of themselves and their concept of their best friend” (16, which cites several studies).

Sociocentrists (i.e., the sociological mindset) should note the implied primacy (shown by those studies) of self irt other here: Broadening is about gaining inclusiveness, rather than gaining differentiation; i.e., given individuality (self <—> family-centrism) enriches itself (its time, purposivity, activity, and habitation)—its self sense or identity, relative to enhanced attention to identifying with others—a matter of (a) socialization by way of individuation (self-motivated time, purpose, activity, and habituating) prevailing over (b) individuation by way of socialization (educed motivation). The latter (b: S over I; I via S) easily tends toward conformism and conventional understanding (depending on the character of educing which, as the bell curve of culture goes, tends toward convention, conformance, and compliance), whereas the former (a: I over S; S via I) tends toward individuality, the condition for postconventional understanding, which is necessary for real creativity (beyond idiosyncratic novelty). Time, purpose, action, and context are enriched interpersonally and intersubjectively.

“Positive emotions...broaden social group concepts and break down an essentialized sense of ‘us versus them’” (17) as “us” is an individualty irt “them,” and broadening enriches a baseline relative-individuality (at the group level, as well as psychological level). In other words, good individuation identifies itself with groups (obviously), and this identification enriches itself through opportunity and experience.

A sociocentric sense of individuality has (b) individuation enriching itself as (yielding to) social identity; my psychocentric (but non-egoistic) sense of individuality has (a) individuation enriching itself in terms of (embracing) social identities. This difference (b/a) makes better sense relative to a lived difference between selfidentity and interpersonal identity (which I’ve discussed briefly, but will later dwell with extensively).

The former (b) further expands identity socially (i.e., as sociality: S trumps I—S appropriates, if not engulfs, I); the latter (a) further individuates identity in social terms (i.e., engages with social forms: I appropriates, yet does not engulf, S [I would argue, against egoism]). The paradigmatic landscape of this resonant (and vertiginous) difference is adolescence: a jungle of self and interpersonal ambiguity, ambivalence, and emerging differentiations.

Most persons come out of this “normally,” i.e., (b) destining themselves to live largely conventional and conformist (if not fearfully compliant) lives, on the one hand. On the other hand, (a) young adulthoods with potential for creativity and leadership will tend to want to engage with convention relative to curiosities, aspirations, ideals, and purposes which appear post-conventional to normal views.

This baseline individuality is vital to social creativity (social creativity) and innovation. At a given (or relatively) individual level of youth (from persons to interpersonal groups), broadening involves increasing disposition to have (build) more care for others—“becom[ing] more imaginative and attentive regarding things they could do for friends” (the axis here is an enriching conception of care)—because the baseline of self expansion is life-historically individual (as caring groups as such are composed by caring individuals!), and individuational broadening is an expansion of one’s sense of individuality into a broader sense of one’s personhood—one’s humanity—as an enriched belonging to our sense of belonging (and an enriched “our” of belonging). Accordingly, broadening involves an increasing disposition to have (build) more trust, as well as to build “a wide variety of bonds and interdependence opportunities” (ref.3: ibid). I will later enrich this in terms of the difference between intersubjective (tending toward greater intimacy) and interpersonal (tending toward greater kindredness) growth (breadth/depth of individuation).

This may all seem intuitive (apart from my conceptual vertigo), not especially insightful for non-sociocentrists. But what C&F are expressing is the general import of a large body of research that counters “social scientific” presumptions about individuation: that individuation is prevalently by way of socialization.

Individuation is not prevalently a matter of socialization. The socialization that grows to contribute to creative potential (and potentially leading sensibility) grows by way of self-expansive individuation enactively valuing opportunities and supports; and following through efficaciously, i.e., on the way to a self-determinating way of life (well into adulthood, but thanks to the prevailing character of child and adolescent development). For example, a child’s budding bravery (parentally cultivated, but enowned by the child) should lead to habitual school confidence in one’s insights, possible contributions, and value. This is an enowning of enactive learning and growth (unlike the, frankly, “botanical” conception of socialization as quasi-natural growth). Budding prudence leads to good intuition about “all things considered” balance in larger (more scalar) venues, which has only as much life as the enactive valuing that keeps openness and vigilance alive.


Getting realistic about good human development is part of understanding human sciences post-sociocentrically, which is a theme I’ve earlier pursued at length, as a matter of theory (based on experience and reports of clinical research), so I’m glad to see that empirical research (i.e., the entire field of “positive” or generative psychology, I’ll show) corroborates my claim (earlier and developing here) that humanism is essentially individuational and individuation is intrinsically humanistic, shown in child development as well.

I’ll return to this global theme later and do so in a big way, as the entire project of prospecting aspects of authentic happiness through good human development is for the sake of a very ambitious project in and about the humanities—our primordial humanism and our intrinsic evolutionarity.




  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis