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selformativity of Self
December 27, 2011 / May 27, 2012


As of today [June 2020], if you Google ‘selformativity’, all of the results are pages from my website.

Interesting (surprising).

Many years ago (before there was The Web), I collapsed the spelling of ‘self-formation’ into ‘selformation’ because I had an interest in the possible self-reflectivity of self formation or individuation that wasn’t reducible to a recursiveness of the ordinary prefix ‘self-’. I was so far into my own sense of self-formativity in self formation that I began privately writing with ‘selformation’. My sense of individuation included the recursive potential of self-reflectivity (for transpositional learning or “thinking outside the box,” re-framing, stage transition, life era appreciation, and historizing), but individuation is primarily about making a life purposively and fulfillingly. I’m not a contemplative (though I adore comtemplative solitude—along with adoring friendship, little boats of nigiri sushi, and grand vistas).

Anyway, the Google advent is useful. I’ve used ‘selformativity’ online quite more than I had appreciated (mentioned, at least, on many webpages, I see now). But I haven’t dwelled overtly with the notion. I’m glad to see that my use is most substantive (and frequent) in its first page of usage, “Individuation” (April, 2010), though still precursory. Also, I’m glad to see that all other uses gel across pages and months—which should be the case, given that I’ve been living with the notion for many years.

The vanity of noting that pertains to the topic itself, but I’m going to spare you autobiographical narrative. Nonetheless, there is that dimension to the notion of selformativity as topic: I’m implicated in the theme, relative to my life. But let me just yield to the facticity of my entire website as a singular narration that’s barely begun. Autobiography is for later life.

Yet, I am an Opening like a balmy night in the hills overlooking the vast Bay, of Life, of time.

It’s OK to love one’s own wayfaring, to love going one’s own way, keeping fidelity to what belongs to a highly-invested project. I have no self pity toward the sometimes-difficult solitude (which is not often difficult). Any devoted writer (or artist or researcher) knows the issue; so, I avow (and feel) solidarity.

Difficulty is prevailed upon—all-in-all embraced and held good—by love of the challenge. It’s love that draws us.


A cohering of inner and outer awareness, feeling and thinking, perceiving and valuing, sensing and intuiting—each side of a modal pair enlightening the other, the fourfold a pragmatic model of genuinely being in one’s life—is an idealization. We unwittingly grow to prefer one side of each mode over the other. But good cohering (telically mirrorplaying coherence) is quite feasible—hardwon, perhaps; yet, our intrinsic promise.

My promise to you is fidelity to my promise. Here, that’s very sketchy so far in prospectiveness, but what can I say briefly. I solicit your indulgence, granting me benefit of the doubt that the way I’m going will be practical, not merely discursively challenging (let alone—godforbid—academic vanity).

I’ve enpathed various ways narratively into thinking about feeling—feeling along the way quite deeply (I believe) about what I was thinking: feeling as minding, feeling time, a feeling for Self formation, and feeling for each other. I could cutely call that an empathic enpathing—or an empathing of thought about feeling.

However, an empathic focus with you would be unpretentious and wholly relative to your presence, in terms of how you’re there. Minding time for our presence belongs to its own belonging.

[May 27: That may seem odd to say—as if defending against egoism—but it’s common for counselors to articulate to/for a peer (especially for a supervisee) senses of relationship as such. It’s also apt for entering into ethical thinking against egoism; or thinking about how a creative life may not be egoistic—contrary to stereotypes of the narcissistic artist or researcher. Though I haven’t been influenced by the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, I proximally agree with his well-known stance that philosophy is primarily about ethical life—though I have primordial aspirations beyond ethical theory, which I’ve outlined. Anyway, to get on with my heartful stance toward belonging, etc., from last December...]

My free efficacy of feeling may be wholly ours, sometimes prevalently yours I’m drawn into—or/and mine giving way to you; or a gift I’m able to share—yet, also love of my own capability for all I can live. A fulfilling bond may evince new releases—license to explore!—together. There’s no exclusiveness about it, though writing may be done alone.

Freely subjecting myself to feeling expresses an efficacy of Time opening a promise or potential or prospect beyond where I am, as you are, or where we may go.

Yet, ultimately, we feel our own ontogenic nature in belonging (an achieved gift of individuation, possibly so far beyond early attachment—or insufficiency of that—yet echoing whom only oneself is, in the truth of feeling) which continues to empath, enpath richly (one hopes) for fun old years. We’re each born singularly (biogenically, then temperamentally, already “beyond” any specific relationship in the future). We each flourish in manifoldly singular ways (even as identical twins—an archetype for teen love, by the way, always undermined by one’s singularity). And we become inreasingly singular as we age.

We are not essentially social beings; we are essentially psychological (or psychal) beings. The sociological bias of so much human science (always called “social science” in the U.S.) has been permanently trumped by anthropology, which now biocognitively sides with psychology (and Literature). I would argue—as a matter of vague generality (social vs. psychal)—that the humanity of humanities is not basically about ultimately social being, but about interpsychal potentials of unique individuals to belong together in singularly shared engagements.

We are individual darlings of anthropological nature, with a birthright to appreciated individuality (proximal “depths” of curiosity, aspiration, and feeling carried into an individuation that only oneself can know), educing selfidentity (potentially beyond idiosyncrasy), as well as having been inspired, encouraged, and taught as one chose to be influenced. We are each a selfidentical singularity (possibly expressing original promise) that began with neonatal attentions that were already our own and that unwittingly designed preferred time-space (or declined chances—when abundantly given chances) as one’s development empathed its Self actualization (see: “It gets more cogent...”).


Odd to say, but: The origin of life is within one as a potential originality of intelligent life.

The “origin” of life is standardly an interest in the ultimate beginnings of life, an astrobiological and paleobiological issue. But real originality in life is located in the unprecedented changes that pro-gress life (to us now—and only, on Earth, to us, relative to a conception of progress) beyond an earlier form of life. Seeking “origin” in non-human life is either a mapping of the Originist archetype into reconstructive scientific inquiry about astro/paleo issues (confusing our capacity for originality with the mystery of life’s beginnings); or “origin” in non-human life—when not synonymous with beginnings—is a feature of our interest in real originality (progressivity in intelligent life) mapped into natural selective legacies, which can be fruitful: identifying better-fitting niche constructiveness (which is not just reproductively developing), which tends to favor better adaptability (higher evolvability). But the originality there (unprecedented betterness) belongs to a conception of progressivity which we can narratively cohere across species. Though we construct narratives vastly beyond 19th century idealism now, the heavenly idea of progress preceded the Spencerian idea that nature itself can progress (which mistook Darwinism as a theory of progress). The concept of evolving in non-human nature (beyond ecological shifts between ice ages) is a naturalization of our intelligent interest in progress, oriented by the vastly variable occurance of intelligence in nature.

Our evolving is about our progressivity as intelligent form of life, into which we appropriate non-human life, ethically, we hope. Evolutionary theory in biosciences may be misread to proffer theories of change as theories of progress, but actually it’s our intelligent interest that seeks to find progress in change (or teleology in nature), because that’s intrinsic to our form of life. So, we find lineages that are progressive, because we know life as a potentially progressive lineage, and we are Children of nature. Therefore, our nature would be appropriately found to belong to Nature, because we are to feel deeply at home where we are, caring for Our planet. The planet unwittingly depends on Our Story (which is also the home of ethical ultimacy expressed by our nature).

Our originality of human life evolves intelligent life, which favors its ecology, like all life. But intelligent life tends to favor purposive function, which favors increasing capacity for purpose or increasingly-complex purposiveness (which unfortunately leads to our species gaining capacity to drive other species to extinction). Humanity has been gifted by the intelligence of Earthly life itself with capability for imagining, designing, and managing the future of Earthly life. We each are free to stand for the future of Earthly life, as best we can—which unfortunately becomes environmentalist cliché, because the challenges are so difficult that reminding becomes white noise. We often need to rethink what matters in the long run for futures and lastingness and legacies for heirs of Earth. It’s such a tired story, isn’t it. So, there’s intrinsic goodness in having the same great ideas lived over and over again, in ever new clothing (as if archetype could become ontology).

A keynote of highly minding is enjoying fidelity to keynotes, especially as concerted in highly promising prospects for growing highly worthwhile goods. We should try to exemplify that as best we can, and I easily feel high kindredness in doing so. I don’t expect an intimacy with you in my degrees of conceptual venturing, though I hope.


Oh, that old Flow of it all at times!

“Given” (endlessly achieving) a healthy life, idealizing a healthy region in a healthy nation on a healthy planet....What’s the monograph of bioMindal cohering one can live?

I easily dissolve into a liminality of so-called daydreaming (odd notion, actually: not lucid dreaming) or reverie or imaginative free association which is fruitless at times (too often), but is a condition for the possibility of conceptual discovery—along with intent playing with overt possibilities—wording, resources, times, etc.—of trOpical gardening. Manifold entrancing times are educive of transliminal weaves.

Two decades have passed since Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi {“chick-sent-me-high,” hereafter: MC] (one of the founders of “positive psychology”) proffered notions of flow as keynotes of creativity (or highly fruitful minding). Since then, his insightfulness has influenced various domains of inquiry as a recent focus on “effortless attention,” which (I’ll show, eventually) exemplifies a naturalization of intention for an enactive approach to theorizing action. For now, I just want to point to how there’s a high degree of scientific and conceptual corroboration for the approach to selformativity which I want to show appreciation of—and, I hope, exemplify. (Indeed, an emergent immance of selformativity in textually-mediating conceptual appreciation of it all is my delighted hope, like a dancer becoming her dance.)

As if things and times themselves are intently showing their value, the mirror of self-actualizing attentionality is interest reflected as things and times worth acting toward: focusing attention there (educed to focus), doing something with (drawn to do), adapting to, appropriating, transposing—“whatever”’s so interesting “expresses” (educes) a telic appeal that’s integral to making a life of little purposes serve larger purposes in projects of Projects. Potential flows of attention in a selformative life (more than an autonomous life; more on that shortly) is horizoned by its era in a continuity of ongoing eraicness, including one’s sense of lifelongingness (more than an idea of the lifespan, rather what one’s life is About) which transcends every contemporaneity of interpersonal environments because the flourishing of a life’s Time transcends all the specific times lived.

The sense of selformativity I’m rendering has biogenic and autogenic bases implying a richer sense of self-determination than MC’s notion of the “autotelic personality” [ref.1: 197]. But his group’s cognitive-behavioral notion (which is measureable) obviously validates my more-ambitious conception. “‘Time spent in the high-challenge, high-skill situations conducive to flow’ has been the most widely used measure of the general propensity toward flow” and expresses orientation by “intrinsic motivation in high-challenge, high-skill situations” via “meta-skills for the regulation of experience” [ibid.]. I claim that notions of meta-skills operationalize higher-scale engagements of purpose, and I believe that the concept of autotelicness can be carried quite beyond MC’s useful functionalization. I mention his work only to make the point that I’m prospecting something assessable (and analyzable for educational and therapeutic work), though my interest is conceptual—yet realistically so—and, well, literary.

Though there’s no intentionality in functional processes of nature (as intentions presume neural systems capable of attentional focus), there is telic emergence or emergent telicnesss in biological processes; so, ascribing direction to biogenic processes can be tenable. From this, autogenic processes ontogenically emerge for young children and, if all goes well, autotelic enactivity enhances itself during good individuation. (One could spend a lifetime exploring ontogeny, as many do, of course.) I surmise that childhood is a progressive-regressive-progressive advance of biogenic (subjective) and autogenic (self-directive) episodes that gradually shape autotelic capability for higher individuation (excellence in postsecondary education, high creativity, etc.). Autogenic processes seek prevalence over biogenic ones (a sense of mastery is self esteeming). But biogenic processes either compel themselves or fail to; they don’t seek. (I simplify to make a psychoanalytic distinction briefly.) Mixes of the two cause hybrid “entities” like compelling fears or aversions, but (I would argue) biogenic processes can’t compete with healthy autogenic processes (relative to one’s developmental learning level or zone of proximal development vs. the scale of biogenic compellingness expressed in the “outer” shadows). Biogenic processes inform or congest autogenic processes. Yet, by the time that one is “grown up,” all kinds of phenomena may implicitly populate a psychal topography. (Or so my longer, more-discursive story would go.)

Autogenic processes, then autotelic life (inasmuch as such may prevail for a selfidentity), promise more than autonomy. Autonomy is an independent standing of capability that doesn’t itself imply engagements or direction (though notions of autonomy get conceived as more than autonomy because—). Autotelic life is about engagements and directions of selfidentity that are highly (i.e., very valuably) more than capability for engaging and disengaging; or capability for choosing or changing direction.

It’s easy to argue against the point (my differentiation). It’s easy to argue that autonomy really is more than I’m granting the notion (for the sake of making a difference). Nonetheless, the difference I’m rendering is important: Autotelic life has a temporal investment that calls for autonomy (employs its capability for independent action). But “autonomous” lives often seem quite “happy” with aimlessness that’s filled with short-lived value (e.g., an upscale suburban slacker with an expensive education, little aspiration, and a vast social network of vacuousness).

But I digress.


Educational psychologist E.S. Buchholz wrote importantly of “the call of solitude” in “a world of attachment,” not that attachment is overvalued, but that dependencies inhibit our potentials (and many attachments are phony or forced). Indeed, one can’t be authentically attached to someone or something unless one is (and remains) free to choose, such that engagement or commitment or fidelity thereby gains or sustains its “truth,” something which is sometimes sparse in relationships. (Notwithstanding all the acceptance of unmarried cohabitation in our society—i.e, given the increasing freedom we have to make choices our own, thus lasting—still, most new marriages do not last many years.)

A promise of lastingness in relationships is rooted in the authenticity of one’s own life, which I understand relative to the quality of individuation. But my own special interest is the inquirial and creative potential of a life, which complements other loves (even enhancing them?). So, I feel a lot, I think a lot of the potential of free play in selfidentification for enriching bonds—with persons, to purposes, and for the sake of high values—thereby enriching a life through a freedom of plural bonding that’s highly aspiring. If that seems pretentiously high minded, so be it.

A selformativity of Self is clearly transpersonal (given the usual degree of kindredness or less in interpersonal relations). An existential horizon of one’s potential and world belongs to the being that alone will live into and through its potential worldliness—one’s ownmost inworldness?—in light of the ontogenic individuation that only one lives. The wholliness of it all is one’s Self reflection, though being that is the flourishing of one’s time, at best in flows of telic cohering, weaving manifold project-ivity into centripetal horizonality.

What kinds of designs can we be? I’m attached to conceptual inquiry, but you have to see that as my way of pursuing our ultimately self-designing assemblage art of being alive. We all want a sufficiency of promise in appeals of engagement.

Not knowing what’s over the hill draws me on. What can I learn of leading minds, of high creativity, of evolving originality? In pursuing an Origin of intelligent life somewhere in the future, I’m not expecting to find It or end the pursuit (by choice). But I am expecting to have fun.


This is part 4 of “autotelic mind.” Next: “Eros of flourishing


  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis