Attributes of the Self

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Using time and energy we gave our model a basis which links Man to the preceding three realms. Using the four terms of self, soma, psyche, affectivity, we were able to construct one unit functioning upon public time structured as future, present, past, in this order, giving the present to the self as its province, assisted by affectivity turned towards the future (and the unknown) and holding the structured-dyanmic-past in its psychosomatic reality.

In this section we need to assemble the entities which will give the self its reality and help us understand its unique and essential contribution to every human’s potential for health. And this, in a way which allowed us to let energy and time produce that unit objectified in time from the universal energies in the environment found in the previous three realms.

We begin with the instruments capable of contributing to: (1) the fact tht the self, being human from the start, brings with itself — from the moment of conception — its own attributes, and to (2) the fact that the energies of the non-self affect those of the self. The first will provide the foundations for a study of what Man does by himself, for himself and with himself and the second for how Man-in-the-world relates to the contents of the universes surrounding him to maintain and develop his integrity.

It will be integrity which will ultimately allow us to grasp what health is, how to maintain it in a real environment, as well as who is responsible for this maintenance.

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If the main criterion for an entity to be an attribute of the self is that it cannot be acquired from the environment or “learned,” and must have been there from the moment the quantum started the processes of a human life, we shall be encountering attributes without a need for a temporal hierarchical order. That is, we shall not attempt to provide an order for them all. Neither in time, i.e., that one precedes another (unless it is obvious), nor in importance, which would assume an a priori system of values.

To work properly on these matters, we found that we needed to respond to the mention of an attribute by asking ourselves: “Could it be acquired?” or “Where or when could it be acquired?” The answer let us accept as an attribute the entity, isolated and pointed at, or reject it.

Awareness is an attribute of the self, because it translates presence of the self and that no one but the self can command. We shall according to our methodological needs use either presence of the self or its awareness, as the most adequate way of speaking. Awareness of presence is a possibility and only the self can give it to itself. Presence in one’s awareness is also a possibility equivalent to being aware of one’s awareness (which we chose as the definition of Man).

Concentration is an attribute of the self. In the waking state it means that the self can be aware of its energy being gathered in a certain way in order to be present on the task when this is well-defined. Another word for that is “focusing.” The self can focus from the start.

Discrimination is as attribute of the self because it accompanies every awareness intended to convey to the self what it is contemplating in terms of the energy message sent to one’s psychosomatic system.

Perception is the attribute of the self which tells it the kind of energy it receives from outside or that the dynamic in one’s psychosomatic system has been altered in any way. Perception is of those energies called sensations that are specialized through the sense organs to be called: visual, auditory, of heat, pressure, or chemical as in taste and olfaction, etc.

Will is the attribute of the self which it uses to alter the energy contents in objectivations whether these are somatic (e.g., in muscles) or psychic (e.g., emotions, actions, expressions). Our will is the response of the self whenever an energy transaction is considered.

Action is the attribute of the self which combines perception and the will to assess the correct amounts of energy needed to perform the activities the self gets engaged in. From the moment one learns to take in food from one’s mother after birth, to mastering the demands of yoga and/or creative art.

Intelligence is the attribute of the self which allows it to seek new ways of relating to challenges which resist being met by preexisting spontaneous approaches already part of one’s experience.

Sensitivity is the attribute of the self which gains its particularities as it relates to the various sense organs and later to their coordinations as multiple sensitivities, and thus opens up new universes of experience to the self.

Vulnerability is the attribute of the self which allows it to act on sensitivities to make them function in conjunction with one’s outlook on life, sometimes opening new worlds, sometimes shrinking from them.

Abstraction is the attribute of the self which it uses to “stress” some awarenesses while “ignoring” the rest. In this way concentration and discrimination are made to contribute to any action (physical or mental) the self wants to engage in.
Freedom to remain engaged or to shift to something else, is an attribute of the self which cooperates with awareness to prolong some experiencing or to leave what one is working on and to enter into something new. It is known to the self as closely related to the will and thus known as “freewill.”

Imaging is the attribute of the self which allows it to use the sense organs not as receptor of outside energy but as means of structuring residual energy in “evocations” that resemble perceptions and are called “images.”
Imagination is that attribute of the self which applies mental dynamics onto images to obtain anything which appears to the self to be compatible with these and of which the self can be aware as obeying its instructions.

The Sense of Truth is the attribute of the self which allows it to actually reach the reality of time and energy in every involvement and to “recognize,” i.e., be aware, that it is one’s time and one’s energy which are being involved in the activity under consideration. The sense of truth generates truth in one’s awareness and provides the basis of reality. The sense of truth accompanies all awarenesses in a dialectic manner, one making the other an attribute of the self. The self being aware of awareness is aware of its truth and reality. These special awarenesses give the sense of truth its distinct reality acknowledged by the self as such.

The sense of harmony or well-being is an attribute of the self which feeds back to the self that it is free to engage in meeting what comes, the unknown, the future. It is the same attribute which notices, within the psycho-somatic system, that some dysfunction is taking place and alerts the self. Dysfunctions are not always known as pain, but pains are the forms dysfunctions take for the sense of truth to acknowledge that the sense of harmony has been unbalanced, and asks to be put back in order.

Surrender is the attribute of the self, connected with the will, which allows the self to trust that it is part of a reality beyond oneself in which there is room for itself as it is and for what it is. Surrender is the self’s form of trust, independently of what there is to trust in in the non-self.

Patience is an attribute of the self which indicates the self’s intuition that the non-self is not at its beck and call; and that the domain of one’s will is essentially within, with some extension onto the non-self which needs to be discovered in its reality.

Wisdom is an attribute of the self which is co-extensive with the self’s ability to know all the time what is possible and keeps itself within those bounds.

Objectivation is that attribute of the self which permits the quantum to use the energies latent in the environment to change them into either structures of the soma or residual ones which energize the functions, or psyche. This is done in conjunction with the information carried by the DNA in the in-utero period, but goes on through all one’s conscious life.

Passion stems from the self and expresses the concentration of its energy over certain durations. The mobilization of those amounts is spontaneous as is their maintenance at a proper level of functioning on those durations.

Adaptation is the form one’s life takes as the self acknowledges directly and spontaneously that the reality of the non-self exists and has its own ways of affecting the self.

Acceptance of others for what they are is the attribute of the self which from the start allows the self to know the boundaries of its expression in the social environment and makes one obey parent’s commands and to cooperate in all non-traumatic invitations to conform.

Learning is the attribute of the self which tells it it can change in time, in particular it can change through integration of the non-self impacts and through awareness of the dynamics of energy affecting one’s perception of oneself.

Clearly, those attributes of the self are not acquired through accumulated experience. They are not passable or transferable from one person to another through heredity or social conditioning. They are accessible to one’s awareness as concomitant manifestations of the self in one’s inner and/or outer life. They exist, and at the same time create the criteria for their existence, perceptible to the self itself.

Of course, it is not assumed that these attributes impose themselves to one’s awareness. Too many people soon after their early childhood get distracted into being concerned with a vast number of components of survival and rarely have the opportunity of becoming aware of themselves to the point where the attributes let themselves be noticed.

Author: Caleb Gattegno
Read the whole article in the Newsletter: A Working Model for Health (PDF) or (Issuu) Vol. XVI N° 2-3-4 December/February/April 1987.

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“Attributes of the Self” in A Working Model for Health by Caleb Gattegno is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. The copyright holder is Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.