The Continuum Theory™
Of course, even though going through each stage is part of nature’s plan, all but the body stage must be consciously fostered by other human beings. This, self-development of the body stage, can be seen when a child will naturally try to stand up, then try to walk, engage in play and generally try to imitate other bodily movements and actions of older humans around him, or her. All of this helps develop a body’s potential and foster growth. The same is only true to a very limited degree with the mind. A child might acquire language by imitation, but reading, writing, problem solving, consequential and creative thinking must be explained and taught. The final stage, that of developing and potentializing the ‘Self’, takes the greatest amount of teaching and conscious attention by the adults in a child’s life, in order to have it be healthy and ready to potentialize its full development later on.
Historically, two factors prevented people from potentializing both their mind and their ‘Self’. One was the fact that the average life span was so short that it prevented most people from reaching the chronological age where their life force could shift into either the full development of ‘mind’ (20 plus) or later to the full development of the ‘Self’ (40 plus). Second, was the fact that both of these developmental stages need conscious attention and teaching by those who have developed their own minds and developed their own ‘Selfs’. There was no universal education and there were very few people to exercise and develop the mind of individuals beyond language, and spoken traditions. There were even fewer people whose ‘Self’ was developed, who could then help to develop and potentialize others’ ‘Selfs’.
When philosophers and psychologists debate about the ‘Self’ it is always whether there is a ‘Self’, some type of solid, full blown, finished entity, or not. In trying to get a handle on the ‘Self’ it seems we harken back to ideas we generally think of as
ual: an immortal soul that persists after the body dies, a being, a spirit, as in guardian spirit, an invisible activating entity inside of us that usually is ascribed consciousness, and often is synonymous with goodness. We relate to ‘self’ as a spirit in a similar way that we see ‘God’ as a spirit; something that perhaps directs or should direct us.
What seems to be missing from this debate is the possibility that the ‘Self” is very much like the body and mind, birthed at the same time and totally integrated with body and mind. It is not a ‘separate’ entity but has different facilities, as do body and mind. I believe all three are vibrating, energetic entities. All three come into existence at birth. All three need nourishment and nurturing. All three have their own developmental potential. For simplicities sake, I call the various abilities that can be potentialized in the body 'muscles', the mind 'capacities', and the ‘Self’ 'facilities'. All three need specific ‘exercises’ for their specific ‘muscles’ to fully develop. If you tie up the feet, like the Chinese used to do, you can damage the body’s potential for mobility, balance, etc. If you do not engage the mind of a child in reasoning, do not talk to a child, you will damage the mind’s potential to communicate and reason. The ‘Self’ has its own ‘facilities’, with potential to develop. But since we cannot see ‘Self’, and since from science’s perspective it does not exist, we do not worry about what developmental damage we may be causing by ‘tying it up’, not nourishing it properly, not exercising it suitably, and not developing it correctly. I believe the ‘facilities’ of ‘Self’ are actually diminished and damaged over time, instead of being fully developed, which I believe is the primary reason why people experience emotional problems, feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled with their lives.
It is a fact that both eastern philosophers and modern day philosophers and psychologists deny the existence of the ‘Self’ as a real entity. Eastern philosophers were hoping to end mankind’s suffering caused by what they saw as attachment to self/ego and its struggle with accepting the way things are, (which is not that different from the church’s teaching about being rewarded in heaven if you accept the way things are here on earth). Modern day philosophers and psychologists deny the existence of the ‘Self because they can’t see or observe the ‘Self’. I believe that the denial of Self as a real entity is a mistake of major proportions.
Since our origin, humans have looked up and have seen light coming from the sky. One was a very bright, warm light, and one was a smaller, cooler light, and there were lots of tiny glimmering lights. We didn’t know where any of these lights were coming from, all we knew was that we could observe the light. The observing of the light was real, even though the source was obscure. Later, much later, we have been able to establish the source and the composition of the sun, the moon, the stars, and explain why they emanate or reflect light. Knowing the composition of the source of the observable light wasn’t and isn’t necessary for us to say that the light we observed was/is real and therefore its source was real. I believe it is same with ‘self’. We have for thousands of years observed behavior, which we attributed to a part of a human being that isn’t their body or their mind. We have called it spirit, soul, being. It has been clear to us that a person who goes around the slums of India, gathering up and caring for the dead and dying, is not behaving based on a well developed body or super intelligent mind. We are clear that this behavior is being activated by another part of the person. We have been clear in observing this type of “selfless” behavior in many individuals historically and close to home. We have therefore created words in our languages to describe it. But because we can’t observe the source of this ‘selfless’ behavior, like we couldn’t observe the source of the lights in the sky, and because we don’t know the source’s origin and composition, we are trying to dismiss both the reality of the behavior, and the reality of the source.
The concept of atoms, which was put forth by Democritus in 2500 BC, as “Tiny, invisible, indivisible particles that in different combinations formed all material reality,” was similarly ignored and discredited by our much more famous philosophers. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant, Newton, Galileo, etc. who all believed matter was made up the 4 elements called air, fire, earth and water. WHY? – First of all because it was taught by wise, educated men in power, who had control over what people believed or not and secondly, no matter how logical and intuitively correct the theory was, as was proved later when we realized that atoms do exist, at that time they could not see atoms.
So we can’t see ‘Self’….So what?!
Now, I don’t think that it is all bad to not believe in things we can’t see, like the Loch Ness Monster, Leprechauns, and Superman, but when our experience continually confirms a concept we owe ourselves to investigate it fully.
There is actual harm done to a person because we insist on denying the existence of a developmental self. This harm relates directly to all the issues that have the prefix ‘self’: low self-esteem, no self-support, no self-confidence, no self-love, low self-worth, no self-respect, no self-awareness, no self-care, not self-motivated. They translate into terms such as: self-destructive, unconscious/unaware, self-conscious, self-doubt, self-sabotage, procrastination, etc.
You may ask me if it is important to have a functional definition of self to do what we’re doing in therapy. For me the answer is, absolutely. Can we do what we do in psychology and psychotherapy without knowing what the Self is, or agreeing to what the Self is? To me the answer is, we certainly have been trying, but have not achieved it well enough. For the science of psychology and psychotherapy, we need to have a functional definition of the Self that everyone can agree on, so that the research that is done can be uniformly described and understood by everyone.
Many of the issues of psychology, parenting, education and medicine, such as stress, depression, personal failure, and rebellion, can be explained and healed better by viewing the ‘Self’ as being a developmental entity that can make good decisions once it is fully developed. This development is based o: 1) developing its awareness so it can be fully in touch with what is wrong, missing or what it wants, 2) being able to clearly define these wants and needs, which we call creating a vision, 3) communicating these newly recognized needs effectively, and 4) doing it all with unconditional loving behavior. Self-love prompts one to obtain what one needs. Self-love is synonymous with self-sufficiency, not being selfish or self-centered.
The Story of M. – Her father’s conditionThe father of one of my employee’s, we’ll call her Mary, had a severe spinal injury when she was just a child. The accident not only paralyzed him from the neck down, but forced him to live in an iron lung, in an institution for the rest of his life. The wife, left with 2 children, asked if it would be alright to divorce him and remarry. He agreed. Then a choice had to be made by this unfortunate man. To live a life of purpose or to feel sorry for himself for what turned out to be another 40 years. 40 years of life having a body that could not be used to take care of himself along with having a well educated brain.
Many individuals have tragedy strike. Some of the tragedies are not nearly as catastrophic in terms of what is possible to reclaim in a person’s life. Bankruptcies, job loss, divorce, fires that destroy a home, robberies, car accidents, serious (but not deadly) illness, and the list goes on.
Many of the individuals who experience these tragedies are healthy, well-educated people. The rest of their life is still in front of them and the opportunity to confront their tragedy and overcome it is a very good possibility. And yet many of them become depressed, non-functioning, bitter, angry, self-pitying, defeated, unhappy individuals.
What is the difference between those that choose the road to overcoming and those that feel defeated?
Mary’s father, having lost his body, needing care for even the most personal and potentially embarrassing bodily functions, unable to move or breath alone…locked into an iron lung in one room, chose. He became one of the most prolific lobbyists for all forms of disabilities, and inspired countless legislation and reforms and raised America’s consciousness regarding the needs of the disabled.
The stress, the hopelessness, that tragedies and disappointments in life produce, affect individuals who are both physically and mentally well developed, differently. If we are only a body and a brain/mind then the answers and solutions lie in those 2 areas, the only areas open for investigation and research.
Focusing on body and mind/brain has led to answers by the science of medicine of prescribing drugs that numb feelings, or drugs that induce a sense of euphoria (well being). They both affect the body’s and brain’s functioning.
While they may assist the individual to function better day to day, they in no way assist in dealing with the underlying causes of why the tragedy affected a person in such a debilitating way.
Looking for and trying to deal with underlying causes is the province of some form of psycho-intervention. Psychiatry is depending more and more on drugs. It has no other model for effective intervention. The time taken by psychiatrists for conversation/talk is becoming less and less, according to the Journal of Medicine. This is because what they are finding is that even when they understand the background of a client it doesn’t lead to having the client feel better about themselves or better about the future. The results of talk are meager.
What part of a human being is preventing this healthy, well developed body, and this healthy, well developed brain from functioning in the same healthy way it used to before the tragedy occurred? After all it is the same body and same brain! What part is in control of this body and brain?
My belief is that without having something real to work with, something that we know must be at the root of emotional distress, we cannot approach healing effectively.
Having in our scientific model a real self and knowing right out of the gate that it is this real self that has been damaged in childhood and now has to be rehabilitated makes the diagnosis and prognosis and treatment more likely to achieve success.
Without needing to do tests we know that the self’s 4 areas of development have been damaged and need to be the focus of attention. Developing a client's awareness so they can be aware of their pain, rather than numbing their awareness of pain with drugs, is the start. Teaching clients about the need for creating a new vision, a new set of possibilities, is the next step. Once clients understand that they can effect the future by implementing a new vision they become more hopeful. Even if they don’t believe in it, their focus of attention becomes the future with positive possibilities (Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz discusses the Brain's Plasticity). Teaching individuals about effective communication helps their vision begin the manifesting process. Once we communicate to the people in our universe, the Universe and people begin to respond to our communications. The communication creates something to talk about, a future with possibilities. Finally teaching people to love and to ask for love, the necessary feeding of the self with its lifeblood, its nourishment, gives them the energy they need to persist. Instead of drugs what people need is to learn to feed themselves. Exactly the way they learned how to feed their bodies and brains with air-food-water, they will learn to feed themselves with love. The most hopeful, energizing thing in life is to have a vision that is fed by love.
At this time mainstream therapeutic interventions do not address love as a real tangible energy. Harville Hendrix has written about getting, keeping and giving love. His program, Imago Couples Therapy has been highly successful, although it lacks the theoretical underpinnings of what love is. Its success can be directly related to an approach that emphasizes behavior that my theory clearly shows as being loving behavior. Empathy, respect, validation, consideration, patience, conscious communication are all different forms of love, different ways of transmitting loving energy. They all nourish that part of us that is not the body or brain but the Self which is in control of both body and brain.
My therapeutic training is in Gestalt therapy, which is highly awareness oriented, and the connection between therapist and client often will include the touching of hands, and hug, cradling as an infant, and many other loving acts, that are not encouraged in most other therapeutic interventions. Yet, Gestalt Theory never mentions love and insists that the self is merely a process of ebb and flow – not very useful for either the therapist or the client.
The issue isn’t or shouldn’t be, whether the ‘Self’ is real or not. The issue is or should be what explains human behavior in a way that is consistent with our experience, is more useful in positively altering human behavior and thereby assisting individuals in satisfying their needs. Also which explanation is more easily understood by the layman and clinician alike, and can more easily be used by all for the betterment of society. Imagine having ‘scientific ideas’ of human development and the development of the ‘Self’ that inspires every layperson and one that they can learn and effectively use themselves, just like they could use the wheel, and use arithmetic, and reading and writing for the mind.
A theory of who we are and how we can create a better life, one that is easily learned and easily used by everyone, was my mission. First, I spent over 20 years devising a new theory of life-span/human development. Then, I spent the next 10 years researching the many applications of the theory, all of which turned out to support its efficacy. So, for me the debate, whether ‘self’ is an entity or not has been over for quite a while. For you perhaps, the debate is just starting. I am more than happy to take on your skepticism, your questions and your objections. Self is an entity, albeit not defined in the way philosophy and psychology often try to define an entity as separate, solid, visible, taking up space, etc.
I believe that the reason we are still embroiled in the debate of whether ‘self’ is real or not, beside the fact that I have not yet made my theory or findings public, is that we keep starting the debate by going all the way back to the Cartesian theatre and before, continually asking the same theoretical questions, rather than new practical ones. Actually the questions and answers haven’t changed much, only the vocabulary for expressing them, much of it now coming from clinical psychology.