General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
A Grammar of Consciousness

by Milton Dawes

It seems as if a preponderance of nouns over verbs in our languages make sit more likely that we will think of things rather than processes. But we shouldn’t put all the blame on language or our use of language. A great deal of what we see, hear, touch, etc., is experienced as being relatively static – probably because many processes are imperceptible except when observed over periods of time. Except through time-lapse photography, for instance, we don’t ‘see’ a plant growing.

Considering the fact that we live in a world of change, changing relationships, and processes, we get increasingly out of touch with our environments, ourselves, and others, when we forget that many of our labels(classified grammatically as ‘nouns’) are terms representing ‘activities’.(Even the term ‘activity’ is classified as a noun.) In this article, the term “consciousness” is used not as a noun, to represent a thing-object, but as a verb, representing an activity. The term “selves”, represents psycho-physiological activities organized in pursuing particular objectives. The image of a self being like a department in an organization might help in understanding this notion of selves. Think of a self as a constellation of conscious-unconscious-activities, including values, beliefs thinking-feelings-corresponding-neuromuscular supports, etc. Each one of us, in this scheme, is to be considered as constituting a complex of more or less interrelated, interacting, and to varying degrees, integrated selves. So with respect to my-selves (myself in everyday terms), the self that plays soccer, is not the self that writes articles although the article-writing self, might incorporate some memories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc., also used by the soccer-playing self. (Like using the same type of materials to manufacture different objects; or selecting letters from the alphabet to spell different words.) When there exists a certain level of integration between selves, the executive-manager self, can help selves (including itself) to earn from each other — the soccer-playing self for instance, can learn from the article-writing self, and vice versa. And the executive-self can learn from all the others.

These ideas of selves first emerged in simpler forms when I was about 12 or so. I found I had difficulty understanding what someone meant when s-he said “I am upset with myself”; “I hate myself (for doing so and so”); “I can’t make up my mind”. I resolved this puzzlement at that time by coming to a conclusion that the self that was being upset with, or hated, was not, could not be, the same self as the one that was upset and doing the hating. Much later on from my studies in Korzybski’s General Semantics, I came across terms such as self-conscious self-reflexiveness, non-identity, relative invariance under transformation (this is like that) and others, which made the notion of selves a reasonable one for me.

‘Thinking’ in terms of selves, we find many benefits in understanding and resolving problems related to what we label self-esteem and self-image. When a self think-feels disappointed, or confused, or anxious, upset, frustrated, insecure, unworthy, and so on, the whole system does not have to crash. Through the intervention of the executive-managerial self, other selves can come to the rescue and give support. Seeing ourselves in terms of selves, also helps us to keep in touch with the complex processes we are being. (After reading this essay, see what you make of the term “I” in relations to the notion of selves.)

We live in dynamic environments; but we use relatively static forms of representations in the language, models, maps, etc. we use to represent our experiencing of these environments. They do not as a rule help us to appreciate the processes, complex relationships, and inter-activities they represent. It would be of tremendous advantage to us if we gave more attention to the importance of ‘meta-maps’ — maps we could use as tools to help us correct, update, modify, and improve the accuracy, not only of our ‘maps’, but also our map-making. We live in evolving environments. We are the products of evolving processes. Our maps and representations to be more useful and less disorienting, should reflect not only the processes around us, but also our processing of the information we receive about these outside processes.

Words are not the thing-processes they represent; but the act of differentiating – in labeling our activities, and recognizing that we a relabeling our activities – is one way of nudging conscious- activities into selves-conscious activities; one way to present to ourselves a more accurate map of our selves. More increments of information about our selves increase the potentials for higher levels of integration of our selves. (In popular terms “being more together” and “being centered”). Increased differential awareness (executive-self awareness) that we are doing, and what we are doing, provides us with increments of information which we can use to decide whether to stop, continue, modify, change, whatever we find ourselves doing. Increased awareness of our activities, and the effects of our activities on our inner and outer environments, provide us with an integrated awareness of what Korzybski has labeled the “organism-as-a-whole-in-environments” principle. Better maps of ourselves as variables in our environments can be used to increase our effectiveness, to minimize the intensity and frequency of distressing experiences, and much more.

As organisms-in-process we make plans, act on decisions, manage situations, give advice, show someone how to do something, organize our affairs, and soon, but we don’t as a rule see ourselves in the roles of planners, decision makers, managers, organizers, teachers, and so on. We usually associate these activities with persons we label business executives, teachers, and other professionals. Focusing on the labels and ignoring the activities, we usually don’t see ourselves in these roles – nor see others as constellation of selves involved in certain roles at certain times. We see, label, and relate to the person as if the whole person, at all times, was ‘teacher,’ ‘secretary,’ ‘priest,’ ‘truck driver,’ ‘mechanic, ”doctor,’ ‘executive,’ etc.; we most times forget that the doctor is not always doctoring; and that there ‘are’ (not a mistake) more to the secretary than their secretarial-functioning-self.

A Grammar of Consciousness

A ‘grammar of consciousness’ is an invention, a meta-map, a heuristic tool suggesting another way of ‘looking’ at conscious-activities as if they were operating in particular kinds of relationships, with their internal and external environments. If we accept that consciousness labels a set of activities taking place in environments, then it seems reasonable to find some ways of characterizing these relationships. A ‘grammar of consciousness’ is simply one such characterization where we advance the proposition that the structure of language provides us with clues to the structure of consciousness. And the more aspects of its functioning, that a center of conscious-activities recognize, the better it can manage its affairs and it-selves.

It may not be unreasonable to propose that it was through the creation of language, and the interaction of human consciousness with language, that human conscious activities developed selves-consciousness activity, and discovered their own inconsistency and insubstantiality. But it could be equally true to say that it is mainly through language that conscious-activity strives to maintain selves-consistency, make sense of itself, create meanings, values, and so on.

We can hypothesize that with symbols, language, etc., fast changing conscious-activities found a way to represent themselves, make a diary of their operations, and in a sense, hold onto themselves. Through language, symbols, models, maps, etc., conscious-activities create threads, form links, establish connections, fill in gaps, create more reliable referents than memory, and provide them-selves with some kind of continuity.

Birds build nests in trees. This is consistent with flying. Beavers build dams in water, they don’t build nests in trees. I would expect that conscious-activities, in order to communicate with and understand them-selves, would create systems that are to some degree, complementary, intelligible and manageable by their creator. It is from these reasoning that I have developed the notion that the structure of language systems, has some similarity to (are fractals of) the structure of consciousness. And that it could be useful to ‘think’ of conscious-operations in terms of grammatical structures and vice versa. Consider that this whole essay would not be possible if I could not, in terms of self-reflexiveness, think of conscious-activities as some sort of ‘object’ (process) that can be referred to, talked about, and studied by conscious-activities. When for instance someone says “I hate myself”,: who is doing the hating; and what is the object-process being hated? It is a premise of this essay that the hating-self, is not, cannot be, the same self that is being hated ; and that the hated self can be considered as object of the (subject) hating self..

Not only the structure of language, but other products of human conscious-activities also reflect the structure of consciousness and the notion of selves. Here are some examples: mathematics as systematized study of relationships; science as systematization of curiosity, inquiry, and critical evaluation; religion as institutionalization of beliefs; art as forms of representation, reflecting creative consciousness, and selves in diverse relationships; philosophy as systematic speculative search for a general understanding of meaning, values, and realitÿ; epistemology as systematic questioning of our questions and our knowledge; politics as the systematization of power and control over selves; psychology as the study of relationships between selves and their internal and external environments; society as multidimensional interrelationships and interactions of selves; and external analogues to the evolution, functioning, conflicts, diversity, creativity, mutual support and self-destructiveness, etc., of human consciousness. To get a feel of relationships between conscious-activities, inner selves, and some of their external analogues, explore and compare for yourself, what goes on atyour workplace, or in the society at large, and structural similarities (relative invariant factors, fractals) you discover in exploring the workings of your own mind. In the workplace, look at management setups, departmental structures and functions, interrelated departmental functions, interdepartmental communication and conflicts, goal setting, feedback, filing cabinets, missing files, backlogs, planning and decision making, importance of time and timing, advertisement, communication with other organizations, inputs-processing-outputs, resistance to change, internal and external consultants, mergers, growth, development, expansion, and so on.

Transitive Features of Consciousness and Language

To the extent that conscious-activities observe and study themselves, and that we can use language to, refer to, discuss, study, talk about, criticize language and our use of language, consciousness and language can be classified as both ‘self-reflexive’ and ‘transitive! ‘Transitiveness’ isa logical and unavoidable consequence of selves-reflexiveness. In other words, consciousness, in observing and studying themselves, are the ‘objects’ of their own explorations. This ‘transitiveness’ is reflected in the structure of language. Language is about something, and refers to something. So we can say that these somethings that language is about, these referents, in a grammatical sense, constitute the ‘objects’ of language.

The following sentence is an example of both the self-reflexive and transitive features of language.(“Time” is not only an important variable, but a necessary one in understanding these notions.) “This sentence is composed of seven words”. The sentence starting with. the words “This sentence”, is ‘object’ of the sentence. But how can a sentence be its own object? It can through the mediation of consciousness as a function of time. We interpret the sentence. The sentence then can be seen as object of conscious-activity involving interpretation, at time (1)). We then look for corroboration. Is the sentence composed of seven words? The sentence now becomes an object of inquiring consciousness, at time (2). .

The factor of ‘nesting’ — sentences within other sentences, and sentences being ‘objects’ of other sentences; awareness that includes memories of other times of awareness, and other memories, consciousness of being conscious — is relatively invariant (common) to conscious-activities and language. The following are examples of nesting: Let’s start with the sentence “I read the book”. Then we go to “I told Smedley that I read the book”. And continue to “I forgot to tell Sheila, that I told Smedley that I read the book”. There is no theoretical end to this. This nesting is similar to our conscious-activities: We think, and we can think about our thinking, and think about how we are thinking about our thinking. I can be angry, and I can be angry about being angry. Words about words, feelings about feelings, ideas about ideas, beliefs about beliefs, interpretations of interpretations, opinions about opinions, critical thinking, editing what we are about to say — all are examples of similarities between consciousness and language in terms of self-reflexiveness, and transitiveness. In communicating with our-selves and with others, we can easily get confused if we have no clarifying scheme to help us sort things out. The general semantics device of ‘indexing’ and the principle of ‘multiordinality’ provide us with two such sorters. If I feel distressed(time (2) about being distressed, (time (1): distress (1), is not distress Distress with someone or about something is a different sort of distress than distress about being distressed. In distress time (1) the object of my distress is external. In the case of distress at time (2) the object of distress is internal. Here we have to include factors related toself-image, pride, and so on. We find similar circumstances when we feel angry about getting angry, afraid of being afraid, ashamed of being ashamed, and so on.

Selves as Object, Subject, Verb, etc.

Words put together according to some grammatical rule to form sentences, can be classified as subjects, objects, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and soon. As you may recall from early lessons in grammar, the subject in a sentence (in simple terms) relates to that which acts or does something; the ‘object’ is that toward which effort is directed – what is acted on, done to, referred to, etc.; ‘verb’ is the name given to the word that expresses the action; ‘adverb’ typically modifies the verb in terms of time, place, manner, etc.; ‘adjective’ specifies something as different from something else (that red book – not the blue one). What I would now like to suggest is that we can also think of conscious- activities in terms of subject, object, verb, adverb, adjective and so on.

Near the beginning of this essay, we discussed ‘selves’ in terms of constellations of conscious- activities, values, emotions, and neuromuscular supports. We’ll now explore conscious-activities as ‘subject,’ ‘object’ etc., but at higher levels of integration in terms of ‘selves’. But before getting into this, it’s time again to remind ourselves that what we are aiming for in our differentiations, is increased understandings – and that these understandings are about ourselves as organisms-as- a-whole. We are differentiating toward more satisfying and useful re-integrating.

Self as Subject

When I make a decision, say something, do something, etc. – with the awareness that I am the one making the decision, that I am the person in charge, that my actions are expressions of my own values and concerns, that I am saying and doing what I want to say and do, in the given circumstance, that I am not being forced into doing things this or that way, that I am not saying what I am saying or doing what I am doing, just because someone wants me to – these are examples of times I refer to as ‘self as subject.’

In situations of panic, or when I look back at certain situations and say such things as “I just don’t know what got into me”, or l couldn’t believe I did that – those times represent periods of absence of ‘self as subject’.

Selves-reflexiveness, and selves-awareness of selves-reflexiveness (self-conscious self-reflexiveness), is at a high level of activity in ‘self as subject’ mode. Much of psycho-therapy is related to helping individuals develop and activate themselves as ‘subjects.’ From observing the behaviors of certain dictators and individuals in ruling positions in totalitarian regimes, advertisers, politicians, religious leaders and others, I assume that one of their main concerns is to suppress, or discourage the development of ‘self as subject.’ ‘Selves as subjects’ are much more difficult to coerce than ‘selves as objects.’

There are times when I feel confident that I am managing a situation well. At other times I am not so confident. My assessment at both times may be far off the mark. But how accurate or inaccurate my assessment may be is not the important thing. What is more important in terms of ‘self as subject’ is this: Whether I am confident or not, and whether I am accurate in my assessment or not, I do not lose the feeling that I have some measure of control. And I do not feel that the situation is managing me, that I am helpless to change the situation, that I have lost all control, etc.

There are times when ‘I’ (one active self at that time) recognize that I am restraining another self (myself in usual terms) from saying or doing something – whatever this may happen to be. And there are times when ‘I’ recognize some pushing, forcing, persuading, a self to say or do something. There are times in some situations when ‘I’ am aware that I just don’t know what to say or do – and ‘I’ feel at a loss. Such times could be considered as examples of ‘selves in conflict’ – a situation where ‘self as subject’ may be poorly developed, is unable to predominate and unable to take charge; a situation usually referred to in terms of “I can’t make up my mind”. Such situations provide excellent opportunities for developing ‘self as subject.’ For it’s mainly through ‘feelings’ of inadequacy, uncertainty, doubt, incompetence, dissatisfaction, helplessness, and so on(examples of ‘self as adjective’), that ‘self as subject, with the help of ‘self as manager’ and ‘self as adverb,’ might be stimulated to grow and become more active in the systems of selves.

In the ‘self as subject’ mode, ‘I’ am looking purposefully, intentionally, and aware that ‘I’ am doing this — ‘I’ am not just looking and seeing. Again, in this mode, ‘I’ am listening purposefully, intentionally, and aware that ‘I’ am doing this; ‘I’ am not just listening and hearing. Decision making, purposefulness, intentionality, and awareness of this, are interrelated and fundamental features of ‘self as subject.’ Of course there is much more that can be said. What has been said so far is a brief outline.

Self as Object

If we put ‘self as subject’ near one end of a ‘psycho-grammatical spectrum’ (Don’t look that up; I just made it up), then ‘self as object’ will be positioned nearer the other end. In talking about ‘self as subject’, l specify my actions as being purposefully directed at, toward, something. In ‘self as object’ I am the one acted upon. Actually, in terms of the notion of selves, ‘I’ should say “my-selves are the ones being acted on.” ‘I’ should be considered as a collective pronoun. Notice again how difficult it is to introduce a different way of discussing things, and to be conscious of things in a different way, as a result of the traditional and more acceptable cewt (culturally expected way of thinking way of talking about, and relating to things.) Makes me wonder if there are languages which are more flexible, and so facilitate changes in attitudes and behaviors, more than others. (For more on cewt, see my article “Conscious Abstracting and Consciousness of Abstracting ” on this site and in Fall 1999 issue of ETC. Quarterly of the International Society for General Semantics.)

As an interacting set-of-selves-in-environments, we are constantly being bombarded by, acted on, used by, manipulated by, under the direction of other forces, and other selves in our surroundings. But the focus in ‘psycho-grammatics’ is not in terms of ‘selves as objects’ in these kinds of situations. The focus has to do with times when there is a thinking-feeling of being at the mercy of these forces, times when there is a ‘feeling’ of helpless, when a self feels that it cannot do anything whatsoever to change the situation, but does not recognize that it does not speak for all the other selves; times when there is a ‘feeling of having no choice, no say. But with no accompanying awareness that these constitute ‘feelings about’ — a way of looking at the situation – and not necessarily a fact of helplessness, or lack of choice. Sometimes on our own, we discover the allness – completely helpless, no choice whatsoever, nothing I could do, etc.. characteristic in these kinds of evaluation At other times this is pointed out to us by friends and acquaintances (outside selves). Sometimes it’s through therapy or counseling that we come to recognize that there are many ways to think, feel, interpret, talk about, and react to experiences and situations. That one self does not speak for all. That we can sometimes, on our own, with the help of other selves, pull our-selves out of these `no choice’ beliefs, is another indication for me that it makes sense to refer to ourselves, in terms of ‘selves,’ rather than ‘self’.

‘Self as object’ has to do with times when I feel trapped, times when I feel that I am the victim of circumstances, but I cannot do anything about this state of affairs. ‘Self as object’ relate to times when I say such things as, “I couldn’t help myself. I was overwhelmed. He/she/they/the devil made me do it.” Or when in despair, I ask such questions as “Why is this happening to me. Why is he/she/they doing this to me. Why did you make me do this.”

At times when ‘self as object’ is active (but not only at those times), we perform with less effectiveness, less efficiency, less spiritedness, less creativity. This is one of the ways that the tone of the whole system hits minimal values – ‘hits bottom’ as we usually say. As you may suspect, when we are in the ‘self as object’ mode, the effect on the whole system can be made less intense, if other selves (especially ‘executive-managerial-self’, ‘self as subject’, ‘adverb’, ‘adjective’, ‘self as experimenter’, and a host of others) come to the rescue. The speediness of our recovery depends, to a great extent, on how well prepare dare the other selves, how well developed, how accessible, how well known are the selves to each other, how well they perform as a team and so on. In brief, how well integrated is our system of selves.

I emphasize again that we do not usually see ourselves as managers, teachers, directors, editors, etc., although from time to time we do perform as such. (An example of `editing’ relates to times when we think about what we will say, how we will say what we say, and whether we will say anything at all – before we say anything. I hope by now you have convinced your-selves that there are a vast number, and a wide variety of selves that are available to us, that we are not usually aware of their capabilities or even aware that they exist. And that they can be called upon to make their particular contributions to the better workings of the whole system.)

Revealing more of our-selves to our-selves is, theoretically, a relatively simple matter. It involves looking at what we do, rather than focusing on what we say we are, or others say we are. For instance: some of us call ourselves ‘parents.’ In parenting, we set goals. We make plans. Organize our-selves and our resources. Make important decisions. Take time and resources into account. Make rules. Do budgets. Exercise control. Take disciplinary actions. Delegate duties and responsibilities. We are concerned with everyone doing their share. We try to improve communications when things go wrong. We try to avoid conflicts, and work toward harmony. At times we feel stressed or distressed. This is certainly not managing a bank or a big commercial enterprise. But could you reasonably say that this has nothing to do with ‘management?’ Or that we have no right to invoke the notion of a ‘managerial self? Or suggest that what goes on in an organization or society has nothing in common with what goes on among an organization of selves?

The relatively narrow and limiting ways we define ourselves and each other(as individuals) influence our behaviors. As we relate to each other in terms of our definitions, we can expect problems to arise as direct consequences of these narrow definitions. The characteristics that we have left out are not destroyed by our definitions. If we defined animals as gentle, harmless, playful creatures, we would expect to run into problems from time to time. People, animals, things do not as a rule conform to definitions.

But let’s return to our explorations. When we are in the ‘self as object’ mode, we are in one of our weakest, loneliest, and most vulnerable modes of being. These are often among the times that selves abuse other selves through alcohol and other drugs. In the ‘self as object’ mode we provide opportunities for advertisers, cult leaders and unsympathetic others to treat us as ‘manipulable objects’ rather than ‘response-able subjects. We see evidence of this in many personal, social, political, employer/employee, and other relationships. But this does not happen only in the ‘self as object’ mode. Similar situations can arise when we do not recognize and develop the many dimensions we are being.

We should not, despite all this, consider ‘self as object’ completely in negative terms. We might remember the ‘organism-as-a-whole’ principle. That one self is predominantly active does not mean that all other selves are dormant. ‘Self as object’ can sometimes trigger off alarms to awaken and energize other selves.

Self as Verb

‘Self as verb’ relate to all our activities. This includes those we are aware of as being purposeful and intentional, and those we are not aware of in those terms. When we are making plans, talking, listening, making decisions, doing things, we are in the ‘self as verb’ mode. But we can do these things without self-conscious awareness (‘self as subject’, self as adjective’) that we are so engaged. Obviously, we are at all times, asleep or awake, functioning on automatic in the ‘verb’ mode. In writing this essay, I am most times not aware of writing, thinking, composing, editing, how I am sitting, occasional noises, and so on. And that’s a good thing – I would not be able to do much if I was constantly observing what I was doing. But every now and again an awareness that I am so involved emerges. That this second order awareness (‘self as subject’ mode) can be developed to become part of the automatic mode of ‘self as verb,’ is very important to know about. In situations where we are striving for excellence, incorporating selves-awareness, and selves-correction, as automatic activities, can be very helpful. With practice you will find it quite an experience when this special self-reflexive – ‘self as verb’ in coordination with ‘self as subject’ — mode clicks in on its own. At such times when-where we are aware, that we are doing, of what we are doing, and how we are doing, we can correct ourselves and work toward improvements.

Self as Adverb

Our behaviors are constantly being modified by others, by things we encounter, things we see, hear, read, and so on. We live in a world of actions and reactions. But ‘self as adverb’ is not about these kinds of modifications. ‘Self as adverb’ relates to the intentional, goal oriented, selves- conscious modifications of our behaviors. Think of ‘self as a verb’ in terms of self-conscious self-reflexiveness. (A system in a feedback mode, and conscious of this.) ‘Self as adverb’ should always be considered as operating in especially close relationships with ‘self as manager’, ‘self as subject’ and ‘self as adjective’ and also as a special case of ‘self as verb’. ‘Self as adjective’ recognizes that, how and what the organism is doing. ‘Self as subject’ decides what is to be accomplished, what directions to take, how things should be done, and so on. ‘Self as manager’ coordinates activities of the other selves.)

‘Self as adverb’ relates not just to selves changing behaviors, but selves changing behaviors purposefully, intentionally, selves-consciously. When’ self as adverb’ is active, the organism is not just saying or doing something; it says and does whatever, in a particular way, with a specific goal in mind — and knowing that it is so involved. ‘Self as adverb’ could be described as being at the core of our creative being. This is the mode we are in when we do things with a certain style, with a certain flair, and we know that we are doing so. In the ‘self as adverb’ mode, we are in aselves-directing-selves-modulating-selves-correcting-selves-managing,goal-oriented, mode of being. We are doing what we want, the way we want, for our own reasons. And we are aware of this. ‘Self as adverb’ rely on high levels of corrective and intensifying feedback activities. In teaching ourselves to do something, or learning to do something, calling on this self can do much to accelerate progress.

Self as Adjective

When I think of ‘self as adverb’ the word ‘how’ comes to my attention. But when I think of ‘self as adjective,’ the word ‘that’ comes to my attention.’ Self as adjective’ describes times when we are being discriminative, when we are making distinctions, when we notice that a this, is not a that. In the ‘self as adjective’ mode, we notice the organism let’s say in a complaining mode, or a shouting mode, or an impatient mode, and so on.’ Self as adjective’, like ‘self as adverb’ can also be considered a special case of ‘self as verb’. ‘Self as verb’ relates to noticing. ‘Self as adjective’ relates to noticing that. Where ‘self as verb’ might involve say judging’; ‘self as adjective’ involves noticing that judging is going on. You could think of ‘selves as adjective’ as observers – silent witnesses to the activities of any of the other selves. ‘Self as adjective’ simply notices whatever comes to its attention, but without judging. Judging would involve ‘self as verb’. Remember again, that these selves as hypothesized are in constant interactions with each other, and to varying degrees of intensity and influence.

Many of our behaviors are habitual and automatic. Before we can intentionally do something differently, make improvements, we must first be aware that we are doing something. If we are acting in a way that we would label as ‘being impatient’ or ‘anxious’ or ‘inconsiderate,’ we have to recognize this before we can behave differently. In ‘self as adjective’ mode, we do what we do recognizing that we are doing this particular thing- whatever we may choose to call it. And we do what we do in a certain way, with an awareness that we are doing it this way.

‘Self as adjective’, unlike ‘self as verb’ does not criticize, judge, interpret, analyze, make plans, ask questions, look for answers, seek solutions, try to understand, dismiss or reject, seek to make changes, like or dislike what they encounter, and so on. ‘Self as adjective’ simply notices and reports to the rest of the crew, whatever it may be that comes to its attention.

To get a feel of what I am attempting to describe, I invite you to do the following exercises: Look around you, wherever you happen to be, and without giving names, notice the different things you see. Then notice, be aware of, the different sounds that come to your attention, without trying to figure out what could be making such sounds. Then choose a particular object, to take a closer look. (The choosing, involves ‘self as verb’, not ‘self as adjective’ function. Noticing, in terms of being aware that you have chosen, or that you are choosing, involves ‘self as adjective’. And deciding with awareness what you will look at or listen to, and how you will do this, involves ‘self as subject’.) Closely examine this object by looking, stroking, touching and so on. (Again, you can relate examining to self as verb’. It is not a ‘self as adjective’ function. Being aware that you are examining; noticing what you become aware of through this closer look; noticing the different textures, and so on, involves ‘self as adjective’.) You can do similar exercises with the sounds you hear.

It is easy to see from all this (I imagine), that ‘self as adjective’ in their functioning, provide links, and keep us in touch with our inner and outer environments. Obviously, the more developed are our ‘selves as adjective,’ the more extensional we are being, the more features, the more in touch, the better maps, the more updated maps we will have, of our-selves-in-thought- feeling-and action-in-our environments. It may seem that a well developed ‘self as adjective’ may simply overload us with information. I suggest that this is not necessarily so. As ‘self as adjective’ notices things, information travels to other selves-systems: Differences will be recognized as well as similarities. And higher levels of differentiation resulting from ‘self as adjective’ activities, provide information to ‘organizing self’ for nesting and higher levels of integration. .

A Sense of Our Selves

If you are still with me, we have adopted generalized calculus (See my article Calculus and Everyday Living on this site and in the Winter 1996-97issue of ETC.) as a psycho-logical tool. This is based on an assumption that one way to understand complex processes is Io look at the interactions of their simpler components. We have been applying generalized calculus in attempting to understand more about language structures and conscious-activities; more about the interactions between language and conscious-activities; and how conscious-activities create language, and how language modifies and extends conscious-activities. We have been exploring the notion that as individuals we constitute constellations of interacting selves. And we have been exploring the possible constitution of these selves.

The brief outline of `selves as subject, adverb,’ etc., is just that. With practice you will discover on your own much more about your selves, and maybe come up with some other scheme, some other map, some other story. This is a way to develop your ‘executive-self’… the organizing-coordinating-overseeing-selves-management-selves. This is the self that knows about, and is able to train and develop, any of the vast number and variety of selves that make us up.

The way we think-feel about, treat and mistreat our-selves, has a lot to do with the way we feel-think about, treat and mistreat outside other selves. If we persist in seeing our-selves and other selves in terms of our labels and definitions, we will miss noticing the complex processes we are being. If we continue to relate with each other simplistically in terms of labels and definitions, titles and roles, we can expect increasing levels of confusion, misunderstanding, conflicts and violence. An awareness of similarities between some features of our conscious-operations, and language, could help us recognize and minimize some of the problems we create for our-selves, resulting from this lack of awareness and appreciation for the interrelationship between consciousness, language, attitudes, behavior, and the kind of societies that emerge.

A grammar of consciousness is about operating as subjects, acting on our-selves, and recognizing ourselves as agents of our own inner and societal development. The more we operate and present our-selves as self-managing subjects, with very active and well developed ‘selves as adverb’, ‘selves as adjective’, executive and managerial selves, the less likely we will be seen and treated as manipulable objects – customers, clients, patients, cases, resources, temps., voters, and so on; and the more likely that we will be treated as human subjects. And if we want to improve our world away from selves suppressing dictatorships, toward maturing democratic societies, it seems to me it is up to us to work more as individuals, on developing our-selves as highly integrated human subjects. We shouldn’t expect those we call politicians and representatives to do this for us. So far their agendas do not involve encouraging the development of power threatening, ‘self-aware and self-managing selves.

Some of the above first appeared as a chapter in the book “Thinking Creatically”, edited by Kenneth G. Johnson, and published by “The Institute of General Semantics”.

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