General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
The Wedge of Consciousness: A Self-Monitoring Device

by Milton Dawes

We are most times while awake – asleep to ourselves and to what’s going on around us. With some effort, and determination, and practice, we could be more awake. The “wedge of awareness” (woa), or “wedge of consciousness” (woc) is a management tool we can use to increase our wakefulness. For what reasons do we need to be more awake you ask? In a world of change, and diversity,

the more asleep we are,
the more out of touch we are with what we are doing,
the more unaware we are likely to be of consequences,
and the more unaware we will be regarding how what we are doing is affecting us and others,
the less opportunities we will have to recognize how often we create our own problems, and so on.

The “wedge of consciousness” or “wedge of awareness” arose from simple origins – a wedge we usually use as a door stop. Among other uses, a wedge functions to hold something open, or to stop something from moving about. The shape of the wedge is important in terms of its use. The thin edge facilitates access and offers less resistance, and less disturbance than the thicker edge. These are important factors in a world where the more we attempt to change or disturb something, the more resistance we are likely to encounter.

So now, imagine a wedge of the kind usually used as a door stop. Let the thin edge of the wedge represent an instant – a very tiny increment of psycho-logical and chronological time. Now recall those times when in a situation you might have said:

“Wait a minute”
“Hold on”
“Let me think about this”
“Hey, what’s happening here?”
“What am I doing?”
“I can’t believe I am saying this, or doing this”
“I can’t believe I said that, or did that”
and so on.

The exact words are not important here. It has to do with the time-binding folk wisdom expressed in the phrase “count to ten”. Now remember we are talking here of an “instant of self-awareness”, an instant of awareness that allows us to say to ourselves, “Woa.” An instant of our time when we can “woc” ourselves into another mode of self-conscious awareness, and enable us to change approaches, attitudes, directions, and so on.

Now let’s move up the wedge from the thinner to the thicker parts. This expansion up the wedge, can be related to expanding the symbolism, significance and usefulness of the instant. So in this expansion the instant of self-awareness can now extend to include the following. The very edge of the wedge can be thought of as a decision point – an “opportunity for a change in direction.” Going towards the thicker parts, we can represent as, ” I can stop what I am ‘thinking’ , saying, doing, and so on. I can decide that it’s okay to continue what I am ‘thinking’, saying, doing, etc. I can decide to modify or change what I am doing. I can decide to re-view and re-evaluate what I am doing.”

The instant of self-awareness can also be likened to the jerk that a horse is given to signal a change in direction or movement. In other words, our nervous systems (as an automatic self-evaluating and self-protective action) from time to time, pull us up short; jerk us into awareness from being submerged into whatever behavior we were indulging in at that time. When this happens, it’s up to us to “move up the wedge” as suggested above, and take advantage of the opportunity and put the instant to good use. The “semantic pause”, “the wedge of awareness” is something each one of us can experience and explore for ourselves. It sometimes comes as a feeling like a “mini shock” or a “jerk”. I believe that each one of us has at some time or the other experienced this “jolt”. What I am doing here is giving a label, and signifying these occurrences, as important and general self-management opportunities.

As mentioned above, these “woa’s” come automatically. But we can increase the frequency of these “woa’s” through training ourselves in being more self-aware. This includes being more aware of what we are ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’, saying to ourselves, saying to others, writing, doing, worrying about, dreaming about, hearing, and so on. Without these instances of awareness (pauses, or “woa’s“) we have little chance to change, or improve ourselves or our management of a situation. We have little chance of developing skills in general-semantics or any other discipline. One way to increase the frequency of your “woa’s” or “woc’s”, is to carry some little item in your pocket or handbag, as an external reminder. Or wear a ring on a different finger, or a watch on a different hand. Every now and again, you will see these objects or feel the discomfort of having them in not usual places. This will give you the opportunity to ask yourself questions like the following: “Where am I at this moment.? What am I doing? What am I supposed to be doing? How am I doing what I am doing? What am I ‘thinking’ or ‘feeling’? Do I want to indulge in this kind of thinking-feeling?” And others you will formulate for yourself. After a while, your habit-forming nervous system will incorporate this new practice and it will become automatic. In other words, with sufficient practice, without further effort on your part, you will find that your “woa’s” (not woes) and “woc’s” show up with increasing frequency. And the external reminder will have served its purpose. (By the way: We seem to be able to “woc” others with greater ease and frequency than we “woc” ourselves. Let’s practice “woc’ing” ourselves first. I ‘think’ you will agree that it’s only fair to check up on ourselves first, to be involved in correcting ourselves first, to be involved in improving ourselves first, before doing it to others).

We were born into and are immersed in particular environments (cultural, language, home, religious, social, work, etc.). Our behaviors are usually automatic responses, generated by our uncritical acceptance and conditioning, by the demands and expectations, from these environments. The “wedge of consciousness” gives us a chance to move from automatic, unwanted, unproductive, stress producing, behaviors, toward more creative and self-directed, and self-managing behaviors.

Without an awareness of what we are doing, and how we are doing what we are doing – without some internal self-monitoring process – we have little chance of making necessary adjustments and corrections towards improving ourselves in chosen areas of activities. We need the occasional “wedge of awareness”, or “wedge of consciousness”, to “woc” ourselves out of automatic self-distressing behaviors, into more satisfactory ways, more imaginative ways, healthier ways, more intelligent ways, of being with ourselves and others.

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