“Am I a Self or an Organism?” Comments, Page 1

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14 Comments (5 Discussion Threads) on “Am I a Self or an Organism?”

  1. If we take on this outlook of looking outwardly towards our environment and how we are interacting with it in order to solve basic needs then I think we are making progress. The reality of being able to do this given the internal self and rationalization is nearly impossible without another objective person as a guide. Looking outwardly at our connections I think is vital in our recovery and being at ease with things in the world because this forces us to deny the self more and put emphasis and importance on relationships. While this goes against the individualistic culture relationships are key to recovery and well-being, I believe that if we were to do this many things would become easier to solve without that objective person as our guide. We place too much importance on the self when real relationships are how we were meant to interact.

    1. thanks for commenting Sean, and I don’t think I’ve run into you before here so welcome!

      I agree that relationships are at the heart of wellbeing. Interesting what you say about the “internal self and rationalisation” making it almost impossible to realise what our basic needs are and how we are interacting… and the help that an objective person can be in removing those blocks we impose on ourselves. (forgive me if I am reading you wrong!)

    2. Sarah, what I am saying is that because of how we (individualists) analyze and rationalize things from a vantage point of ourselves it can make it nearly impossible to see anything outside of that view without someone who has an objective point of view who can show those other perspectives to us, such as how we relate to our environment.
      This is my first time here. I just started reading. It’s very interesting and I always have an opinion! :)

    3. keep the opinions flowing, Sean!

      I see what you mean. Not sure if an ‘objective’ viewpoint is entirely possible, but we certainly need other people’s perspectives and experiences of what we do to get a more authentic picture of “ourselves”. We can get really lost without them!

  2. Newborns who lack a facilitating environment are soon dead. Humans are social beings right from the get go. They have a self only because they were never true isolates. Those who are isolates are, as Aristotle once put it, either beasts or Gods. Only beasts and Gods lack a community and a society — and some beasts seeming lack neither. As a nonbeliever I trust that the actual isolates are beasts. Sociopaths who believe themselves to be separate from everyone else are both deluded and beastly in practice. They prove the lie in the belief that human beings are asocial.

  3. Hmm. I think our relationships lead to the self.

    The things not perceived as self are still there. Differentiation need not be suppression. Knowing which parts of our environment are nourishing or poisonous to us seems a good thing to me.

    “While this emphasis on self-development might well have served a purpose, and continue to serve one for many people, it also serves to raise internal tension for many, and to reinforce a tendency in psychology and therapy to concentrate on the separate individual at the cost of connection to others.” I do think that self-development served and serves a purpose. It may raise tension – if not for everyone what then? Perhaps psychology does have a tendency to concentrate on the separate individual and not on relationships: if so, this would show it’s not a terribly bright or adequate psychology.

    “moral objections to this exclusive concentration on the needs, desires and neuroses of the individual.” I’m in favour of non-exclusive concentration.

    “needing to pay attention to and address our basic needs for safety and connection.” I think the paying attention is one part of the job of the self (the differentiation is implied). I think the self can be healthily related to the organism – which I guess you agree with.

    Sarah, you won’t be surprised to hear that I think that Perls, Hefferline and Goodman’s Gestalt Therapy addresses this issue brilliantly. It is a great place to start in thinking through this issue in my view.

    1. Hi Evan! Yes, I agree that Gestalt has a good angle on this. Write a post on it and we can discuss ;-)

      I agree with everything you’ve said here, except “our relationships lead to the self” – that is not clear to me…?

  4. In answer to your question – Am I a self or an organism? Perhaps the answer should be – I am both. I do believe that each individual is unique and has their own set of strengths, weaknesses and characteristics. One important lesson we can learn is that we need to be ourself – we may try to be somebody else but real strength comes from being you. I feel it takes a lot less effort.
    In order to be oneself, one has to find oneself and this is where the self analysis is really helpful. We can have so many roles, responsiblilites, expectations and pressures put on us we can be a bit confused as to who we are. What happens if all these are stripped away? Who are we then?
    However we are part of the world and the universe. As humans we have to interact with each other in some way. This has been part of our survival. In this view perhaps we are more like an organism. We react and interact with other people/things in our environment. This type of existence is important to. We grow,learn and adapt from each other. By interacting in this way we have produced a highly complex world. This also perhaps helps us not to become too entrenched with self realization. What are we going to do with this realization? Has it given us a deeper compassion and love for humanity and the world?

    I think both aspects of the self and the organism are important and can form a symbiotic relationship where one evolves off the others experience. Our experiences of the world can change our view of self and the change of view in relation to self can effect our experiences of the world.

    1. thanks for commenting, Maria… I love the short sentence about being you – “I feel it takes a lot less effort”. Indeed!

      Maybe when we are dropping the effort and being ourselves, we are fulfilling our needs through our own specific set of capacities, skills and characteristics, (as you mentioned that we have) without trying to form a false ‘self’ – in fact I wonder if we need then to be aware of ourselves as “me” at all?

      I like the idea of a symbiotic relationship between self and organism. Thanks again!

  5. Great article, Sarah! I don’t see how it’s possible to be fully “ourselves” unless we have full appreciation of our nature as organisms. Most of us are aware of the commonalities we share with other human beings. But we have much more in common with every other living thing than we often chose to consider. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, all life is one. And, as the universe teaches us every day, life’s existence is completely dependent upon a sustaining environment.

    There are many lessons here. Thanks for the provocative article.

    1. Thanks, George! Your comment goes in a very important direction, I think. More than important, fundamental.

      You and I, with our winter blues, certainly know how dependent the organism is on light!

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