Inner Ego Communication
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Techniques for working on the self

Part I



Almost everyone wants to change something about themselves. Some people even imagine having a complete redesign of themselves or even transcending the self. Perhaps you belong somewhere along this continuum. Maybe you have even tried to make changes in your habits, attitudes or even personality. Unless you are one of those rare individuals who have stumbled upon an effective strategy for personal change, you have probably tried and failed more than once to bring about the changes that you'd like to make. In Creative Self-Agency, you will learn about the effective strategies that a small minority of people have discovered for themselves. This guide will initially focus on assisting you achieve personal goals related to self-improvement (focus on the self) and later will shift focus to the possibility of self-transcendence or Self-realization (focus on the Self or higher Self).

  1. Note: If you have a serious condition affecting your ability to function normally in your daily life, you are advised to seek professional help from an individual qualified to assist you with your particular issue.

  1. What is Mind?

Much of this section will deal with what we often think of as functions of the mind or for some the body/mind. Below, I'll set out my perspective on this ghost widely believed to haunt the brain.

There appear to me to be five aspects to the human psyche. The most fundamental aspect is conscious awareness, which is the ground state, and a state that I accept as a base assumption. A second aspect is physical in nature and is what we refer to as the brain, which subsumes other branches of the nervous system. Third, accessible to conscious awareness is a network of conceptual constructs (hereafter NetCC) that is encoded in the neurological structures of the brain and can typically be retrieved in words, images or both. Experience is typically the interaction of this system with anything external to the system that is perceived through the senses. There are exceptions such as dreams that produce experiences internally. Experiences are construed through the NetCC, assigned meaning (or are dismissed) and. if construed to be meaningful, are assigned an emotional tag that orders the experience in a hierarchy of importance. In the future, anything that is sufficiently similar to a stored and tagged experience will elicit the associated emotional state, which arises within the body, and represents the fourth aspect. Elicited emotional states become important for generating and directing focus of attention as a specialized function of conscious awareness. This leads then to the fifth aspect, which is memories stored and ordered by their place in the hierarchy of importance. Recollection of memories can also elicit the associated emotional state thereby representing a virtual experience. It is suggested then that mind is the processing that takes place in the brain and that some of this processing becomes output available in whole or part within conscious awareness.

The output of this processing frequently but not always leads to acting in some manner. Acting can be either an internal action such as a judgment or an external action such as behavior or both. As implied at the end of the paragraph above, not all of the processing that is being referred to is available to conscious awareness. I'll have more to say on this topic later.

  1. Foundations

Over the years, one conclusion that I have reached is that change agents such as teachers, therapists, coaches or parents seldom succeed at producing lasting change in clients, willing or not. In the latter part of my university career, I became an advocate for what I called a cooperative alliance (see Definitions) as the approach most likely to enable change agents to effect long-lasting change in their clients. A cooperative alliance simply means that efforts to bring about change should be grounded in a cooperative relationship between the agent and the client. Further, the agent, for ethical reasons, must rely upon persuasion as his or her principle technique for effecting change. Ethically speaking, I think this is the only type of relationship that should exist between a change agent and his or her client. However, I have come to the conclusion that persuasion is not an especially powerful tool for change, and too often frustration over lack of progress leads agents to employ more intrusive methods. These methods may include drugs, reward, punishment, coercion and manipulation among others.

I think that the reason why the use of persuasion by change agents is often frustrating is pretty much for the same reason that our attempts to change ourselves is often frustrating. At a deep level, we aren't listening and responding to either a change agent or ourselves. There appears to be a pretty good reason for this "deafness." A number of names could apply to this "message deafness," but for our purposes let's call it automatic programming (AP),by which I mean biological and psychological processes that are outside of our conscious awareness or that we may only be dimly aware of. Below, I will briefly describe several ways of looking at developmental outcomes that bear on automatic programming. All of these perspectives are complex but the essential ideas are provided.

My first recollection of reading about automatic programming was during my early years in graduate school. I was not introduced to this literature by any of my professors but through my own independent reading. I first encountered this idea through the writings of a former psychoanalyst, John Lilly, who among other things was known for his research on communication with dolphins. Following this research, he turned to looking for more powerful ways to bring about psychological and behavioral change in people. Lilly wrote a somewhat obtuse but interesting little book that was first self-published and later commercially published. The title of his book was Programming and Meta-Programming in the Human Bio-Computer.

It was Lilly's contention that we all have automatic programs that control most of our lives and that many of these programs, and especially the more general and inclusive programs, have their origins in our childhood. I'll have more to say about this later. Changing these programs that run us like robots is a daunting task. We have very limited access to these programs and thus to the possibility of "rewriting" them. Lilly used a process similar to meditation to determine the components in what he called a programming loop. Apparently, this was not powerful enough for him and he tried several other techniques, none of which I recommend to you, including sensory deprivation in water tanks and the use of LSD. His goal was to break through the barriers that shield us off from access to functions operating outside of our consciousness. Once access is gained, it then becomes possible to more directly and effectively work on changing our programming and thereby our lives.

I also learned of the work of George Kelly through a graduate course in personality theory. Kelly, in my thinking, has not received the attention that he deserves. Kelly began to formulate his perspective on behavior through his work delivering itinerant psychological services to small, isolated schools in rural Kansas. Kelly and his students saw many problem children who were referred to their mobile clinic (a refurbished school bus) by their teachers. Over time, Kelly realized that in many cases he was asking the wrong question about a referred child. He thought that instead of asking, "What's wrong with this child?" that he should instead be asking, "What is it about this child's teacher that makes him or her think this child has a problem?"

Changing his root question led Kelly to develop a complex theory of personality that was published in a two-volume work titled The Psychology of Personal Constructs. Kelly proposed that our thinking and behavior are controlled by a hierarchy of cognitive constructs, where each construct is similar to a bipolar scale. Each construct is anchored at its poles by positive and negative examples gained from experience. Kelly proposed that our construct system begins, structurally speaking, with a core construct at the apex of a pyramid. Below the core construct are superordinate and subordinate constructs that look something like a military chain of command or an organizational chart for the leadership of a large corporation.

We construe the world through our construct system, or some might say we filter and interpret the world through our constructs. Kelly thought that constructs were not necessarily inaccessible but rather their accessibility depended upon their permeability, which varied among individuals. Nevertheless, the more basic the construct the more difficult it would be to access and change. Depending on the permeability of a construct system, access to and change in the constructs would be of variable difficulty. Unfortunately, in Kelly's view, those individuals whose construct system is most problematic and in need of change will be the ones whose construct system is least permeable. Two techniques that grew out of attempts to introduce change into construct systems include scripting and role repertory therapy, which we'll return to later.

A few years out of graduate school, I encountered another perspective in A Guide to Rational Living that resonated with me. This book introduced me to the Rational-Emotive Therapy of Albert Ellis. Ellis frames his perspective in terms of beliefs (see Definitions). Ellis proposes that our responses, both emotional and behavioral, are consequences of our beliefs. He offers a sequential analysis of behavior that in its basic form is represented by A-B-C, where the notations represent antecedent,belief and consequence. A consequence can be either an emotional response or an emotional response and a behavioral response. Thus, the emotional response can serve as the motivation for behavior but doesn't have to lead to an overt behavioral response in every instance.

Ellis talks about root beliefs and immediate beliefs. These are similar to the superordinate and subordinate constructs referred to in the discussion of Kelly's perspective. Ellis thinks that most of our beliefs are acquired during childhood through socialization both within the family as well as in the community through, for example, churches, schools, social and political organizations, peer groups and popular media. We process the external world and our experience in it through the beliefs we have acquired. Dysfunctional beliefs either prevent us from developing our full potential, or worse, cause us to behave in counterproductive ways. The first purpose of intervention then is to challenge and dispute dysfunctional beliefs and then to replace those beliefs with more functional ones. Typically, much of this work is done through dialog and through cognitive rehearsal of alternative beliefs, followed by homework assignments where alternative beliefs are applied in role play scenarios and then in a real situation.

The final perspective on behavior that gained traction with me did not arise until I was well into my university career. I came across this approach largely because of a son who was an engineering student and took an elective in cognitive psychology. In the psychology class, he was assigned to develop his own personal model for behavior. He chose to make use of control theory from engineering as the foundation for his model. Control theory in engineering is the basis for automatic systems like the thermostat in your home and the cruise control in your car. In the course of researching this assignment, he learned that an engineer, William Powers, had already developed such a model, which was described in his book Behavior: The Control of Perception. My son's paper on this topic stimulated me to explore Powers' model.

Powers' perceptual control theory (PCT)posits that we all have an organization of goals (a.k.a. values), standards (for those goals), programs (a repertory of responses for achieving those goals and meeting their standards), and perceptual variables (things self-monitored to determine if our programs are achieving our goals and meeting their standards). Problems can arise from any of these components in our perceptual control hierarchy. The top three levels of this hierarchy – goals, standards and programs – give another way of talking about those learned ways of interpreting and interacting with the world that are acquired during development.

The work on client change that I'm familiar with using PCT has taken place in schools. The approach taken in schools consists of attempting to get errant students to voluntarily align their goals, standards and programs with those of the school. Until such time as the alignment occurs, a student is not permitted to participate as a member of the general school population.

In summary, we have a diverse collection of perspectives on behavior that have arisen at somewhat different times, from people of various backgrounds who all seem to be coming to a similar conclusion, albeit using somewhat different language. What they all seem to have in common are the following:

  1. 1. Most of our daily functioning is governed by automatic programs,

  2. 2. Automatic programs largely run in a stealth mode in the background,

  3. 3. Most but not all automatic programs are acquired during development,

  4. 4. Automatic programs are difficult to access,

  5. 5. Attempts to change these programs from the level of conscious awareness using persuasion (counseling/ therapy) are not particularly effective.

Automatic Programs

When a newborn child enters the world it has a lot to learn before it can function as a self-sustaining adult in a human community. There are many things that need to be acquired, not the least of which are motor skills and language. These lay a foundation upon which much other learning must take place. We can capture most of these other areas under the umbrella term of culture. Culture includes the knowledge and beliefs of our family and our family's community. These can include everything from demonstrable facts to pure flights of fantasy and everything in between.

Leaving aside the hard factual material, which for most of us comprises a small portion of our learned content, what's left might be loosely classified under the term beliefs. A prominent professor of psychology, Michael Gazzaniga, has defined humans as “...a belief creating species.” He thinks the evidence shows that humans are predisposed to see associations between phenomena and generate explanations for these associations. Because of our bias to engage in this type of creative cognition, we frequently create erroneous explanations or beliefs. Generally speaking, as long as the balance between functional beliefs and dysfunctional beliefs is favorable, we manage to muddle through and even thrive in some instances. The point is that our learning environment, especially our early learning environment conveys a lot of dysfunctional beliefs to most of us. The reason that the early learning environment is so important is that we are most vulnerable to irrational and dysfunctional beliefs during this period. We are vulnerable because we have little in the way of critical thinking skills, because their acquisition is developmentally delayed to facilitate rapid learning.

During most of our developmental period, our brains function in a mode that allows rapid, uncritical absorption of all our environment has to teach us. Patterns of electrical activity determine the mode in which our brain functions. Each pattern is somewhat like a different sensory modality. From birth to around age two the dominant activity is delta wave activity. This period is followed by dominance of theta wave activity from around age two to around age six. From around age six to around age 12 the alpha pattern is dominant. After age 12 the adult pattern of dominant beta wave activity is typical.

Looking backward through this developmental sequence of brain activity, the patterns could be thought of as a sequence of decreasing criticality. During the first twelve years of life, we uncritically ingest a plethora of information and beliefs in preparation for becoming self-sustaining adults. Evolutionarily speaking, humans are considered adult when they achieve reproductive capability, which is about the same time that the beta pattern in brain activity becomes dominant. Children learn much more informally than formally through what is described as vicarious or social learning by Albert Bandura in Social Learning Theory.

In recent times adulthood has been pushed out to the late teens or even early twenties. Upon reaching adulthood, we have a large set of automatic programs that have been established and function like an autopilot. It has been estimated that outside of conscious awareness as much as four billion bits of information per second are processed. This information arises from both the internal environment of the body as well as from the external environment. All of this information is processed through parallel programs running simultaneously and may account for as much as 99.99% of all processing. These programs produce output and send signals to maintain a wide variety of functions and responses. This is in many ways a very efficient system because a lot of routine requirements are handled automatically and don't require any attention.

Psychological research has shown that we are capable of making emotional associations, initiate thoughts and make decisions without being aware that we are doing so. These automatic responses are then, with a slight delay, transmitted to the body and in some cases into conscious awareness. The built-in delay is the closest thing we have to a fail-safe system. The conscious mind has a small window of opportunity to interrupt, delay, stop or alter the response originating outside of conscious awareness. Most of the time the conscious mind is not even aware of the output from these automatic programs (APs) and even when aware of the output we usually just look on like a bystander. This is what some call following the path of least resistance.

Gazzaniga's work implies that our great capacity for generating explanations allows us to create post hoc rationalizations to explain what we do even when it can be demonstrated that we are consciously clueless about why we have reacted in a particular way in a given situation. In short, we usually function like zombies who, under the control of APs, create narrative fictions to explain why we think, feel, say and do things. These narrative fictions or stories that we spin about our fictive-selves represent our ego identity or self-identity. It is important to recognize that ego is a fiction and not to become overly identified with it. It is a tool to help us negotiate the material world but it is just a tool.

The adult conscious mind seems to have two basic functions. One function is largely oriented toward dealing with circumstances that arise for which there are no APs. The conscious mind is often said to be the source for executive control functions that lead to selective attention, problem solving and deliberate actions. The conscious mind can process about two thousand bits of info per second (less than .01% of all processing) and uses serial processing. The conscious mind is like an evolutionary afterthought compared to the processing that occurs outside of conscious awareness. The conscious mind is directed outward and generally gives little or no attention to the APs running outside of awareness. Further, the conscious mind is usually critical of input that contradicts existing programming.

The other function of the conscious mind and the function that provides the resistance to contradictory input is creation and maintenance of the ego or self-identity (a.k.a fictive-self). More will be said about this below. However, when the conscious mind is not engaged in executive functions, it seems to be busy embellishing, maintaining rehearsing and reinforcing its self-identity. The “idle” thoughts (e.g., self-talk and memories) you often find yourself occupied with are usually related to this function.


In the beta dominant mode of brain function, the APs are almost completely sealed off from the conscious mind. Many psychologists, including those discussed earlier, recognize that APs are largely responsible of our problems and our less than optimal functioning. APs often do not serve us well and in some cases sabotage and undermine our ability to function successfully. The problem is to find ways to get at these troublesome APs and to modify, eliminate or replace them. What seems clear is that what holds the most promise are techniques that can open a pathway between conscious awareness and APs.

There is, however, a recent neuroscience finding that is relevant to this problem. What this research found was that the pattern of connected neurons that define habitual responses (APs) have relatively rigid connections between synapses that make them more resistant to change. Apparently, this is accomplished by reducing the amount of an amino acid (cysteine). It appears that these connections can be made more flexible and easier to change by taking a nutritional supplement (N-Acetyl Cysteine – NAC). Thus, it might be useful to take this supplement when attempting to modify or eliminate an AP.

Finally, all of the pathways that will be described in the coming pages will always urge you to put desired changes into physical action. This is a critical step and there is a reason for this that generally escapes our notice. Recent research in cognitive psychology has opened up a field of study referred to as embodied thought. What this research is discovering is that thought is not confined to the brain but is intimately connected with bodily processes and even our experiences. So, when you come up with an idea about how you would like to change yourself, it is an incomplete thought until it is completed in your body. It isn't completed in your body until you start consistently acting on it. Your ideas can give direction to your behavior and feelings but your behavior and feelings validate or invalidate your ideas or thoughts.

Some of the earliest attempts to get past the beta-dominated critical mind included hypnosis, which held some promise, but got largely supplanted by psychoanalysis, which had a greater aura of science about it. The principle tools used by psychoanalysis to get at what it called the unconscious (i.e., material outside of conscious awareness) were free association and dream analysis. Many variations on these processes evolved and are generally captured under the rubric of dynamic psychotherapy. This approach has had some success but is not especially effective in bringing about lasting change.

Many subsequent approaches that developed such as behavior therapy simply dismissed the problem and considered so called unconscious influences as irrelevant at best, and at worse, fantasy. These more direct approaches had pretty good success in changing specific behaviors and even constellations of related behaviors. What this approach encountered difficulty with was getting broad generalization of its effects. It also could not readily deal with client-identified problems that did not map well onto its conception of what were legitimate targets for its change strategies.

So what do we know about getting past the resistance of the conscious mind and its ego identity to effect change in automatic programs? There is an intermediate brain state that is largely dominated by alpha activity. This state of mind we will call the inner ego (a.k.a., the pathway to APs).

Pathway One into the Inner Ego

A tried and proven method that has been with us for millennia is meditation. There are many varieties of meditation, but they usually focus on sitting quietly and occupying conscious awareness with the focus of attention on a target such as an object (e.g., candle), sound (e.g., aum) or process (e.g., breathing). Eyes may be open or closed unless you have chosen a visual target. This is not a method for rapid change and requires dedication to the practice over time.

As one sits quietly and attentively focused on a selected target, cognitions such as thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses to action will arise and enter your awareness. The practice is to simply note these and refocus attention on the target. There is a tendency in beginners to shift the focus of attention to the new cognition that has entered conscious awareness. This typically takes one of two forms. The first is to follow the cognition wherever it mentally takes one. Think of a hound dog following a scent trail. The second is to drill down and reveal the details comprising the cognition. If you are familiar with compressed computer files, think of extracting a .zip file. If you find that you have done either, just note the nature of the cognition and shift the focus of attention back to the target.

Noting the nature of a cognition can be categorical. Label the cognition from a classification scheme such as planning, ego narrative,boredom, anger, impulse, fantasy and so on. Develop any classification and label system that resonates with you. A very simple system can be pretty inclusive. For example, I have used a two- category classification that employs the labels ego chatter and fantasy dancing. The point is to simply acknowledge in some way the cognition that is intruding into awareness and then go back to your original target. This is the first step in a meditation practice. The objective is to simply recognize that you are the observer of this mental activity (good, bad and ugly) and not the mental activity itself.

The second step is specific to mental activity that seems to be arising from a problematic AP. Meditation will make you much more aware of this content because it will regularly intrude on your effort to maintain a singular attentive focus. Why this occurs will be discussed in more detail later. One way to recognized this type of activity is by a negative emotional reaction (a.k.a. contraction) such as anxiety, anger, fear, self-pity, etc. to the activity. A second way is to recognize an avoidance response such as an effort to suppress the mental activity or to quickly generate a mental distraction. By simply sitting with the content believed to be arising from a problematic AP, one can neutralize negative reactions to the content.

This step in meditation works much like a desensitization program in behavior therapy. For example, suppose you have an AP that judges moral worth by the degree to which a person is involved in what you consider productive behavior. This AP is activated when you observe someone being idle for an extended period and an evaluative thought associated with a negative emotion arises. The evaluative thought might be summed up with a label such as "lazy" or "deadbeat". The emotion might be anger or disgust. While in meditation your unemployed younger brother's name arises in awareness followed by the evaluative thought (lazy) and an emotional response (anger).

Your goal in the second step should be to keep the mind as quiet and calm as possible while the thought and feeling are passing through awareness. Don't try to get rid of the thought and feeling but try not to allow yourself to be distracted by and entangled in them. If you simply note them and shift your attention back to your target, the cognition and associated emotional reaction will produce less of an impact on you. You should continue to treat all future occurrences in a similar manner. Repeated occurrences of an AP that is ignored weakens the AP until it ceases to be automatic or simply drops out of your repertoire of programs (a.k.a. extinction).

Another example might be an impulse that drives a habitual behavior such as cigarette smoking. The AP for smoking tobacco includes biological, social and behavioral dimensions. This compound AP is not easy to ignore when it activates. Its impulses are usually responded to automatically. However, if you can learn to simply note the impulse and refocus your attention during meditation, the link between the impulse and acting on it will be weakened. Thus, you will begin to strengthening your voluntary control over the AP when it sends you an impulse to act. If you can take the AP off of automatic during meditation, you can begin extending this skill to other situations. In short, by neutralizing the AP, you can learn to be a free agent instead of a zombie.

Meditators often go through a series of stages during the practice of this pathway. The stage labels given below are descriptive and you will probably recognize all of them at some point in a meditation practice:

1. Monkey mind (thoughts zip around like ricochets in an iron pot) early Step 1

2. Hummingbird mind (thoughts flit about but with pauses) late Step 1

3. Teflon mind (cognitions just drift by like clouds in the sky) Step 2

4. Natural mind (Undisturbed awareness, more on this later) Step 3

Pathway Two into the Inner Ego

The second pathway, hypnosis, was most popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but continues to attract interest today. The focus in this section will be on autosuggestion (a.k.a. self-hypnosis). All hypnosis is self-hypnosis because it is entered into by free choice. Although often referred to as a trance, hypnosis is not a trance but a method of systematically accessing content normally outside of conscious awareness. The purpose of autosuggestion is to explore programs and "rewrite" those programs through suggestion. Recognizing that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, you can effectively dispense with the need for a hypnotist, especially for working on matters related to personal development.

Metaphorically speaking, your mind consists of three portions. The part you are most familiar with is conscious awareness, which is managed by the outer ego. This portion of your mind is small and is very specialized and resides largely in the neocortex or frontal lobe of the brain. Its functions are characterized primarily by beta wave activity and in exceptional individuals, who have an extensive history of meditation, by gamma wave patterns of activity (see Appendix 2). It can process only about 2000 bits of input per second. It processes internal signals sent by the body indicating pain, pleasure or needs that require conscious attention. It is also constantly scanning and attending to external aspects of the environment that are likely to require some non-habitual response, such as making a judgment about which of several algorithms would provide the most efficient computational solution for a problem on an exam. These functions when active in conscious awareness, I'll refer to as conscious mind, as distinct from simple conscious awareness. Conscious mind, to use a computer analogy, largely employs serial processing. The conscious mind employs what psychologists call an executive control system, which controls selective attention and employs goals and priorities to help it manage input. It can also call on memory for stored information and skills that might be useful.

The conscious mind makes possible the application of logic and analytic thinking to problem solving, decision making, planning, expressive communication through language and deliberate action. Your conscious mind can focus on a problem and process both incoming information and memory to arrive at a solution, such as working out the best arrangement for a load of furniture coming into your house. For example, exploring the material on this site and developing a plan to use it to improve your personal functioning is done by the conscious mind. Your conscious mind is prone to becoming bored when the input is too routine and turns to fantasy or other mental diversions. The conscious mind is also prone to distraction when an object or event with high emotional valence enters the environment being monitored, such as the appearance of a sexy billboard ad while driving down the highway. Think of the conscious mind as the eye at the end of a submarine periscope poking just above the water and scanning the environment for a target. The lookout peering through and guiding the periscope is the outer ego processing what is seen.

The part of the mind that does the heavy lifting is outside of awareness and not easily accessible. I'll refer to this as the non-conscious mind, which I like to think of as managed by the inner ego. This part of your mind is very large and includes a wide range of functions. Its functions are characterized primarily by theta and delta wave patterns of activity. It is estimated that it can process 4,000,000,000 bits of input per second. The non-conscious mind handles 99.99 percent of your mental processing. It receives input from every sensory system that you have, whether tuned to internal or external data. There is even some evidence suggesting that it reads data from the energy fields that surround everything and especially living things. There are those who suggest that the non-conscious mind even has access to collective aspects of humanity's consciousness (a.k.a. archetypes).

The non-conscious mind operating outside of conscious awareness, to use a computer analogy, employs simultaneous, parallel processing. This aspect of mind employs what might be called an autopilot control system, which draws on a library of biological programs and learned programs (a.k.a. APs) whose foundations are root or core beliefs (or assumptions). These APs help manage default decisions, habitual behavior, emotional reactions and memories. This aspect of mind makes possible the application of generative processing and creative thinking to problem solving, discovery and personal expression. It monitors and regulates all of your bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure and so on. It also runs automatic programs to produce habitual responses such as walking, riding a bicycle or keyboarding.

Some habitual responses include emotional reactions to various stimuli such as disgusting foods or people that remind you of someone with whom you've had negative experiences. This processing power and its output would overwhelm you if all of it were channeled into conscious awareness. In some cases, such as autonomic physiological processes, the path into conscious awareness is turned off but can be opened up through training and practice using certain meditation techniques or through technological methods such as biofeedback. A lot of the output however is blocked from conscious awareness by conditioned filters or psychological constructs that censor most of the output but allow certain types of information to pass into conscious awareness. Think of the non-conscious mind as a submarine beneath the sea that has its periscope poking just above the surface of the water and the inner ego as the submarine's captain who commands and directs the submarine and its crew.

Think of the sub-conscious mind as just outside of awareness and more easily accessible. It overlaps the conscious and non-conscious portions of the mind and serves as an interface. This is where communication between the outer ego and inner ego can develop. The conscious mind has access to the sub-conscious when its functions are characterized primarily by alpha wave activity. Thus, the conscious mind has access to the sub-conscious when daydreaming, "spaced" out, engaged in a mindless automatic activity, when prayerful, in meditation or under hypnosis. Our focus here is autosuggestion, which is a systematic approach to entering the sub-conscious with the intent of communication with the inner ego.

Effective autosuggestion has several requirements. First, one must be motivated to change and be ready to embrace change. If, on some level, one truly doesn't want to change, then autosuggestion will not succeed. Second, one must accept suggestions without analyzing what's being said. This requires that you generate an alpha dominant brain state to suspend critical thinking. The alpha state is most easily attained by a deep state of physical relaxation. Relaxation is greatly aided by the use of diaphragmatic breathing (see Definitions). You should certainly do this during autosuggestion sessions but it would be better if you made a conscious effort to breathe this way all the time until it becomes a new AP. Third, you must give your undivided attention to the suggestions being sub-vocally spoken to yourself or being delivered by means of an audio recording. A state of relaxed but focused awareness (attentive but not willful) is conducive to implanting new APs or modifying existing APs through suggestion. Meditation practice can improve one's ability to enter into a state of relaxed, focused awareness.

There are reasons to assume that there is a direct connection between your mind and your body. For example, if you consistently perceive your environment as threatening and you are defensive, your body will respond as if under attack. This will put you in a chronic state of stress. Chronic stress diminishes the resources available to your immune system as well as many core organ systems. Eventually, this state of affairs will lead to tissue damage and organ dysfunction or succumbing to opportunistic diseases caused by bacteria or viruses that your body can no longer effectively defend against. Likewise, expectations consistently held tend to become core beliefs or root assumptions and unfold through your life experience. This is what is sometimes referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you expect to fail and come to believe that you are a failure, you will fail.

Root or core beliefs are employed by the non-conscious as the basis for APs that implement those beliefs. When they are destructive beliefs, things frequently seem to go against you and leave you puzzled about why you just can't succeed. If you're fortunate enough to have constructive beliefs, you may feel like your successes are due to either exceptional ability or good luck. The longer a belief has been operating at the non-conscious level the more difficult it is to alter. Autosuggestion can help you effectively alter dysfunctional beliefs or establish functional beliefs that you would like to take the place of dysfunctional beliefs.

To be truly effective, suggestions must be acted on because there is a natural feedback loop between what we think and what we do. No matter how often you tell yourself something, it will not become operative if you never act on it and give it validity. Acting on new beliefs is not always easy because resistance from older and long established beliefs have the power of habit behind them. Autosuggestion can help you insert new beliefs into the sub-conscious where they can be taken up by the non-conscious. Acting on these new beliefs will help you to overcome the resistance of habitual thinking and acting. However, you must muster up the will and courage to act on your new beliefs in order for them to become reality.

I have provided a self-induction narrative you can use "as is" or as a template for constructing your own self-induction narrative for autosuggestion activities (In Appendix 3). You should add your own suggestions at the end of the induction narrative. You should always state suggestions in positive terms and tie them to the outcome that you wish to achieve. You should always express a suggestion in the present tense so that it implies that the objective of the suggestion has already been accomplished. Write down your suggestions and then analyze them against the above criteria.

Focus on one objective at a time. Use several repetitions of each suggestion and varied ways of wording the suggestion. Work with an objective for a minimum of a week or ten days. If progress is not being made by then, think carefully about your objective and suggestions and whether or not they might be improved upon. Continue to apply the autosuggestion technique. You can either memorize the induction narrative and suggestions to be spoken sub-vocally or you can use an audio recording to present the narrative and suggestions.

Some contrasting examples:

Don't say, "Cigarettes will damage my health and I must stop smoking."

Say, "It feels great to be free of cigarettes and to enjoy subtle tastes and smells."

Don't say, "I don't have social anxiety and I will be more socially outgoing."

Say, "I am socially confidant and enjoy interacting with people."

Don't say, "I will pray for the world to find peace."

Say, "I treat all living beings with dignity and respect."

Don't say, "I will meditate every day."

Say, "My daily meditation is mentally and spiritually refreshing."

Note: An abbreviation of this approach is the use of handwriting to move your suggestions past the critical outer ego. Handwriting is an AP that already resides outside of conscious awareness. You can use this AP as a backdoor into the sub-conscious. Simply sit down with your list of suggestions, a pad and pencil at a desk, table or other writing surface. Choose a site that is quiet and where you can have a few undisturbed minutes. Take several deep breaths using diaphragmatic breathing and focus on letting your body relax. Once relaxed, focus your attention on the writing task before you. Deliberately write out each variation of the target suggestion on your paper, giving the meaning of the suggestion your full attention as you write it. Repeat this several times. Write with the intention of implementing the suggestion in your daily life and pick one variation of the suggestion to use as a mental focus for the day. Use the suggestion like a silent mantra to keep your mind focused at times during the day when you are not fully occupied. Daily writing can be used to reinforce an audio-based form of autosuggestion that you may not be able to implement on a daily basis.

You can also piggyback on other motor skills that are established APs. For example, you could use your audio recording of suggestions while jogging or use sub-vocal or vocal recitation of your suggestions said in cadence with your jogging. The critical idea to keep in mind here is that perceptual motor skills are by their nature APs and provide you with an established avenue into the sub-conscious. Once the pathway is open, you can pair the AP with the material that you want to input through the sub-conscious and let association with the AP work as the carrier. Remember that to anchor your suggestions in the sub-conscious and transform them into APs, you must act on them. The feedback between cognitive intention and live action is critical to building or revising an AP.

Pathway Three into the Inner Ego

Pathway three is contemplation in which the focus is on cognitive associations guided by an intention to elucidate the elements in a problematic AP. This pathway has some similarity to Pathway One. Success is more likely with this method if you've had some experience with meditation, as described earlier. Your best clue about an AP is a response that you observe in yourself that repeats. The response might be simply a thought that carries an evaluative message about some person or situation, an emotional reaction to a person or situation, a behavior directed at some person or situation or some combination of these responses. The response may be negative or positive in character. For example, you might have an inexplicable negative reaction to a potential client or employer that interferes with you establishing rapport. Or, you might have a positive reaction that is objectively unwarranted to a colleague, friend or family member’s misfortune.

The critical step in employing this approach is to be an attentive and astute enough observer of your own functioning to recognize a problematic AP in operation. Sometimes these APs are so obvious that they are easy to recognize. However, some of the most insidious and damaging APs are subtle and not easily recognized. Thus, an effort to take seriously the old adage “know thyself” has merit. If you are interested in identifying dysfunctional APs, you should try to live in a reflective manner not a reactive one. Keeping daily notes reflecting on people or events each day that seem noteworthy for any reason is a good way to become more reflective. Read back over your notes from time to time and watch for any type of pattern that seems to be present. APs are repetitive and will create recognizable patterns, if you have a record. Sometimes memory is sufficient to identify a pattern but most people shouldn't rely on memory alone.

When you've identified what you have reason to think is a problematic response, it is time to employ contemplation. Proceed as if you are going to meditate (review Pathway One, if necessarily). Instead of focusing on a target such as an object, sound or process, focus your attention on the problematic response. Keep in mind the idea of a programming loop that was discussed earlier in the section on John Lilly. There are four possible types of elements in a programming loop: activating event, belief (see Definitions) about the event, emotional response and behavioral response. The end of many loops is an effect that feeds backs to you. This may be the only element that you are consciously aware of.

Take as an example a woman (Angie) who repeatedly forms relationships with self-centered men, where she is a giver and they are a taker in the relationship. This “one-way relationship” effect may be the only element of which she is consciously aware. In this example, Angie would begin contemplation using “one-way relationship” as the focus. What Angie should do is allow her mind to free associate on this focus and watch for other potential elements to arise into awareness. Often these elements will reveal themselves in the form of memories. The intent is find possible candidates for the missing elements of behavioral and emotional consequences, beliefs and setting events that comprise the loop. Any time a generalization seems to be available for one of the elements, Angie should incorporate it into her contemplative focus. Generalization here refers to some common theme that can be extracted from several memories that appear to be associated with an element in the loop (more on generalization below). She should continue the process until all potential elements in the AP appear to be identified. The next step is to apply this sequence to each previous instance in her experience and see if the elements fit the situation and feel “right” to her. If any element doesn't seem to fit well into the AP loop, Angie should work some more on that element until she has a good fit.

Suppose that the AP consists of elements like the following. The characteristics in men that capture her attention are some of the same characteristics that she recalls were prominent in her father. Angie's father was a “user” who was very charming and skillful at manipulating people into attaching to him so that he could use them to do his bidding. As a young naive girl, Angie had never understood this about her father. Basking in his “approval,” she never realized that she was being manipulated for her father's benefit and adored him. As an adult, when Angie encounters charming manipulative men (activating event) they evoke in her the belief that they are adorable like her father. This belief in turn evokes a very positive emotional response to such men. Being positively motivated, Angie behaves toward these men in such a way that they recognize her as easily used and take advantage of her. Until she employed contemplation and identified the elements in the AP that had repeatedly drawn her into one-way relationships, Angie had little hope of escaping from the effects of this problematic AP.

Now that the AP and its elements have been identified, Angie is in a position to engage it as a free agent. The first step is to find an alternative belief about the meaning of her childhood interactions with her father. She has recognized her father's behavior as manipulative and self-centered. She now understands that her father's intentions were not trustworthy. Thinking through what she has learned about the AP, she recognizes that she should feel apprehensive about men who act like her father. She recognizes that if she had such a feeling of apprehension it would lead to cautious interaction with or even avoiding such men.

Angie is now ready to return to the contemplative method to reprogram the AP by working back through her previous one-way relationships while applying her alternative belief that their style of interaction suggests manipulative intent. As she contemplates each of her past experiences, she imagines her initial encounter with each man, observes his behavior, feels apprehensive about what she sees and withdraws. After she has successfully imagined avoiding these prior problem relationships, Angie moves on to imagining new encounters. In these new, imagined encounters with men whose behavior reminds her of her father, she practices ways of cautiously interacting with these hypothetical men in order to reveal the intent behind their behavior. If she has willing friends, she might do some role play activities based on hypothetical encounters as well. The repeated and deliberate working through the AP imaginatively while in a contemplative state of mind and engaging in role plays are reprogramming techniques. Angie wants to turn the problematic AP that had caused her many difficulties in the past into a self-enhancing AP that will positively assist her in the future. Once she feels that her reprogramming efforts have initially established the revised AP, she must begin to deliberately put it into practice in her life. This last step is the key to the AP being finalized and becoming automatic.

Recall that earlier terms such as root belief and immediate belief as well as superordinate and subordinate construct were introduced. You can think of a root belief or superordinate construct as the basis for a generalized AP that may have multiple immediate beliefs or subordinate constructs. These particular APs are derivative APs originating from a generalized AP. When a generalized AP is identified through contemplation and reprogrammed, there is the potential for a whole host of particular APs being affected by the reprogramming. It is perfectly fine to target a particular belief driving an AP for change but it is more efficient to target generalized beliefs when possible.

Here is a simple example. An individual has the following particular beliefs: 1) that he or she must be perceived as an outstanding employee; 2) that he or she must be viewed as having an ideal spouse; 3) that he or she must be perceived as an exemplary parent; and 4) that he or she must be perceived as financially successful. Each AP associated with these beliefs will manifest emotionally and behaviorally in different ways. However, there is a fairly obvious theme in the four beliefs. The theme is simply “I must be perceived as perfect” or some similar generalization. The individual's belief in perfectionism is the root, superordinate or generalized belief that can generate an almost endless sequence of associated immediate, subordinate or particular beliefs. Identifying and reprogramming this root belief has the potential to impact a number of beliefs that are simply particular variations on it. The contemplation method can be used on a generalized belief following the same process used for a particular belief.

Pathway Four into the Inner Ego

Pathway four is scripting, in which the focus is on writing a new personal narrative for yourself. This pathway has some similarity to Pathway Three except it is a much broader application. Scripting should be used for major re-conceptualizations of your self-definition.

Narrative psychology suggests that one of the ways that we create meaning in our lives is through the personal stories that we weave from our experiences to explain those experiences to ourselves and others. Your personal narrative is a reflection of what you believe about yourself and the world you live in. There is evidence to support an influential role for your beliefs (see Definitions) both in your life experiences and your mental and physical health. If you just can't seem to get anywhere with your career, education or personal life, it is likely that the problem is being influenced by your belief system. This belief system is implicit in your personal narrative.

Personal reality can be thought of as a narrative construction. A narrative created by the psychological integration of selected memories, interpretation of those memories and the imaginative elaboration of those memories synthesized into a coherent personal narrative. A personal narrative might also be thought of as a general description of the foundation for one's meta-programs or core constructs, which were discussed earlier. Your narrative is a self-definition. Having a rich narrative is both a source of meaning and a guide to life. In some sense, the question of whether your narrative is true or false is the wrong question since virtually no personal narrative is entirely true in any objective sense. I like to refer to this personal narrative as the fictive-self. The proper question about the narrative that one spins about oneself is, does it serve you well and affirm your life experience? A “yes” answer to that question gives your personal story functional validity, which is all that is necessary. Truth is an elusive and overrated notion when it comes to giving meaning to one’s life.

If one's current life story is a constructed narrative, then alternative narratives can be constructed. In the end, what matters is what you believe to be true about yourself. Since you own your beliefs and create your own narrative, you might as well have a narrative that lifts you up rather than puts you down. Ask yourself, what kind of beliefs about your past you think you need to get to where you want to go from where you are. Once you answer that question, employ contemplative meditation to review your narrative and identify where it needs to be changed. You can either put a new spin on existing elements in the narrative or you can find different memories to substitute into the narrative for those elements or you can imagine possible alternative events and substitute virtual memories for those elements that need to be changed. Keep in mind that memories are dynamic and constantly changing in both subtle and gross ways and use this to your advantage.

Think of yourself as an actor playing a role. Your narrative defines the role you're playing. Some actors get type-cast and their careers are restricted by that type-casting, unless they can break the cast and set themselves free. You may have type-cast yourself or allowed others to type-cast you and are stuck in a role that is unsatisfying or dysfunctional. Rewrite your role and move beyond the rut in which you've been stuck.

It is helpful to first get a sense of your current narrative before trying to modify it. This is the story that you tell yourself and others to create an identity. Either imagine that you're writing a short autobiography or use a voice recorder and imagine that you're giving an oral history about yourself to someone. If it helps, imagine that you're relating this information to a psychologist or counselor. Keep your story focused on the major themes and try to avoid anecdotes, unless they are important to understanding a theme. Sometimes you have a single word that serves as the cornerstone or key to your narrative. In a word, you might describe yourself as “spontaneous.” If you have such a word, frame your narrative so that it explains how you think you came to be spontaneous and what the pros and cons of that identity are for you.

Dan McAdams, in his book The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self, has many suggestions to help write and understand one's personal story. The following should be sufficient for most purposes. If you are having difficulty writing or telling your story, complete the following three statements as prompts. You should have at least five variations on each statement.

1. What I want from other people is....... (for example, respect or fear).

2. What I want to have in life is...... (for example, creativity or power).

3. I am...... (for example, spontaneous or shy).

If you are having difficulty generating responses for a statement, apply Pathway Three (contemplation) to the statement. Once you have developed a set of constructs by completing these statements, you will have a core set of characteristics that are probably central to your story in some way. Using these statements as guideposts, attempt to flush out your narrative. If you are having difficulty weaving the constructs into an integrated narrative, you might try using contemplation to help you bring the pieces together.

After you have your narrative, you can begin an analysis of it to get a better understanding of what your story is saying about you. For example, most stories will have either an optimistic or a pessimistic perspective. What perspective characterizes your story?

1. The two most common optimistic perspectives are:

a. The dynastic perspective: a good past has led to a good present (charmed life story).

b. The antithetical perspective: a bad past has led to a good present (rise from the ashes story).

2. The two most common pessimistic perspectives are:

a. The compensatory perspective: a good past has led to a bad present (fall from grace story).

b. The self-absolution perspective: a bad past has led to a bad present (never had a chance story).

Stories also have an image or main character. For those familiar with computer gaming, you might think of the image as your avatar. It is not unusual to have more than one image, for example, one image for your private self and another for your public self. I recall reading an account by a speech writer for Richard Nixon when he was President. The speech writer suggested something to President Nixon and after a moment of consideration his reply was "No, Nixon would never say that." Clearly, President Nixon had a public image that he thought of as "Nixon" and anything being proposed for public use had to conform to the image that he had for the Nixon avatar. Most of us do that sort of juggling but usually are not as self-aware of it or as deliberate about it as President Nixon. An image is an idealized conception of self. Images are symbols. They may be either good or bad and are both common and unique. The basic principles governing images follow:

a. They express our most cherished desires and goals.

b. They always enter our stories in specific opening scenes.

c. They personify our traits and recurrent behaviors.

d. They give voice to individual and cultural values.

e. They are often built around significant people in our life.

f. They may personify a fundamental life conflict.

Common images can be classified using the two basic themes of Agency and Communion. Does your story either explicitly or implicitly use one or more of these images?

1. Agency Images:

a. The Warrior (conflict manager)

b. The Traveler (explorer)

c. The Sage (synthesizer of knowledge and experience)

d. The Maker (craftsman)

2. Communion Images:

a. The Lover (seeker of intimacy)

b. The Care Giver (devoted to others)

c. The Friend (committed to relationship)

d. The Ritualist (conserver of tradition)

3. Images High in Agency and Communion:

a. The Healer (one who mends)

b. The Teacher (a guide)

c. The Counselor (a mentor)

d. The Humanist (advocate for human welfare, values and dignity)

e. The Arbiter (a judge or decision maker)

4. Images Low in Agency and Communion:

a. The Escapist (one who avoids reality)

b. The Survivor (one who simply endures)

Once you have written out your narrative and classified it, which aspects of the story seem to be related to the issue or issues you're trying to deal with? When these have been identified, what changes could you make in the story that would provide an alternate and more self-enhancing story for the life you want for yourself? Rewrite those parts of the story that need to be revised to support the changes that you want to make. A positive and mature story or narrative will exhibit most, if not all of the following characteristics:

1. It has coherence. The story is self-consistent and makes sense.

2. It has openness. The story is flexible enough to change and grow.

3. It has credibility. The story must be plausible given your life circumstances.

4. It has differentiation. The story has richness, depth and complexity in the number of factors, issues and conflicts addressed.

5. It has reconciliation. The story brings harmony and resolution to conflicts and contradictions in one’s experiences.

6. It has generative integration. The story not only provides personal unity but positively connects one to the lives and myths of others.

While you can edit and rewrite a narrative past that includes neglect, you cannot edit and rewrite a narrative past that includes a physical condition such as congenital blindness. You can, however, edit and rewrite how you've interpreted this condition and its impact on you. This is not a delusional process as long as you recognize that you are the author of your life narrative and you can rewrite it however you wish as long as you don't deviate from what is possible. As long as you confine yourself to "memories" and the psychological effects of memories, you are dealing with cognitively modifiable content. You might as well have memories and/or interpretations of memories that are self-enhancing as to have memories and/or interpretations that are self-defeating. In short, you have permission to be who you need to be. You control your personal script. You are whomever you believe you are. Others might not recognize it yet but they will if you begin to live the new character.

For example, say that your current narrative says that you were neglected by your parents as a child and you've always felt like you were an abandoned and unloved child. As a result of this "mistreatment" you suffer from poor self-esteem and underachievement to this day. These beliefs give you a handy excuse for your problems in life and they draw experiences to you that either are or can be interpreted to validate your beliefs. You don't have to own that past because it is an interpretation that you've imposed or allowed others to impose on your experience. Why not spin this childhood to be one that led you to take responsibility for yourself at an early age and become independent and self-sufficient? Look for early memories that either are or can be spun to be examples of responsibility, independence and self-sufficiency. In short, find things that can be used as examples of those self-enhancing traits. Next, weave those memories and variations on them into your narrative to replace the self-depreciating elements in your current personal narrative. Finally, start acting the part or the character in your reconstructed narrative.

You don't have to suddenly change how you act in big ways. Start with little things and work from there. Think of yourself as playing a new role in life's drama and you have to ad lib (improvise) the character's responses in various situations. Think about the character that you've written for yourself in the new narrative and ask how would this character respond in this situation. Try it out and evaluate the results. If you see ways to improve on responses, incorporate those improvements at the next opportunity. For example, suppose the old character avoided using spare time for self-development by spending every evening watching TV or going out for drinks with people from work. The new character might choose to let go of the TV and take an online independent study course related to the future envisioned for the new character or enroll in a continuing education class at a local school instead of going out with colleagues. Step-by-step acting out the role of the character in this new narrative will lead you toward a different future.

You might find it helpful to imaginatively rehearse new responses to situations that have been problematic in the past. If you have people willing to help, you might even find it useful to work out short skits that script your character's responses in various types of situations in which you need to effect changes. Both of these strategies can be useful when your new role makes you feel like a “fake,” a bit uncomfortable or disconnected. These will all pass, if you persist in actively taking on your new role.

Pathway Five into the Inner Ego

For anyone who would like a fresh narrative rather than refurbished narrative, you must first be able to let go of your habitual narrative. I will call this pathway emergence. This is probably a pathway that should only be embraced by individuals who are psychologically flexible and comfortable when facing the unknown. If you are one of those people, just let go of your identification with your current narrative and let a new narrative emerge as you adapt to life as it unfolds. No editing necessary. You must be able to look at everything from a fresh perspective and try to respond to situations as if they were unique events, not another occurrence of a recurring event for which you have an AP response.

I actually stumbled upon this approach when I was seventeen years old following a very bad auto accident that nearly killed me and badly disfigured my face. After recovering from the injuries, I was examining a yearbook photo that had been taken just prior to the accident with a "before" photo that my plastic surgeon had taken. While looking at these two photos, I was overcome with grief and felt tears running down my cheeks. Suddenly, I understood why I was crying. It was because the person in the yearbook picture was for all practical purposes “dead.” I knew he was “dead” because he looked different and because people treated him differently from how he had been treated by these same people. Sometimes he was treated worse and sometimes better but nearly always differently. I realized that who “I” thought I was could change in a heartbeat.

I felt completely free of the person I had been. I had an opportunity to start over and create a new narrative or fictive-self. My new life narrative began with that event. I discarded being an underachieving, angry adolescent who was always in some kind of trouble and became someone facing the future with a clean slate – a transformational experience. This base change in perspective only took minutes. However, in those few minutes, I gained a valuable insight. If you can simply let go and “turn left at Thursday,” the “door” to a whole new dimension of your life can open to you almost instantly. In my case, a traumatic event stimulated the emergence of the necessary insight. Perhaps you can come to the same insight vicariously through my experience.

Once you step through the door, it may take years to populate that dimension and sculpt an alternate reality for yourself, but change is a process that unfolds through time. Change doesn't always come easily or quickly and sometimes it will take a form that wasn't expected. However, if you set upon the path and maintain a steady effort, it will come. You simply need to find beliefs and a narrative that will support you while you create a new reality.

To conclude, here are two short quotes worth pondering:

“Mind is the builder.” Edgar Cayce

“Every failure is a step on the path to success.” Unknown

Note: If you want to read more about the noetic events in my life read "A Personal Odyssey" (see Appendix 3)

Pathway Six into the Inner Ego

The new narrative that began to form from the experience described above subsequently led to another transformational experience. An attempt to capture this experience is a poem I wrote titled Outlaw (see Appendix 5). The second experience arrived like a lightening bolt and delivered an epiphany. First, that one's fictive-self is really only a psychological tool and can be set aside most of the time. To do this one must learn to live from one's true or essential Self when the fictive-self is not being employed. Second, that the larger story that one lives within that is spun by society is also a fiction that is simply a broader and more inclusive story than one's personal story. Finally, that the personal and social narratives are entangled, which creates a web in which one can be ensnared for a lifetime. If you want to free yourself from the narrative web, you must learn to stop identifying with your narrative and live from the natural mind. This topic begins with the next section.