MetaSelf We are tightrope walkers on a beam of light
<< How to use MetaSelf >>
How MetaSelf is Built

Using MetaSelf: Doing a Growth Inventory.

In this first section, I make some general suggestions about how the structure of the MetaSelf model can be used for general self-assessment and to promote growth. Like Maslow, I attach great importance to growth. In his Hierarchy of Needs, growth is at the peak of the pyramid, but in a sense, all the levels build up to growth. Using the levels as a spatial reminder or guide, one can do an inventory of a situation or of one's life in general, checking the explanatory text for each ascending level of the pyramid. Taking an inventory gives you an overall picture, but it is also a good way to stimulate growth.

In doing a MetaSelf inventory, the front/back (z) axis is your primary spatial guide, in contrast with Maslow's model with its ascending levels. This is true whether you are imagining the full-bodied first illustration or the second, more schematic, box-frame version. Let's go through the meanings of the spaces along this axis, moving from left to right in figure 2. In my experience, visualizing this axis with its attendant spatial phrases allows me to arrange information about myself as it occurs to me. Gaps in my awareness become very noticeable. If I am looking at a specific relationship with someone, of course I must consider not just the spaces on my end of the z axis but try to put myself in the mirror positions on their end, as well.

Woman facing Box FrameMetaSelf, Figure 2
(mouse-over image for exploded view)


The space outside the room signifies (=) the things we say are "beyond space and time." Imagining yourself in this position of The Witness or an outside observer, you are asking What are my ultimate values? Or, what is the soul's view or the God's eye view?

The wall of the room = A system we exist within and are (usually) supported by. E.g. a social system (two or more people); an ecosystem; Nature; space and time, the natural universe. There are nesting systems to consider, of course. You are asking, How do the system and its laws, rules or norms regard what is going on?

The back of the box-frame = the back of one's mind, a metaphorical space where we locate memories, repressed (pressed back) feelings, one's background, unmet needs and hidden potentials. The shadow on the wall represents Jung's "shadow." You are asking, What hidden issues and potentials do I need to be aware of?

The backboard of the box-frame = The real space of the body, where we experience bodily needs, pains, sensations, emotions and feelings in the real space of the body with its three perpendicular axes oriented to gravity. You are asking, What is my bodily experience in the present moment? Maslow's physiological needs.

The cloth or paint covering the backboard = The "front" one is putting up, one's mask, persona (Jung), facade or covering. You are asking, Am I using my "image" to manipulate people or to cover something I am ashamed of?

The space inside the front acrylic cover = a conscious mental space; the metaphorical location of our public thoughts and expressions of self. Note that the cover and the backboard, the mind and the body, fit together: metaphorical space fits onto real space.

The acrylic cover itself = metaphorically, our firm personal boundary, which protects us and restrains us, but also lets information in and out. You are asking, Am I both protecting myself well and restraining my own aggression? And am I communicating in both directions across my boundary?

The space between the box-frame (the self) and the full-bodied viewer in the room = what is "going on between us," the inter-actions and communications going on within the system of the relationship. In Buber, where an immanent God appears in a genuine interaction "between I and Thou." In Winnicott, this is called "potential space," where a relationship grows from potentiality to actuality.

Identifying conflicts

Once you have filled in spaces along the z axis as much as possible, check for conflicts and inconsistencies between various parts. For example, conflicts between the back of one's mind and one's public front are issues of integrity. As conflicts are resolved, more of the complexity of the self and the world is integrated. Integrated complexity is one good definition of growth.

View an earlier version of this same material.