MetaSelf We are tightrope walkers on a beam of light
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How MetaSelf is Built

MetaSelf as a Psychological and Spiritual Tool

We have already noted how the MetaSelf model helps us to summarize the ways we conceptualize important virtues, including courage, justice and compassion. (See What We Need, the long article listed in Tools and Resources. We can see how easy it is to recognize terms like "centered" and "balanced" as members of a large, meaningful family of spatial terms that turn up in discussions of health, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. "Inner child" now leaps out at us as a spatial way to talk about natural feelings, needs and potentials we may have hidden. "My innermost being" evokes the essential self, perhaps even the spirit or soul. It is now time to go further in applying these ideas and the model that summarizes them.

The Z Axis: Inventory and Unity Exercise

The MetaSelf model provides a natural way to structure an inventory of important aspects of experience. The model's z axis (from the front to the back of the body) runs through a series of positions, each of which represents an aspect of experience. A step by step assessment of these positions and of our ability to unify them, affords us an excellent overview. Moreover, at each position the model suggests appropriate metaphors in which to phrase questions about that kind of experience.

Start by imagining yourself standing with your back near a wall, close enough to cast a shadow there. This will place you in the typical position of a box-frame facing into a room, enabling you to structure the exercise in your imagination. There are three different versions of the exercise.

  1. Imagine that you are interacting with a person (a viewer) within a system (the room).

  2. Look at your general experience of a particular situation or system (room), exclusive of particular people in it.

  3. Examine how you experience your place in the world in a very broad, existential way.

Whichever version you choose to try, it may be useful to read through all the numbered steps, doing the ones that seem evocative and helpful.

Of course this exercise does not involve actually imagining that you have been reduced to a box-frame hung on the wall. Rather, you are using the space in and around a box-frame as a way to structure and analyze the figurative space in and around your self. The box-frame and room are visual aids for examining the contents of your own particular life, your own inner parts and the things you are a part of. In addition, they are also a way to structure your perception of another person, simply by viewing their space as structured by the box-frame model.

This method will yield an overall picture that can include: another person's position; your relationship; the way you present and express yourself to them; the way you feel inside; your deeply hidden feelings, needs and potentials; your dependence on the systems that encompass you and the other person(s); and the ultimate context within which you place your life and theirs.

The Steps:

  1. The Immediate Social Interaction. The first step is to ask yourself, "What is going on between me and other people right now?" Describe it simply. The model embodies this interaction in the space between the viewer and the box-frame, the figurative space where relationships evolve.

  2. Closeness in this Interaction. Can I get as close as I want in this relationship, or am I perhaps too close? Can I get close support without losing my boundaries and independence? The model reminds us that viewers in art galleries go up to an artwork to examine the details and step back to see the whole picture. We do the same kind of thing when we check our appearance in a mirror.

  3. Facing or Not Facing each other. Can we face each other directly (front to front), or do we need to be indirect? Do we even turn away from each other? Why? Does the situation require courage and confrontation or delicacy and circuitous action? These questions are embodied in the angle of the interaction. Note that being side by side also has a positive connotation: similarity, comradeship, etc.

  4. Fairness, Power and Mutual Respect. Am I on a level playing field with this person? Is there a hierarchy? Do I use put-downs or build myself up at their expense? Do I put myself down? Is the situation/system fair? These questions are embodied by the tilt or levelness of the line of sight between viewer and box-frame.

  5. Boundaries. The front plane of the box-frame's acrylic cover prompts several questions:

      (a) Do I feel that my boundaries are safe from attack? If not, how do I assure my safety?

      (b) The other side of this boundary question is, Do I restrain or contain my feelings and impulses so that others are safe? If not, what do I need to do?

      (c) If either of us has weak boundaries, it is likely that one or both of us is projecting ideas and feelings onto the other. This will often manifest itself as blaming and judging them for one's own problems. In the MetaSelf model, projecting is represented by the loss of the front acrylic plane of the box-frame.

  6. The Rational, Scientific aspect. Can I prove that my picture of the world reflects reality outside myself? The right-angled organization of the box-frame's front space reminds us of graphs, which use right angles to present the correlations of variables we use to prove scientific hypotheses. Are the facts clear?

  7. The Expressive, Artistic aspect. How do I express my inner world of feelings and merge that world with the outer world? In the MetaSelf model, feelings are seen as coming forth into the box-frame's front volume from its wooden backboard (the backboard representing the body and face where we experience emotional sensations).

  8. The Mask or Persona. The paint that covers the backboard represents the public self that we put on for other people. Is there often a big difference between how I feel inside and what I show outside? In my relationships, do I feel the special trust I need to be transparent (honest, revealing) about what I feel?

  9. My Body. Do I give due attention to my body's health? Do I see it (and the backboard that represents it) as the meeting of literal space and metaphorical space? Do I sense my vertical axis as both grounded in practical reality and stretching up toward my values with dignity, individuality and responsibility?

  10. My Feelings and Needs. What feelings am I aware of now in my body and face? Are they the same, or different from, what I reveal outwardly? Is there a congruence (similar shape) between them and my persona? If not, What need am am I trying to meet that might explain this?

  11. The Shadow. What do I sense about the feelings, needs and potentials hidden in the back of my mind (the shadowy space behind the backboard)? Am I allowing this material to come forward in dreams, intuitions, hunches, artwork and play? Or do I try to exclude it from my mind and any system I operate in?

  12. Membership in Systems. What part do I play in, for example, my family, workplace, government, the Earth's ecosystem, and the natural universe? How do I help support each system, and how am I supported by it? The walls support the box-frames. Nesting rooms, adjusted for scale, represent the range of systems.

  13. The Largest Context. What do I believe is the largest framework within which everything exists? What is "beyond space and time," represented by the space outside the room? Is it God, and if so, how does this god view us? Or is it meaninglessness or nothingness? The unknown? Alternative realities? An ultimate reality of which the room and its contents are but a passing manifestation?

  14. Some questions about unifying the z axis running through all these positions:
    • (a) To which parts of this front/back axis do I give the most attention? The least? Do the several parts feel connected, or widely separated?

      (b) Can I shift my perspective from one part of the axis to another? For instance, can I, in addition to seeing things from my own perspective, imagine being in other people's places in the room, feeling what they feel, seeing what they see from their point of view?

      (c) Can I, indeed, go beyond simply empathizing with their view as well as my own and imagine stepping outside the system to which we belong to ask compassionately "What is the common good that meets both our needs?" Or are some or all our realities irreconcilable or mutually unknowable?

    Once these introductory questions have been asked, the next question is What procedures are suitable for working with each of these steps, 1 - 13?