Section 2 – Self-Understanding for the sake of Mission

            This is the second section of a series on deepening self-understanding in service of the Mission.

The Importance of Dis-Identification

In order to live our lives with a degree of ‘normal’ emotional integrity it is necessary to develop the capacity to ‘step-back’ or dis-identify from the self engaged in reactive emotional states.  The triad of differentiation, transcendence, and operation gives us some assistance.

The Triad of Differentiation, Transcendence and Operation

            This is a basic developmental framework intrinsic to and repeated at every stage of human growth, no matter what growth of consciousness (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical, etc…) is transpiring.  Growth is a movement from a lower order of consciousness to a higher order.  The tendency for the human person is to identify with the characteristics of a particular order. 

            We hear ourselves say, for example, “I am a man or a woman.” “I am not very clever.”  “I am getting old.”  “I am a priest”. But none of these statements is true.  These are not what “I am” – they are predicates.  My gender is male or female, but I hold both sexual potentials of both genders within my psyche.  My mind may not yet have grasped some intellectual thesis, but “I” am not to be identified with a piece of intellectual information or my mind’s capacity to process that information, or even with what might be judged “clever”.  I am not getting old; it is my body that is ageing.  My spirit may be as youthful as or even more youthful than it was earlier in my life. I was ordained to the priesthood, but how I live that depends very much on my image of priesthood. Am I a priest to serve the people of God, or to belong to a privileged caste that holds power. No matter what the image of priesthood I still remain a person who has needs of his own.

            So, identification of the self, with the structures of one moment of development, is very self-limiting and in the extreme becomes a self-imposed trap.  Contained within the structures of a system of order, we are inclined to view other orders as suspicious, invalid, or wrong.  Conversion to a higher order of structures is considered disloyal, rebellious, or dissent.

            However, once the self dis‑identifies with the lower order structures, it can then integrate them with the newly emergent higher order structures. Each emergent level is not a total negation of the previous level, nor does it come from the previous level, but is rather a transformation and transcendence of it.  The higher comes after the lower and separates itself out of the lower.

            “Dis‑identify” does not mean “disassociate” or “alienate”. It means letting go of an exclusive and restrictive identification so as to create a higher order identification. There can be no higher identifications unless the lower order identities are broken in their exclusivity and that is what is meant by “dis‑identification”.

At each major stage of development there is:

  1. the Emergence of a higher order structure
  2. the Identification with that higher structure
  3. the Dis‑identification with the lower structure

which amounts to a transcendence of the lower structure, such that the higher structure can both operate upon and integrate the lower structure.

            Each level of consciousness consists of a deep structure and a surface structure. The deep structure consists of all the basic limiting principles embedded as that level, and embodies all of the potentials and limitations of that level. Surface structure is simply a particular manifestation of the deep structure and is constrained by the form of the deep structure.

            Each transformation upward marks the emergence in consciousness of a new and higher level, with a new deep structure (called a symbol matrix), within which new translations or surface structures can unfold and operate (sign matrix) [1].   Development or evolution is a series of such changes in deep structure, mediated by symbols or vertical forms in consciousness.  It is worth noting that all deep structures are remembered, whereas all surface structures are learned.  It is generally agreed that one does not academically learn to become like Jesus Christ, one discovers or remembers that one is already created in the image and likeness of God, and the coherence that this remembering holds leads us to a connection of deep authenticity and integrity. We recognise this connection in our Spirituality of the Heart, when we are led beyond the initial encounter with Christ, into a place that transforms us into alter Christus. The movement from identification and conformity, into union.

            In the next section we will consider two deep structure (symbol matrix) motivational aspects of human life; needs and values.  These affect our perceptions, judgments, decisions and actions, as well as having implications for the operation of our emotional life, attitudes, habits and compulsions.

[1] We define a sign as that form which points to, or represents, or is involved with any element within a given level; whereas a symbol points to, or represents, or is involved with an element of a different level (either higher or lower).