Internal or External Self-schema
Concepts in the self-schema may refer to things internal or external to the self. Examples of things internal to the self are my values, my goals, my views and my preferences. Examples of concepts external to the self are my possessions, my friends and my reputation. Off course, the approval and validation I get from other people is also external.
Tolle (2005) talks about identity enhancers, which are external objects that people may use to self-enhance. By associating ourselves with positive feedback or objects in reality, we can feel better about ourselves (for example, I may self-enhance, by acquiring a lot of money and fame). The downside of doing this is that our self-schema is filled in with external concepts.
Being situated external, these conditions are more prone to change, increasing our chances for cognitive dissonance. Things that are external to me are less stable; they are more affected by the winds of change. Also, they are not within my direct control. When externals change, it means that my self-schema is no longer consistent with reality and this produces the tension of cognitive dissonance.
Unfortunately, most people give little thought to what fills their self-schema. They sort of take ‘who they are’ as a given and don’t really investigate what is in their self-schema.
Rigid or flexible beliefs
In today’s society there is a sort of ‘I am who I am’-mentality in the culture. Identity is formed sort-of randomly thru childhood and adolescence and once people reach adulthood, they don’t give much thought to what is in their self-schema. This passive attitude keeps people acting predictable and is convenient. People know what to expect from one another and no one has to go thru the hassle of examining how they are being, think about how they would like to be, set goals for change and figure out ways to change. It results in a rigidly set self-schema that resists change, because change involves investment of time and energy. If Life is challenging enough as it is, any additional work on self-change is simply too much. Resignation to the ‘who I am as-of-now’ is much more convenient and easy. Any idea that challenges the ‘I am who I am’-mentality is better left out of conscious attention. This is why some people have an open mind towards self-change, while others do not. Flexibility of beliefs is influenced by open-mindedness.
If I am stressed out already (by past hurts) and can’t afford to spend additional energy I would rather stick to keeping my attention narrow, my beliefs and self-schema unchanged, and my world as predictable and safe as possible.
The ultimate form of rigidity of beliefs is thinking that my ideas and what I believe are what is real; it’s when I say: THIS IS HOW IT IS. In reality, all ideas and beliefs are just perspectives that approximate reality, they are mental maps that refer to reality, but are just abstract symbols and are not the real thing.
“Thinking about right now, figuring it out, perceiving it, arguing, reading about
or believing anything about right now –
none of these produce any certainty about living.”
~ Werner Erhard ~
One of the presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that ‘the map is not the territory’ (Bavister & Vickers, 2010). The map of concepts we have in our minds is not reality. It is a set of ideas about reality. Our maps of reality get revised with new facts from reality, in order to be able to make the most accurate assumptions and predictions about the world. It is never possible to create a perfect map or schema. Because of this, it is important to remain flexible with holding concepts, beliefs and schemas.
Besides basing my self-schema on external concepts, there are other ways my self-schema can be impaired. For example, I can also hold beliefs about myself that are based on judgments or false information, rather than reality. Any ideas concerning learning, skills and abilities usually fall into this category.
For instance, someone’s ‘skill level’ on any given subject is determined by social comparison. A score on a test has no meaning, unless there is a reference group of other people to compare it to. The data that are collected by any measure or test are coming a 100% exclusively from arbitrary standards created by the human mind AND they exist exclusively as compared to how the rest of the population scores on it.
If a researcher makes one measurement with one subject, he has no idea whether this is a high, low or intermediate score. It is only in the context of social comparison that he can arrive at such judgments.
In reality, no such things exist, but if you analyse reality by social comparison and judgments, and you believe that these ideas are the real thing, they become true in your experience.
What do you think the REAL CONSEQUENCES are if you repeatedly tell a kid that he is ‘low’ in intelligence and he believes it is true because of his/her innocence and naivety?
How do you think this kid will react emotionally to a statement like that? How do you think the belief systems and self-concept of this kid will develop as a result of this?
How do you think teachers, peers and parents will behave towards this kid?
These types of suggestions are based on judgments about performance. Having a belief about being bad at certain activities is completely useless.
It is irrelevant, because developing skills and abilities are learning processes.
Having a belief about being bad at certain skills can only hinder me in learning the skill.
It is a waste of time to look on the score board and evaluate how I’m doing during an activity, as my attention should be engaged in doing the task at hand.
I think the biggest challenge in facing these self-limiting tendencies is that they all depend so largely on my need to self-enhance, my need to look good and fit in with society at large. Human beings are tribal people; we have evolved to survive in groups. Not being accepted in the tribe meant death in the early days. Nowadays, we still depend on gaining approval, building relationships and co-operating with others. As a result of this, my identity can become enmeshed within the social system around me. For the remainder of this part,
I will describe how the social system around me will fill in my self-schema by default (if I stay passive). After that, I will share how it is possible to regain a more self-determined self-schema by establishing healthy boundaries between the self, other people and society at large, as well as exercising the degree of conscious and deliberate control I have over my own behaviour.
The next book piece drops at Wednesday February 1st on the topic of External Suggestion, Instant Gratification and Self-esteem…
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