Disidentifying with the Self-schema & Changing Behaviour

Define Life from the inside out
“Man shouldn’t ask what the meaning of his Life is,
but recognize that it is he who is asked.”
~ Viktor Frankl ~

Intuitively, when we are young we look around for guidance and feedback to find out what this whole Life thing is all about. However, after we’ve learned the basics of Life, there comes a time we can opt to bring into Life something new.
As a kid, I have to fill my self-schema with external concepts and this is fine, but as an adult I can re-examine my self-schema and start shifting to a more internally based self-schema. I can start making declarations about what I want my Life to be about and fill my self-schema with self-chosen internally based concepts like my vision, my goals, my values, my standards and my preferences. A more internally based self-schema will mean that I am less susceptible to cognitive dissonance as internal concepts are more stable; they do not fluctuate and change like external concepts do. As a result of this, I can feel more secure in myself and focus on the goals in self-change I want to realize for myself.

I am not my Self-schema

Another thing to understand about self-schemas is that the self is not the same thing as the self-schema. My self-schema is a mental representation of me and thus, it is a set of ideas ABOUT me. I do not mistake a set of concepts about me for who I am. This is basically the core idea of what Eckhart Tolle meant when he wrote:
“The philosopher Descartes believed that he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: “I think, therefore I am.” He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error: to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.”


According to Tolle’s teachings, I am not a mental story. He advises to not become attached to mental positions, thoughts or concepts. If I identify with my self-schema, I will get anxious when it is threatened. If I identify with thought, I will want to protect my opinions and prove I’m right. It’s much better to just choose thoughts and try them out.
I see how they work for me and let go of them when they no longer serve me.
I will be much better off when I just view my self-schema as a set of concepts about me rather than identifying with it. Both filling out the self-schema with internally based concepts, as well as not identifying with it and just seeing it as a set of concepts about the self will help to facilitate self-change.
An important next question arises:
If I don’t fill out my self-schema with externally suggested feedback, what do I fill my self-schema with?

Natural impulses for Action

And this brings up an interesting notion; because you may have been reading this book (or other types of books and resources) to find out how to fill out your self-schema. However, it is this tendency that needs to be avoided when forming a more internally based self-schema; for it is the self that provides the new internal concepts for this new self-schema.
I have to determine what my values, goals and preferences are for myself. And it is the same for everyone.
Sure, we can look around at other people as examples, but ultimately it comes down to ourselves to make a choice.
We have to decide for ourselves what we want to be about. Fortunately, there is an internal source I can consult when I find myself short on inspiration. There is a core inside of me that will provide me with insight into how to fill my self-schema. This core inside provides me with impulses for action; intuitive impulses for how I want to conduct my Life.
This core intuitively gets whether I am living the Life I want or if I am doing what the societal system told me I should do.
It is possible to stop paying attention to what my core tells me is a good direction for me in Life and start obeying the voices outside just to ensure my survival. It’s called, sacrificing my dreams and focusing on just getting by. It is an inauthentic way of living and creates a false Life. There is nothing wrong with this; I need this when my survival is threatened. However, when I live in a safe environment and all my needs are met in a quality way, it may prove to be more fulfilling to follow my natural impulses for action and live Life more authentically.

Authentic Self-Expression

 The challenge in changing human behaviour is that for the most time, I operate on auto-pilot. I like to think of myself as a conscious human being and I like to believe that I’m the one calling the shots in choosing my behaviour. The reality of the situation is that most (let’s say 99.9 %) of my behaviour is a result of past conditioning and learned habits. Most of the time, I just act intuitively in the moment and my brain backwards rationalizes why I acted in the way that I did. If you find that you’re disagreeing with what I just wrote, it’s your brain deceiving you into believing that you’re actually totally in control of your behaviour. I’m sorry, you’re just not. Most of our behaviours are automatic and our willpower and ability to consciously direct our actions is very, very small.
Because of this, I have to be strategic and smart in how I utilize that 0.1 % of influence on my behaviour I do have.
It would be an ineffective approach to simply gather information about how to live Life effectively and then to expect from myself that I would apply it all in my behaviours.
This simply does not work, because we can’t remember and recall all that information in the moments that we need it. When we are in the moment, we act and respond based on intuition and reflexes and all those handy tips we learned about ‘how we should act and behave’ go out the door. And then later, as we reflect on our actions, we beat ourselves up over not applying those new things that we learned.

The key to changing behaviour is thus; to utilize (leverage) that 0.1% of influence (control) that we do have. In ending this Part (III), I will pose two principles on which I find that my 0.1% of influence is best invested. These are:
•  Working on the context of my Life
•  Creating new habits by means of Self-Change Projects


The next book piece drops Friday February 10th and it’s about

the influence of context on my behaviour

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One Response to Disidentifying with the Self-schema & Changing Behaviour

  1. Pingback: Setting High Standards & the Actual and Ideal Self | identityisdynamic

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