Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gratitude 8/30/07 -- An Integral Approach

I've been thinking of late about why gratitude works -- and it does work. One way is to look at the role gratitude plays in our lives from the perspective of integral psychology.

Arthur Deikman wrote a book several years back called The Observing Self. In this book, the noted psychotherapist seeks to combine Western Psychology (especially psychoanalysis) with Eastern Mystical traditions. One of his key notions is the observing self, a self separate from his three primary selves (thinking, emotional, and functional).

Here is his definition:

The observing self is the transparent center, that which is aware. This fourth self is most personal of all, prior to thought, feeling, and action, for it experiences these functions. No matter what takes place, no matter what we experience, nothing is as central as the self that observes. In the face of this phenomenon, Descartes' starting point, "I think; therefore, I am," must yield to the more basic position, "I am aware, therefore, I am."

This is essentially Ken Wilber's Witness or anterior self. This is also the aware ego of Voice Dialogue and the Self of Internal Family Systems.

My experience of what happens in the presence of true gratitude is that I am removed from my proximate self (the experience of I/Me) and from the distal self (Me/Mine) and allowed entry into the anterior or observing self (I/I).

The more I practice gratitude, the more access I have to the observing self. Stepping back from the state experiences of my life -- whether that is sadness, anxiety, or anything else -- allows me to see my life objectively from this inner place of calm and awareness. When I can do that frequently, I have much better access to the observing self in other moments of my life as well.

I don't know if this is true for anyone else -- I'm just offering conjecture here -- but a regular gratitude practice seems like a good way to strengthen that inner awareness that is always present, always available to us, and to forge a more intimate connection with our true nature.

Today, I am grateful for this.

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