Subjectness: a New Mental Tool for Living Consciously
How It Started
Well, I happen to be a pragmatic type, and as such, I spent the most of my modest studious efforts searching for a usable common denominator among those modalities in self-help genre which seemed to be the most promising.
Instinctually I had already been using something that might qualify to be called that, but I never bothered defining it into a form that would be explainable to others. To me it was just something like "living consciously", meaning not driven by inner automatisms of a programmed "automatic pilot".
Then back in 1974 I was doing a little home study course in psychotherapy. Nothing of an academic significance to boast about, but more out of a sheer curiosity. So much so that I wouldn't even bother mentioning it here was it not for one detail --- I was supposed to write an original thesis.
With my mind pregnant with those hundreds of books that I had read about the human nature out of a tiny studious appetite, I could have easily paraphrased any of them. However, call me literary fair or just vain, but other than quoting or a short mentioning someone's work I just couldn't regurgitate it and present it as mine.
By the way, I am not into psychobabble, and you probably couldn't get me interested in a lengthy discussion about human nature if it was not gravitating towards "so what is to be done?". If you happened to read my article "Psychology---an Interpretive Art Posing as an Exact Science", you would understand why all my studious efforts have always been about finding something usable in that cosmetic theorizing.
Anyway, getting back now to that mandatory "original thesis", my mind got itself in a situation of "not seeing a tree for the forest". Nothing looked either as "original enough" or worth writing about at all.
While working midnight shift at a machine shop, I would set-up my noisy planer for another 45 minute cut and with hands all dirty from handling cast iron I started jotting down some ideas on a smeared sheet of paper that was eventually to became my original thesis draft.
Only as I was progressing with it more and more did I realize how I was describing that intuitive guiding system of my "living consciously".
Before the ideas started slowly forming, there was a countless dropping the pen in frustration of not finding those right words that could turn that simple personal discipline into something that would look "sophisticated enough" to stimulate somebody's curiosity.
So I was gazing at the hypnotic motion of the planer's table, left-right-left-right, listening to its monotonous rhythm, and brainstorming---until my mind got a kick from the very technique that I was trying to somehow name and describe.
From that point on I just had to introspect about what I was mentally doing.
And it was so simple that I doubted anyone would care to even consider making a practice out of it. Namely, people with some issues like matching the magnitude of their problem with an offered solution, so it "has to be" equally complex to qualify. Nothing simple would do in their minds.
Well, that's why I have been hesitant in my other articles to introduce it in its entirety, while mostly coating some of its fragments into something more presentable. I still don't know if it's a good idea, but I'll give it a shot, while almost hearing some readers yell out in a chorus "Is that it?!"
I Called It Subjectness
When we look at emotions as sensations of energy in ourselves, we can easily discover how they always flow in one of the two directions :
- they either stem outwards from our personal space, propelled by an intent
- or they are flowing inwards, giving us a sense of something at the outside affecting us in any way imaginable.
No matter which emotion you want to look at, it always displays itself as either of these two patterns. One gives us a feeling of doers, subjects, so I called it "subjectness", and the other one I called "objectness", since it makes us feel like objects of some outside activity or a condition.
It is so fundamental to life that every living organism from microscopic amoeba to a whale shares that primordial pair of sensations---as it depicts the basic principle of dynamics, the one of action and reaction, a stimulus and a response.
In any given moment, one or another emotional experience is carrying this charge or either of our doing it to the world---or being done unto by it in a whole wide repertoire of human emotionality.
What makes it significant is our ratio of polarized subjectness and objectness in our guts---which determines our emotional health, our will power, our quality of intent and a sense of direction in life.
At the Root of Life
Since I promised a "simplicity", I won't bother you with any philosophical cosmetics behind these two emotional opposites, but I can't resist temptation to mention just a few points as to put the whole thing into a certain acceptable perspective.
Namely, I see the subjectness sensation as generated by the very spark of life in us igniting the whole motoric of going after the means of survival, in our human terms--- "psycho-physical" survival.
The opposite, objectness, I see as our adaptive sensation of defensively reacting to our environment, while it presents itself as either favorable or not in the process of that going after our means of psycho-physical survival, whatever they may mean to our particular individuality.
From our cellular level, our DNA is constantly seeking its outward expression---and then it translates into our psychological analog of seeking our place in the world and leaving our signature in all models of our interactions with it.
Life itself means constant DOING. We even do our relaxation by producing that experiential pattern involving certain neurotransmitters and hormones of letting go---thus, relaxing doesn't really mean "doing nothing".
It's the principle of subjectness at work.
On the other hand, the more we lean in our emotionality towards objectness, the more we are drifting into stagnation of life. Feeling "done unto" spells caving in, retreating from life.
While at the energetic level subjectness and objectness mean an energetic charge, at mental level they mean attitudes of being pro-active and re-active.
Gut Ratio of Subjectness and Objectness
In the course of our life from its very start we are polarizing into our solar plexus (that network of nerves considered called the site of will power) all those experiences that either feel like subjectness or objectness.
So, even if you happened to be born into a poor family, providing that you spent your childhood well impressed with your own doings--- maybe in games, maybe in manipulating parents or siblings, or in expression of some talent like singing or drawing--- you polarized more subjectness than objectness in your gut.
If that ratio continued throughout your adolescence, you grew up into a head-strong individual. Please note that the key in all that was being impressed by your own doings.
From my personal experience and observing others, I feel confident to contend that all those emotions that are life-promoting stem out from our gut-capacity to produce subjectness. Without that in our gut every expression of joy is fake.
Getting promoted, being loved, respected, although grammaticaly sounds like "being done unto" by others---truly means that one way or another we went after it and got it.
At the other side of polarity, objectness dominating in our polarized ratio generates emotions which are life-demoting---like fear, sadness, guilt, shyness, anger, envy...you finish the list.
Even our behavior is suggestive of either subjectness or objectness dominating in our gut ratio. By the way, let us remember at this point that some 80% of serotonin, that "feeling-good" neurotransmitter is produced in our guts, not in our brain.
How to Cultivate More Subjectness
What makes subjectness so easy to cultivate is its very primordial and raw nature. No positive thinking, no self-suggestions, no any brain-work. Remember, it's all in the realm of guts, shared also by animals.
I have seen a small bitch being an alpha in a pack of half dozen bigger dogs. She could have not convinced those dogs with her non-threatening appearance to accept her for their leader, so there was something about energy at play.
There is an even more amazing example of strong subjectness emanating from a much weaker animal. On You Tube there is this short video of a cat making an alligator retreat into water by standing in front of it and gazing at it, with occasional smack with a paw. How is that for a gutsy energy glow?
Now, I already spilled out the secret when I mentioned getting impressed by our own doing.
What does it mean in everyday terms? It's all about becoming increasingly aware of what our voluntary muscles re doing.
You see, from your facial expressions to your posture, to the level of muscular tension, to everything you do---it's all about your conscious control of your voluntary muscles. Since subjectness is a primordial and raw principle, our guts get more impressed by what our voluntary muscles are doing than what we are thinking.
Don't misinterpret it---our thinking has to be proactive in order that we mobilize our voluntary muscles. Remember, whenever you are not in charge of them---your objectness is, by making you feel anything from the repertoire of re-acting.
Do an experiment. Put a relaxed Mona Lisa smile on your face, chin up, drop your shoulders to tell your body that you are not in a defensive mode, straighten your back, loosen up your arms and make yourself walk so flexibly in that room as if you were a dancer.
Then see how you feel. Whatever subjectness charge you got in your guts, it will automatically generate good emotions.
Try to take the same posture and the rest at a busy shopping mall, and note how it's somewhat harder to do it---because, by animalistic instinct we tense up mobilizing guard when in the "herd".
But do it just the same. Practice this voluntary-muscular control, make them express that gutsiness in you.
You will be amazed how more subjectness getting polarized suddenly generates a different emotional climate, makes people like you more, even rearranges your circumstances from a quantum realm.
Be a doer, a subject, cultivate that gut sensation of DOING your living---not the life HAPPENING to you.
Like the old Tibetan saying goes: It's up to two small hinges to which side the door opens. Will your dominant energy flow be felt as stemming outwards from your personal space, or felt as an energy invading that space?
You see, since the time we were tiny kids we kept impressing ourselves almost exclusively with what others were doing. Then it got ingrained in our nature. Unconsciously our survival strategies are based upon our interpretation of what this world is up to, and what they are doing to us---from our families to politicians.
And even when we manage to produce some proactive behavior, it's often for pleasing others, for approval, for acceptance, and for more love.
Could we change that around and start to genuinely enjoy our being subjects, doers of this world---because then even our DNA will start celebrating life when we do.