Friday, July 23, 2010

Social Psychology and Non-Duality

I have been taking a course called society and the individual and it seems to make non-duality even more clear. Basically sociology discusses the formation of the "self." Which is only a narrative that is composed of thoughts. This narrative must be repeated in order to be continuous. This means that who we think we are is simply a story that is being told over and over again. The person is created when we notice other people have opinions about us. When we are young and throughout life, we internalize these ideas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of this, it is simply what happens!

Reflected appraisals- when we imagine how others view us. Imagining what apparent "others" imagine about us. (Language can be tricky because really all that is going on is imagination).
Example: I will sit quietly in a classroom because I know that if I were to start yelling everyone would think I was crazy.

So we grow up according to what the people around us think of us.
This is called the Looking-Glass Self. We construct the 'self' according to how others view us.

Erving Goffman coined the Dramaturgical Approach which says that we are all actors. We act according to what the collective imagination/society believes. For example, as soon as we meet someone, the mind automatically defines what the other persons socioeconomic status is, what his/her conception of self is, his/her attitude toward them, his/her competence, his/her trustworthiness, etc.
People will act in a way so others will view them favorably. We are trying to control how the other person views us, so we can have a positive response from them.

This created 'self' is not continuous. In different situations, we behave differently. Depending on the experience, we will be a different 'self.'

We also expect people to be consistent. We expect them to be the same, hold the same beliefs and behave the way we are used to them behaving.
In order to have a consistent self we must repeat the story, the story of our past experiences.

Again, nothing about this is wrong, it is all innocent and playful.

So when this is seen, the question comes, who am I for real?
If the self I thought I was was created by society and is constantly changing.

This is where it meets non-duality. Something or nothing is obviously here ALL the time. Throughout all of these ever-changing selves, there is a constant. Something that knows all of this. Something that knows the changing body, knows the changing mind.
This has to be the true self.
If every-body is having this experience then can we say we are all the same true self?


  1. Well, this is all very wise, but I'm here to tell ya that whatever happens I will never eat liver! HOWEVER that makes "other people" think of "me".

  2. I don't agree with the suggestion that the 'false self' is all innocence and playfulness.

    It certainly is not, and we can see its profoundly destructive effects on the environment, on one another, and the negative affects it tends to have on the one clinging to it, as well.

    1. Hi Tim,
      I agree with you! I am re-reading my posts and I don't think it is innocent and playful until you know it is not real.

  3. As soon as "self" is formed, however and for whatever reason, "other" comes into being fracturing reality. Experiencing is conditioned by that contraction and actions that are skewed, off the mark, result. In traditional "Buddhist" terms this has been described as "unwholesome" or not whole as a portion of the actual reality, the reality of reality, is not seen.

  4. The "innocent" as well as "destructive" are just part of the story as well. It's hard to see it when you're actually IN the story - but that's also part of the fun. Did you ever see "The Game" with Michael Douglas? That was a good story. But the environment, or each other, or whatever, is just another prop. As beautiful as this illusion's still just an illusion..a story.

  5. I just received the entry from this blog from a Jerry Katz email.

    I had to write to tell you how impressed I was. Are you really 22? I'm 53 and have never heard non-duality explained so crystal clear. Thank you for writing. I hope you have a book in you someday.

    Sincerely, Dave