Gurdjieff made it clear that our first steps towards freedom require us to “remember ourselves” and in doing so “separate ourselves from ourselves”(1973). As I understand it, this means in today’s language to dis-identify with the reactive places we are caught in. In other words to make an object of the part of us that is caught into whatever reaction is present. This has been re-invented by Robert Keegan (1994) and others, and called “Subject / Object Theory”, which talks about making objective, i.e. clear to ourselves, what we are identified with, bringing our unaware ground into consciousness so that we can relate to it, so that we can develop our awareness around it and start to understand it. We can then start to understand ourselves and start to have compassion for ourselves in a new way.
This is what therapy is all about, facilitating this movement of separating ourselves from ourselves in order to develop our awareness and understanding that the ‘negative’, difficult, anxious, depressed, compulsive, pushed aside and refused parts of ourselves come from our conditioning and are not the whole of us. It takes a long time for most of us to drop the deeply held belief that we are ‘bad’ in some way. This is all in the service of healing unfinished trauma (in its widest sense) that we hold from our pasts and which unconsciously drives our compulsive reactive identifications. ‘Trauma’ has the effect of causing this internalisation of ‘badness’ as part of our survival process, it helped us make some sense of it, when no sense was intolerable and we didn’t have the resources to face or understand it.
Making this step into seeing the insecurity we are caught with, whatever form it takes, and with this “seeing” knowing that it is not the whole of ourselves, is such a profound and powerful one. It opens the door to not only self-knowledge and understanding, as well as being able to take responsibility for ourselves, but also to all the possibilities we have of developing our being.
Gurdjieff G.I. (1973) – Views from the Real World – Routledge & Keegan Paul
Keegan R. (1994) – In Over Our Heads – Harvard