We see the selves as the smallest discrete units of the psyche: as energy bodies that vibrate within us and determine “who we are” at any given time. Each self has its own way of viewing the world, its own perceptions, its own beliefs and rules, and its own specific history. And even though these are energy bodies, they manifest themselves quite individually in the body and can affect it in a number of ways. Sometimes this is more apparent than others as, for example, when one self has a headache or a stammer, or high blood pressure, or high blood sugar or allergies and another doesn’t. Some selves can sing or dance while others cannot. Some have fewer facial wrinkles (inner children) some even have differing color eyes.
The selves may have verifiable physical correlates as well. Recent advances in functional neurological imaging suggest to us that (1) the different selves may well represent specific locations in the brain and /or (2) they may represent webs of neuronal pathways that have developed over time as a result of repetitive experiences or actions. We know of no specific research that has been to test these hypotheses, but we feel that this is an exciting area for investigation. The first person to explore possible physiological correlates of the selves and the evolution of the Aware Ego process is John Dougherty, a neurologist specializing in Alzheimer's disease and anosognosia. He has suggested a locus for the Aware Ego process and hypothesizes as follows: “Modern neuroscience would suggest that as we move our center of operation and “choice making” to the Aware Ego, we make increasing use of the anterior cingulate cortex. This ‘executive choice maker’ (Aware Ego) has become an area of active neuroscience research.” See The Neurobiology of the Aware Ego for a discussion of this theory.
The selves remain basically consistent through time. The Responsible Parent will always be a Responsible Parent (although it may begin to understand other ways of viewing the world), the Rational Mind will always be a Rational Mind and will never embrace feelings (although it might gain an appreciation of their role), and the Child will never grow up. But as we work with them, we do see changes. These changes can take a number of forms.
For most selves, however, a clarification takes place as we work with them. Think of a house that over many years has become overgrown with vines and other vegetation. In a way that is what happens to each self. And, as we speak to that self, it is as though we were removing this vegetation and exposing the original house or self. As each self has the opportunity to speak out loud with the aid of a facilitator, it is able to clarify who it is and what it does, to explain its point of view, its contributions, and its needs. Some facilitators and teachers might view this clarification as the self moving more and more from the personal to the archetypal expression of an energy.
As we work with selves, most of them tend to become more of an asset than a liability. Each self – as we often say – has a good side and a problematical side. For example, a Loving Parent has a great deal to give, but in its problematical or more negative form, it can suffocate others. As one works with the Loving Parent self, it will always remain loving, but it can evolve to the point where it allows freedom to others and no longer requires itself to love everyone, everywhere, all the time. Similarly, a Perfectionist can begin to restrict its requirements. Instinctual selves can become more protective. Fearful selves can signal danger, but learn to do this when real danger exists rather than be fearful all the time.
Lastly, as we work with the individual selves, we find that transformation takes place on all three levels of consciousness:
1. The Selves
The selves evolve in many ways – but their basic energy pattern remains the same. The child will always be a child even though its innocent wisdom may come to replace some of its worries; the Inner Patriarch will remain an Inner Patriarch although his contributions may become more constructive than destructive. Each is individual and, therefore, not completely predictable. As we have already pointed out, they tend to become better defined and the gifts they offer become more apparent and available.
2. The Awareness Level
The Awareness Level expands. As we work with the selves, more and more information becomes available to our Awareness and a broader and increasingly objective picture of the operation of the psyche develops.
3. The Aware Ego process
The Aware Ego expands, gaining more strength, more authority, more ability to make real choices in life, and greater control.