Chapter Two, Excerpts

Why Do We Need an Operating Manual for the Self?

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In this chapter we will address the question of why we need an operating manual for the self, and talk about what you can hope to see in this manual.

Operating Manuals

What is an operating manual? An operating manual:

  • Tells you what the object you have does
  • Tells you how to use it
  • Lists all the parts
  • Tells you how the parts work
  • Tells you how to identify a problem
  • Tells you how to fix the problem

A manual may or may not tell you how to get the most out of what you have. But we certainly want to know how to get the most out of our Self.

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A Manual for My Self

My Self. This is the person in the world I am most intimate with. The two of us are inseparable. Interesting that there are two of us: Me and my Self. To have a Self is to be alive. It is a good idea to learn to work cooperatively with, and to fully utilize, our Self. We want to have the most rewarding, fulfilling, happy, loving, successful, and creative life we can. How can we go about getting the most from our Self to accomplish this? The Operating Manual for the Self will tell us how.

Point of Empowerment: I want my Self to be a friend to me. I want my Self to be an ally in the creation and living of my life.

Practice: State the affirmation, “I am a friend to, and an ally with, my Self.”

The Big Picture

The Operating Manual for the Self will show us the big picture of who we are by exploring the components of the Self (the developmental self, ego, personality, conscience, and identity/image) and putting them into a context. We will understand how the parts of our Self fit and work together. We will appreciate our complexity and wonder. We will see the richness of who we are. If we see how many aspects of our Self there are, we can understand why it takes an entire lifetime to learn to operate our Self. We can become patient with and accepting of ourselves. We will have the information and knowledge that enables us to explore ourselves, and to experience the joy, and sometimes the pain, of discovering who we are. We can become interested in and curious about who we are. We can learn to appreciate our magnificence.

          Point of Empowerment: In order to be fully alive, we need to claim and integrate all the aspects of our Self.

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Conscious Learning

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In some ways we are ready to go the moment we are born. However, most of what we need to know about living, we have to learn along the way. Our parents and caretakers are our first instructors. We also learn from siblings, extended family members, teachers, friends, peers, and from the media of our culture. All these are sources of information for learning about how to live and how to accomplish what we want in life.

Beyond learning from others, we want to consciously learn, on our own, what we need to know about succeeding and about developing our Self. We do not have to only rely on what others teach us. We can use The Operating Manual for the Self to teach ourselves.

Overwhelmed by Information

The opportunities to learn the art and science of living are endless. We live in the information age, where the amount of information available to us is almost unlimited. This can cause us to feel overwhelmed, to withdraw our interest and attention from learning, and to just run on autopilot. We forget who we are, what we are about, and what we want for ourselves. The Operating Manual for the Self can help us move forward by giving us direction and focus.

Point of Empowerment: The manual gives us opportunities for independent learning, for “Self-study.” This empowers us and gives us freedom.

Stages in Life: The Life Cycle

A person’s lifetime, the life cycle, passes through stages. There are seven stages to the life cycle. We are: an infant/toddler, a child, an adolescent, a young adult, an adult, a senior, and an elder. As we age, change is inevitable, so that we are continually facing something new. The Operating Manual for the Self will enable us to become aware of the abilities, tasks, issues, challenges, hurdles, and resistances of each stage. This awareness can show us what each stage of our life is about and what we need to accomplish during every phase. With this knowledge we can be more effective in accomplishing the tasks of the life cycle.

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Abilities and Skills

All of us have had moments where we think, “Wow, I never knew I had that in me.” We are referring to an ability or skill that we just discovered. We are experiencing the joy of this discovery. If you look at an infant learning to stand for the first time, you can see the joy of mastering a new skill. The infant also experiences the joy of success, finally succeeding at standing after many failed attempts at mastery.

Abilities, Skills, and Stages

Let’s look at a few brief examples of the tasks we face and the skills we acquire throughout the life cycle.

  • As infants, we have the innate ability to smile. We learn that a smile will get us attention.
  • In childhood, we utilize our ability to learn in order to master reading and math. We use our ability to communicate to express our Self and to learn how to negotiate for what we want with our parents and siblings.
  • In adolescence, we learn how to make friends and manage peer relationships by using our communication abilities.
  • As young adults we explore romantic relationships by using our ability to feel love. Using our ability to think, we consider which careers we are interested in.
  • In adulthood, we learn what is required of us at work and in our personal relationships. We use our ability to give of ourselves to fulfill these requirements, in order to reap the rewards of work and relationships.
  • As seniors, we integrate the lessons of a lifetime and begin to develop wisdom. We use our ability to experience pleasure to enjoy the fruits of our work life and our loving relationships.
  • As elders, we continue to integrate life’s lessons into wisdom. We learn how to take care of our health and to fully appreciate the benefits of good health. We use our ability to love our Self. We can call upon our ability to have courage to help us prepare for the end of our life.

The operating manual helps us identify the many abilities that we have and guides us in their use throughout the life cycle.

Human Needs

We, as human beings, are born with needs. The fulfillment of these needs is a powerful motivator, a drive that leads us to take certain actions and to behave in certain ways. There are seven categories of needs. These categories are:

  • Survival
  • Safety/security
  • Belonging/loving
  • Self-esteem
  • To create, to produce, and to know
  • To achieve Self-actualization
  • To experience beauty, mystery, and transcendence

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Point of Empowerment: As we satisfy our needs, our life becomes rich, and we enhance our well-being. We feel happy and content. The Operating Manual for the Self will help us understand what our needs are and identify what we can do to fulfill them.

The Distorted Self

During the course of our lifetime, our Self becomes distorted; we are not who we could be. We do not live up to our potential. We do not make the best use of our Self. This happens because we do not understand what our potential is, and who we can become. We have limited, and often incorrect, information and knowledge about who we are. We are uninformed and sometimes ignorant. We end up becoming who others think we should be. As children, we unconsciously imitated what we observed others doing because this was the only choice we had. We didn’t know that there were alternatives. As adults, sometimes we don’t understand that we can be different; we also don’t understand how to become different.

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The operating manual will give us the information we need to discover our potential, know what we are capable of, and see a better course of action for our Self. We will come to see how to create the best Self we can be.

Point of Empowerment: We can consciously create the best Self we can be.

Practice: Take some time to think about what your best Self would look like. Write down your ideas.


The Damaged Self

Everyone has had experiences where we are growing and developing in a smooth and comfortable manner; the parts of our Self are becoming more proficient at accomplishing the tasks of our life. But then something happens that injures or hurts us. We feel fear and retreat in pain. Part of our Self has been damaged.

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There are many kinds of experiences that damage our Self. To some degree they are inevitable, and ultimately, they can make us stronger. These experiences also vary in how severely they damage us. Severely damaging experiences are called traumas. All of us have experienced some trauma in our lives. We need to know how to recognize the damaged parts of the Self, and how to repair them. The operating manual can help us do this.

Point of Empowerment: There are many kinds of experiences that damage our Self. The damage needs healing.

Practice: Take some time to identify some experiences in your life that damaged your Self. Write them down.

The Lost Self

As a child, an adolescent, or even as an adult, we start to develop abilities and skills, but run into negative feedback. The negative feedback is a message that says, “Don’t do that.” These messages are sometimes very intense and forceful. To fulfill our need for survival, and as a response to negative feedback, we may completely stop the development of our Self in some areas. Repression occurs: we bury—push down into our unconscious mind—aspects of our Self. As a result, we may not have important abilities within our Self to use. In other words, we have lost parts of our Self.

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The operating manual helps us to identify and recover the abilities and parts of the Self that have been lost. We can learn how to reconnect with and reclaim the lost aspects of our Self that we need for our fulfillment.

Point of Empowerment: In order to be healthy and whole, we need to recover aspects of our Self that have been lost.

Practice: Decide to go on a quest to recover your lost Self.

Power and Empowerment

The Operating Manual for the Self will show us how we are powerful, and will empower us to use that power.

Here are two useful definitions:

Power is the ability and willingness to act.

Empowerment is the authority and permission to be powerful.

The elements of these definitions are ability, willingness, taking action, permission, and authority. We will explore how each of these elements is an aspect of the Self, and how to use them all to be powerful and feel empowered.

Point of Empowerment: With our power, we take charge of our life.

Practice: Take a moment to consider the following questions: Where are you powerful? Where do you take charge of your life? Where do you feel powerless? Where do you give up being in charge of your life?


Change is part of life. It is always occurring, whether or not we notice it. Change is movement. We started out at point A. Now we are at point B. We have moved from point A to point B. We may have decided to go to point B, or life may have pushed us, moved us, there. We may have gone willingly or against our will, possibly kicking and screaming. We can try to slow change down, but we can’t stop it. Change is inevitable.

Change can be deliberately planned or can occur spontaneously. We may have initiated deliberate change by using our will to put a plan into action. If change has occurred spontaneously, we suddenly find our Self in a new place. We may be totally surprised, because we didn’t think that we did anything to cause a change. Or, we may have prepared our Self for this change. The change occurred spontaneously, “on its own.” Spontaneous change terrifies us because we do not, and cannot, control it.

Point of Empowerment: We are ambivalent about change, wanting and fearing change at the same time. We want positive changes in our life, but fear that the future will bring us negative changes.

Practice: Think about a change that occurred to you in your life. Use this memory to explore your feelings about change.

The Operating Manual for the Self seeks to give us the ability to change, and seeks to inspire us to change. The manual has many ideas about what to change in your Self, and practical information about how to implement those changes.


As change is always present in life, so is resistance. Resistance is the force that slows or seeks to stop change. A useful general definition of resistance is: anything that prevents movement from starting, or slows it down once it has started. In the physical realm, friction is an example of resistance. Friction slows down a car when we apply the brakes. As we will want to eventually stop the car, friction—resistance—becomes an absolute necessity. As you can see, there are good reasons for having friction. Similarly, there are good reasons for all types of resistance. It serves a useful and necessary purpose.

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Point of Empowerment: The message of our experience of resistance is, “Pay attention, there is something important here.”

Practice: Learn to notice moments of resistance and tune in to the message of the resistance.

However, resistance can impede our personal growth. It can stop or slow down our forward movement. Resistance can result in avoidance of important parts of our life, and can impede our progress. Resistance can keep us from achieving our goals.

A common resistance is fear. An important example of fear is our fear of change. Our fear of change brings resistance to change. Since growth is change, this fear slows down our growth. Since we tend to avoid what we fear, fear often results in avoiding what we need to face and deal with. In order to move forward we need to face our fears and our resistance.

For example, the person my friend introduced me to asked me out. I want to go out with him, but didn’t say yes, because I fear rejection. My fear of rejection is a resistance to my moving forward, to going on a date. It is a resistance to the fulfillment of my Self ’s need for belonging and love.

Point of Empowerment: Resistance is normal and natural. It is sometimes useful and sometimes a serious blockage.

Practice: Think about a situation in your life that generates frustration because you are not getting what you want. See if you can identify what the specific resistance is to getting what you want. This may not be easy.

The operating manual will help us discover what our resistances are and show us how to resolve them.

The Self in Relationships

Our life is composed of relationships. We cannot be without relationships. We are given family relationships. We create other relationships for our Self. We bring our Self to these relation- ships; we invest our Self in them. The nature of our relationships is determined by what we contribute to them. As we enrich our Self, our relationships become richer. Since the operating manual helps us to enrich our Self, it helps us to enrich our relationships.

It is through our relationships that we know our Self. As we interact with other people, our behavior shows us who we are. For example, if our relationships tend to have a lot of anger in them, we can conclude we have a lot of anger inside us. We may even be an angry person. This invaluable information shows us where we need to work on our Self.

Point of Empowerment: Our relationships are mirrors, showing us who we are. The desire to make our relationships work can inspire us to become the person we want to be.

Practice: Take a moment to appreciate the value of your relationships.

In Summary

The Operating Manual for the Self helps us know who we are, what we can do, and who we can become. It seeks to inspire us to reach our full potential as human beings. It helps us to explore the richness and complexity of our Self, and to understand our growth, development, and evolution. We can wait until pain pushes us to change, or we can approach our Self with awareness, feeling powerful and empowered.

Point of Empowerment: Nothing changes until you do.

Point of Empowerment: You can explore, discover, understand, utilize, invent, and reinvent your Self with curiosity, excitement, and joy.

Practice: State the affirmation, “I explore, discover, understand, utilize, invent, and reinvent my Self with curiosity, excitement, and joy.”