Thoughts on the pre-self, primal self, world self, post-self, and the greater self

Here are some thoughts on how I see things at this time:

The self is not ‘ready-made’ in life.  We are not born with a self.  It is something that is grown and developed over time.  As a result, there are stages in its development.  Much of life, really, is going through the stages of these self’s, one by one, and living with the reality of the self’s that already exist.

The growth of the self is not as a single ‘all-encompassing’ self that continually changes destroying the older self’s as it grows.  That is to say, it is not a “one-self” that is continually evolving and changing. It is more like a number of succession of self’s that develop one by one, each reflecting a specific trait or quality peculiar to its growth period.  These different traits or qualities remain within us.  As we grow their fact are as if “stored” in the depths of our mind, largely forgotten but often accessible when needed.  These are the ‘dormant selfs’. 

But there does develop a ‘dominant self’ , but it is not a self that dominates everything within a person.  It is dominant only in the respect that it is ‘there’, conscious, and aware at the moment.  In that sense, we could call it a ‘moment-self’ whose “dominance” is in the fact that it is conscious at that moment.  As a result, we experience life primarily through this ‘moment-self’ giving the illusion that it has ‘absolute power’.  But, in actuality, the ‘dominant self’ has only a minor control of things.  It often has the quality more like an umbire or mediator than anything else.  What this means is that there is no part of the self that has absolute control.  There is, instead, many multiple self’s and one self who is “dominant” only because it is aware of the moment.

In some respects, the orientation of the self’s resembles a person with multiple personalities, but on a milder and not-so-extreme scale.  In that disorder there is usually a ‘dominant’ self that knows what all the other personalities are doing (and often without their knowing).  It does not have absolute control over them though.  It may be able to influence the other personalities but it can’t control them.  It seems that the multiple personality disorder is an elaboration of an already existing condition that is natural within us.

Interestingly, the qualities of our other self’s has similarities to multiple personalities, such as:

  • The other self’s are felt as separate from the ‘dominant self’ or ‘moment-self’. 
  • The other self’s are often not known by the ‘dominant self’  or ‘moment-self’.

These facts generally give a sense that there are other aspects to ourselves and that there are things deep within us.  In other words, we all feel this sense of ‘multiplicity of selves’ within us.  Dreams, odd feelings, unusual behaviour in some situations, etc. all hint that there is more to us than we are aware of.  This, then, gives a sense that our perception of our self is never absolutely complete, giving a sense of a ‘partial self’.  Because of the lack of a complete self, there is always an aspect of us that seeks to complete our self.  This quality exists from the beginning of our life and is the ‘self hunger’.

Normally, our different self’s remain within the area of their functioning.  That is to say, our self’s are specific to a specific functioning and it stays in the area of that functioning.  Because of this, they remain ‘confined’ in their area of functioning.  If a self goes out of its ‘area of functioning’, or has influence beyond its specific functioning, it can create mental problems.  This shows a definate need for ‘self containment’.  When they don’t remain confined they can cause a  number of problems:

  • The self can develop a life of its own.  Multiple personalities, it seems to me, get out of control because they develop a different ‘social self’, which splits off from its area.  As a result, it develops a life of its own making them take on social qualities, names, and personalities that develop over time and develop as a separate person.  In fact, it seems that multiple personality is primarily a malady of the ‘social self’, which is why it goes in that direction, creating a different ‘social self’.  Other self’s can develop, as well, other than the social self.  Some people may develop different ‘selfs’ that, under some situations, takes control, often without their awareness.  Many of us experience milder versions of this other self taking control when “another part of us seems to take over” under some situations.
  • They can corrupt and interfere with other self’s.  If a self continues for longer than is needed and starts to intrude into the space of the other self, it can adversely affect this other self’s development.  There may also be a ‘fixation’ or ‘obsession’ associated with things associated with the self that is intruding into the space of the other self.
  • They can cause growth problems.  If a self goes beyond its area it can affect other self’s so much that it can lead to growth problems overall and hinder development of the person.

I often distinguish several general stages of self-growth:

  1. The pre-self.
  2. The primal self.
  3. The world self.
  4. The post-self.
  5. The greater self.


Being born, we have no self.  We have, though, the element within us of the need for a self.  As a result, we are all naturally looking to create our self.  In many ways, this ‘self hunger’ is what makes us, and drives us, to live in the world as children.  Like some obsessive drive, we impulsively seek a ‘self’ much like food.  This hunger persists all our life and, in a way, is what makes us want to ‘live’.

The pre-self consists of these qualities which come in phases:

  1. The “is”.  This is a sense of that we “are”.   I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on ‘primal awareness’:  the “is””.
  2. The “fullness”.  This is a sense that there is ‘something about us’, that existence is “here” before us and that we are in it.  I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on “fullness” – our first perception of the world and self???”
  3. The “entities”.  This is a reference to projections of our self upon the “fullness”.  Since our awareness of the world is in “fullness” we project ourselves onto it.  When this happens there appears to be ‘living things’ about us, often perceived as separate entities.  In actuality, they are only “us” projected on to the world.

These are all like a foundation for the self to develop.  Remember, these are qualities that, at their height, are before a self has appeared.  The ‘moment-self’ has not developed yet and so there is no ‘dominance’ of awareness.  As a result, these have very strong ‘non-self’ qualities.  Later in life, we may often ‘sense’ these self’s.  When we do they often have a quality of ‘non-self’ to it, which we generally interpret as spiritual, mystical, and religious.

Once the “entities” develop it transforms the “fullness” into two forms:

  1. The “all fullness”.  This is “fullness” as perceived as the all, as an overall awareness of existence.  This creates something like a sense of a ‘presence’ or even a ‘god’.
  2. The “specific fullness”.  This is specific projections of oneself that create a sense of specific things in the “fullness”.

The “specific fullness” creates two senses:

  1. A sense of ‘living images’.  This is a reference to a sense that there are ‘beings’ or ‘living things’ in the world.  These turn into perceptions like that of gods and spirits and such.  They are things in the world (the “fullness”) but can’t be seen (as they are projections of oneself).
  2. A sense of ‘living themes’.  This is a reference to patterned themes and story-lines in one’s life.  Since many of our projections are like an emotion with a ‘story’ or meaning behind it, the projections create a sense, in the “fullness”, that there is a story or myth somewhere.

Since these are projections of oneself they are “living”.  That is to say, they are more than a sensory perception or awareness.  It is we who make the world alive by our projection of ourselves.  The sense of ‘aliveness’ in the world is really the ‘aliveness’ within us.  This is ‘living projection’. 

Typically, ‘living images’ are a ‘living projection’ of a sense of something specific, a ‘fact’ portrayed as a specific entity, a “being”, that is there.  Because of this, it is perceived as something before you.  A ‘living theme’ is a ‘living projection’ of something more extensive and involved.  Because of this, it requires a “story”, “myth”, or explanation to bring out its fact and meaning.  As a result, both of these actually describe a spectrum:  the ‘living image’ is referring to something specific (like saying “there is a storm”) and ‘living themes’ refer to something more involved (like describing the seasons).  Because it is a spectrum, there are gradations between them that connect and bond the extremes together.  There are times, of course, where they can blend together.

Once these projections take place an ‘explanation’ of the world begins to unfold.  What I mean by that is that there becomes a sense of meaning in things, that things are there for a reason.  This starts to formulate all our awareness and perception into a somewhat of an organized pattern (instead of a bungled mass of sensations).  This is the ‘pre-explanation’.  It is before the sense of self has made an appearance.  As a result, it is very rudimentary and basic.  It is also a sense of meaning without a self.  When we get older we often re-experience this sense, creating feelings such as a sense of ‘profoundness’ or ‘innate understanding’ or something similar.  Because it is not associated with a self it seems to have a quality of a detached understanding.


As we grow we develop a sense of beingness, of us-in-the-world.  This comes from:

  • Experience.
  • Interacting with the world.
  • The projection of ourselves.

Since the pre-self is already in existence, it merges with it and a new self is developed:  the primal self.  The ‘primal self’ is the ‘pre-self’ with a sense of beingness.  Here we begin to develop a sense of ‘me’ or ‘I’ and that ‘I am’.

Normally, people think that this is where the ‘I’ or ‘me’ begins, but that’s only part of the picture.   In actuality, there are two forms of the ‘me’ that develops:

  1. The “me-as-the-world”.  Here, we identify the ‘me’ with the world.  This is because we project our selves upon the world.  In so doing, the world becomes a part of us and we identify our self with the world, making us and the world one.
  2. The “me-removed-from-the-world”.  Here we develop a sense of the ‘me’ as removed from the world.  Two senses are needed to create this sense:  the sense of the world and the sense of me.  This is what people normally think the ‘I’ or ‘me’ is.

Both of these, really, create a sense of ‘me’.  Normally, we view the ‘me’ as removed from the, as separate from the world.  But this perception is only partial and half the picture.  To truly perceive the ‘me’ we must see the world as part of us and that it, in a way, “accompanies” us, making us complete.  It is our ‘counterpart’, our ‘other half’.  Without it we are really nothing, much like bodies floating in a void.  The ‘me’ is only relevent in relation to the world.  Truly, to be ‘me’ we need a world to be me in.  As a result, the world must become a part of my identity and a part of who I am.  It is not just ‘something there’ but something integral to ‘me’ and it is a major part in its makeup.  In other words, a big part of the perception of the ‘me’ is that the ‘me’ is in the world and a part of it.   But the world is not ‘me’.  It is separate from ‘me’.  As a result, when we make it a part of ‘me’ we have to “extend” our self, our ‘me’, to encompass the world.  By extending our self or ‘me’ the world becomes a part of us.  This is ‘self extension’.

I should point out that ‘self extension’ is not the same as ‘living projection’, though they are similar.  ‘Living projection’ is a projection of oneself before the sense of self (beingness).  ‘Self extension’ is an extension of oneself with a sense of self (beingness).  They are really the same tendency, but in different stages of development.

‘Self extension’ creates a new sense:  ‘personal reality’.  This reality creates a strong sense of me-as-a-reality and is something only we, as individuals, know.  No one else can sense our ‘personal reality’.   The me-as-a-reality makes the ‘personal reality’ a “reality”.  It makes the ‘me’ real and, accordingly, the world-as-a-realilty (by the extension of self).  This ‘personal reality’ becomes who we are.  It becomes our situation in life.  It makes life a ‘fact’.  This shows that a lot of the development of the self is not with the self itself, but its association with the world.  This makes sense as beingness is really nothing but a sense of the self-in-the world.

The sense of beingness is not a result of pure sensation, of perceiving the world.  If it were then all we’d do is sit passive and sense it.  Beingness is a result of the extension of our self.  It describes, really, an association.  As a result, it is an “active” sensation, a “living” sensation.  This is because this ‘self extension’ creates a number of qualities:

  • It places us in the world, making the world fact.
  • It makes the world a part of us, making the world personal.

These qualities of beingness are created because of a quality the self has that makes it more than just mere perception:  “primacy of self”.  This innate quality makes it so that everything we do is based with the self in mind.  This would make sense as the purpose of the self is to maintain and keep the self alive.  Because of this there is a natural tendency for the self to place itself above everything else, only dealing with things that concern it.  In that sense, ‘primacy of self’ is really nothing but a form of self-preservation and self-maintaining.  Through the ‘primacy of self’ we stay alive in the world and do what is required to stay alive.  Naturally, this is a very important and strong impulse.

The ‘primacy of self’ makes it so that all our perceptions all revolve around what is relevent to us, that is, to our self.  The world is all looked at, interpreted, and seen from the perspective of the self.  As a result, we only see one conception of the world, the ‘conception-by-self’.  This makes it so that we create a conception of the world which follows these patterns:

  • We give interpretations, explanations, etc. that fit our self and that has relevance for the self.
  • We only see things and perceive things that has some relation with the self.
  • We disregard, or do not see, things that is not associated with the self.

What this means is that the ‘primacy of self’ creates, in actuality, a narrow perception of the world, a perception of the world that is only relevent to the human condition.  It makes it so that all our perceptions are human perceptions revolving around human concerns and human reality.  This makes the world “human”.  But, by being only “human” in perspective, it is limited in its breadth and extent.  This shows that a major element of ‘self extension’ is that it makes the world a human world so that is relevent to our human reality and our self.

By extending our self into the world in beingness it makes the world “active”, that is to say, it makes the world ‘living’ or ‘alive’.  Losing this sense of ‘livingness’ seems to be associated with depression.  Without this sense of ‘livingness’ it makes life seem unlivable.  This shows that depression is often a result of no longer extending our self into the world.  The world is ‘there’ but ‘dead’.

This extension of self is so powerful that it creates another stage of self growth: the ‘world self’.


As our different self’s develop, as well as our experiences, the ‘moment-self’ begins to take prominence.  We become more and more aware of what happens at-the-moment.  It allows us to do things such as:

  • Focus and concentrate.
  • Do organized activities.
  • Be aware of what’s going on around us.

The ‘moment self’ allows us to act in the world and to do things.  As a result, the world becomes something we associate with and participate with.  As a result, there becomes a growing separation between the ‘me’ and the world with the ‘moment self’ in-between, such as:

the ‘me’—–the ‘moment self’—–the world

This association creates the ‘world self’ The ‘world self’ is that part of us that maintains ourselves in the world.  It requires us to keep a hold of ourselves and who we are in relation to the world.  As a result, it develops a strong sense of “I”.

Keep in mind that the ‘world self’ is not in absolute control, though it may seem like it.  This is because the ‘moment self’ creates a “centering” on the ‘world self’.  This is because the ‘world self’ is what keeps us sustained and alive in the world.  It is self-protective and self-sustaining.  As a result, it takes a priority of all the self’s.  This is the ‘world self centering’.  That is to say, there is a centering of existence, of awareness of the life, on the ‘world self’.  It gives the illusion that the ‘world self’ is all there is in existence, that it is life-as-existing.

The ‘world self centering’, and its illusion of dominance, tends to create two main character types of people:

  1. The ‘world self dominated character’.  These are people who are very “rooted” in the world.  They tend to be aware of the ‘world self’ primarily. What it reveals is everything.   People of this character tend to be ‘in the world’, extraverted, practical, and somewhat shallow.  A person of this character might say something like “I only believe what I can see”.
  2. The ‘casual world self character’.  These are people who are not dominated by the world self and generally have a sense that there is more to them, and life, then what the ‘world self’ reveals.  People of this character tend to be mystical, religious-like, introverted, and deep minded.  A person of this character might say “there are things in life we can never understand”.

The ‘world self’ impacts us in several ways:

  1. The fact of the world, that it is there and we live in it and must live in it.
  2. The need of the world.  It makes us need the world and existence, good or bad.  We need to be in it and experience it, regardless of the situation.

Both of these force the self to appear.  In many ways, they ‘wake up’ the self and our lives and force to act in life.


After the ‘world self’ appears we still continue to feel the primal and pre-self from time to time.  Some people may feel it more strongly than others and some people hardly at all.

But because of the ‘world self centering’ there often develops something like a ‘war’ or conflict which takes place between the pre-self/primal self, and the ‘world self’.  This war or conflict constitutes the ‘post self’.

The ‘world self centering’ is a very strong impulse and does not like things intruding upon it.  Generally, it wants center stage.  When the older self’s appear, from time to time, it upsets the ‘world self’ and causes a disruption with the ‘world self centering’.  It can cause a number of reactions:

  • A feeling of being threatened.
  • A feeling of being off-balance.
  • A feeling of confusion.

As a result, there is often a tendency for it to prevent the appearance of the earlier self’s.  This is most pronounced with the ‘world self dominated character’ who can outright refuse to accept it.  The ‘casual world self character’ will generally be more accepting of it, even though it may even frighten them.  What this shows is that the severity of the post-self depends on the person’s character.

In this war of the post-self the great questions of life appear.  Questions of spirituality, religiousness, and an inquiring into the meaning of life and things become dominant.  These, really, are the sensations of the pre-self/primal self starting to surface.  Once they appear, it’s often difficult for the ‘world self’ to make sense of them, often creating a great dilemma and turmoil in a person.  For some people, this conflict can cause great pain and anguish and despair which often never go away.

In effect, the ‘post self’ is trying to ‘unite’ and ‘bring together’ all the self’s into one unity.  This displays a quality found in the ‘post self’: the ‘drive to unity of the selfs’.  It’s as if it wants the whole person to be united in some way, and it causes a general “bringing together” of the self’s to make this happen.  The ‘world self’, being so centered, tends to prevent this from happening.  It tries to make all the self’s and awareness “centered” upon it.  This, of course, conflicts with the ‘drive to unity of the selfs’.

Not only that, being that the different self’s are so different and developed at different times under different conditions, they are actually incompatible with each other.  They are like different worlds, different realities, that often have no real association with one another.  This shows the ‘incompatability of the selfs’.  This, also, conflicts with the ‘drive to unity of the selfs’.

Also, because the self’s are incompatible and separate, they are as if fighting amongst themselves within us.  One may show strength here, another there.  It also reveals that we always have ‘other selfs’, often hidden deep within us.  This is the ‘muliplicity of selfs’ that we all have.

All in all, the ‘post self’ creates a dilemma within us all, creating things like despair, existential problems, confusion, pain, and other things.  Many conflicts in adult life are caused by the ‘post self’.  It can be so powerful that it can wear us down and make life miserable.  But its intention is to unify the self and it can lead to another self:  the ‘greater self’.


The war of the ‘post-self’ tends to create a self that is more “unified”, though never completely.  This unified self creates a new self:  the ‘greater self’.  It tends to be developed more strongly in people who follow the inclinations of the post-self.  As a result, not everyone follows the ‘post-self’ and moves to the ‘greater self’.

The ‘greater self’, because it involves the older self’s and awareness, tends to be a more introspective, intuitive, mystical, and spiritual. But it must be more than that.  It must be rooted in the world as well.  In other words, it is a self that is both in the world and connected with the older self’s.  In many ways, the ‘greater self’ is the unification of the great expanse of our experience as human beings, from our deepest inner aspects of ourselves to the reality of the world, and to make them one unity.  It is as if to make us ‘complete’ and ‘whole’.  In many ways, we are all seeking the ‘greater self’ for, since it is all the self’s unified, it is us complete and, as such, we experience life more completely.

One of the problems is that the unifying is never completed . . . it can’t be.  It is a process that goes on and on in one’s life but never finishes.  As a result, the ‘greater self’ is only ‘glimpsed’ and occasionally seen.  It is never absolutely complete.  It is more like a process or a road taking us somewhere.  We never reach the ‘place’.  This creates an endless questing-like attitude with the greater self, the ‘greater self quest’.

Because of its association with the ‘greater self’ and the unity of ones life, it’s really no secret that this endless questing quality is one of the ‘secrets’ of life.  Even though the quest causes an imbalance in us, it is the unbalance that makes us do and be in life.  We are always seeking, doing, striving.  Without this quality we’d be like vegetables.  As a result, a big part of the ‘greater self’ is accepting this imbalance, this endless quest, and the fact that one never attains the ‘answer’ or ‘place’ one seeks.


These phases of the self tend to follow an age range:

–  The ‘pre-self’ – womb and infant (up to a year or so).

–  The ‘primal self ‘- womb, infant, and earlier years(up to four or so).

– The ‘world self’ – toddler years to death (about three or so to death).

– The ‘post self’ – adolescence to death (about teenage years to death).

– The ‘greater self’ – adulthood to death (about twenties to death).

Of course, these generally go in gradations and have variations of influence with different people.  There are also overlaps.  Keep in mind that once a mind is ‘there’ it exists in one’s mind.  Though we may not be consciously aware of it, it lies hidden.  It’s just dormant.  Once the ‘world self’ is there it becomes the dominant aspect of ones self.  The ‘post self’ and ‘greater self’ appear later, almost like ‘side selfs’, so to speak.  They will tend to influence and change the ‘world self’.  For some people it can have great effect.  For others it makes almost no impact at all.  As a result, everyone experiences and develops these stages differently and in different intensities.


The ‘pre-self’ and ‘primal self’ are often re-experienced deliberately by a sense that can be described as a ‘separation of self’.  Often, this can be so extreme that it can be experienced as if one “separated from ones body”.  In reality I believe it is nothing but the decreasing of the ‘centering’ of the ‘world self’.  That is to say, the dominance of the ‘world self’ is diminished allowing these other self’s to be more dominant.  Many techniques of prayer, contemplation, meditation, shamanistic ‘journeying’, and such involve this basic idea.

This separation of self is often done a number of ways,such as:

  • By putting the ‘world self’ to “sleep”.  This could be by sleep itself, relaxing, dozing, not thinking, and such.
  • By concentration.  When we focus our minds or concentrate on things the ‘world self’ often decreases in power allowing other aspects of our self’s to appear.  Much of art, and other creative things, are done in this way.
  • By a hypnotic effect.  The best example of this would be some shamans who use drums to as if ‘transport them to another world’ (that is, self).  Music, melodies, some activities, and even thought, can have a similar effect.

Often, when we do these types of things we “experience” or “feel” different things.  A “new side” of us may even come out, even a creative ability.  These all reflect aspects of our other self’s that, if allowed to surface, can effect, influence, and even change our lives.  In reality, most of us do various forms of these, often very mild, to bring out our other self’s . . . we just don’t know it.


A lot of meaning in life comes from projection/extension, not knowledge or works of the self.  The fact is that a lot of the worth and meaning in life originate in our ability and success at projection/extension.  Knowing something, really, is just “knowing” but projection/extension makes it something . . . it makes it real . . . it makes it alive.  In so doing, it makes things relevent, giving them a solidity and certainty and ‘fact’.  With this, it has a ‘meaning’.  In reality, projection/extension is what makes things meaningful. 

In the age of Mr. Intellectual and Mr. Everything-Needs-To-Make-Sense, we have turned everything into “what I think” or “what I understand”.  We have turned meaning and understanding into an intellectual act based on whether we understand it or not.  In reality, we have degraded meaning and, in many ways, robbed ourselves of the ability to create meaning.  Is it any wonder why people nowadays, in the age of science and intellectualism, has difficulty finding meaning in anything?  This shows the fact that intellectualism is not that effective in creating meaning.

Meaning, in many ways, is making the world a “platform” for our self, seeing the world as our self It is not in ‘understanding’ it.  When the world becomes a part of the ‘me’ it “makes sense”. 

This is why projection/extension is so important and why it plays such a big part in the development of our self.


All this shows how the different stages of the self, throughout all our life, has an impact on us throughout our life.  Our different self’s become like a repository of the different human experiences and reality that make up our life.  Despite our development and growth our different self’s remain to help us and can make us live better.  We are always wanting to bring them all together to as if create a unified, ‘whole’, and ‘complete’ person.  This makes it so that human life is nothing but an ever-striving for a complete reality of our life and who we are as a person.

(Also see my articles “Thoughts of the idea of mortality – the “identity gap”, the “threshold self”, and the “identity gap/pre-self tendency”“, “Thoughts on ‘inherent truth’“, and “Thoughts on ‘life irritation’ – aspects on the burden of living“).


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Existence, Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Religion and religious stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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