The inner self

I finally got around to doing some diagrams about how I see my inner self (the spiritual person) and its different parts. I have written extensively about this in previous posts, but since I am a designer more than I am a philosopher or psychologist (I studied all three in college), I wanted to draw it out in a diagram. So the inner self, in its most basic form, seems to be composed of 3 elements – my heart (the real me) and my two influences, my self-destructive nature (selfish nature) and my conscience (my self-preserving nature). Below shows a diagram of each.This is a study that is very important to me, and is one of the main reasons why I started the weblog (among others). For my working theory is if I can understand the inner self (starting with me as the primary subject), its components and their makeup and interactions, I will better understand the reality of further circles of influences (personal relationships -> community -> society -> time period -> existence) But it all starts with how a single person works, on the inside. Below is the diagram that represents basically the entirety of all the philosophy, psychology, and spiritual reading and thinking I’ve done on the spiritual human being in the past 20 years.


At first glance, you might see this and immediately think of the iconic demon and angel sitting on a person’s shoulder whispering in their ear, but bear with me! There’s a lot more to this diagram and the thinking that goes behind it.

Before continuing, it might be good look at the stuff I’ve written before about the 2 natures as pre-reading:

After reading the discussion on these two natures, it is plain to see that the above diagram is far too simplified. So below is a more detailed diagram of the inner self:



A couple of interesting observations about the inner self:

  • Your conscience or your selfish nature is not the real you. They are only influences. This is very important to perceive this difference. No person is inherently evil, they have just chosen to be influenced heavily by their selfish nature, consciously or unconsciously.
  • A person will always have both natures. You can never get rid of either one, otherwise you would be a moral robot.
  • The self destructive nature is a person’s default nature. If they are unthinking about how they live, this nature will slowly grow and have more influence in their life. With no active energy towards following their conscience, a person will adopt the default – the morally atrophied state.
  • The self-destructive nature is learned, not a-priori knowledge. We have to learn to be selfish by first learning what we like and don’t like. However, inner morality is something I’m thinking we are born with. We intuitively know when something we do is right or wrong to some muddled or crystal clear degree.
  • The self-destructive nature is fuzzy and hard to see its boundaries and its influence – so I gave it a fuzzy border.
  • Everyone has a conscience, regardless of their world view or belief system.
  • A person’s conscience is in constant tension because false cultural morality (a.k.a the selfish nature) has taken over a large part of it. How large a part depends on what culture you happen to be living in. I would venture to guess that almost every culture has their mores taken prisoner by 50% or more.
  • There is a difference between cultural morality and personal ethics. I believe personal ethics transcends culture and time and is pre-known (a-priori) knowledge for everyone.
  • Social morality (the moral code imposed by our culture on us) makes up a large part of our conscience. Unfortunately, the selfish nature has infiltrated all spheres of human activity, so aspects of a society’s self-destructive nature manifested on a societal scale disguises itself as cultural morality, but people are forced to follow it and feel guilty if they don’t.
  • Of the two natures, the conscience for some reason has a weaker influence on a person, no matter what. This is the way it will always be and nothing can change this.
  • The dark side of our conscious, the part where the self-destructive nature invades and masquerades as cultural morality, has a much stronger influence than cultural morality sourced from a person’s a priori ethics.
  • A person close to their a priori ethics will be in opposition to their popular culture because a large part of it (50% or more) is sourced from the self-destructive nature. In fact, a person who is close to their a priori ethics will question all cultural morality as truly ethical because of its taint.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: The self-destructive nature can never taint personal ethics. My guess is because it is innate knowledge. The only way its influence is reduced is by personal choice – to simply ignore it.

However, the diagram above is still inaccurate. Most of the time, the strength of either nature is probably never equal in size to the other – so the two circles should probably be different sizes in reality. In my next post I want to show what happens to a person when one of the two natures is much bigger than the other.

    11 Responses to “The inner self”

    1. darling24_7

      I think its great that you are working on trying to distinguish and understand the many facets of your inner self.

      Its a never ending cycle of trying to figure something out as the outer environment affects us in so many ways. Theres a constant change in personalitlies, beliefs and yes even our morals.

      Maybe its simple of me to state the following, this is how I see things and you might have already thought of this.

      We are made up of many different things as far as moral, values, mental spiritual and physical. Adding the want/need and the good and bad and the dark and light. All these things need each other to exsist.

      Without one the other would not exsist. Would there be goodness if evil didnt exsist? If we didnt know what was good would we know if we did something bad?

      Maybe Ive just decided not to delve into the detailed inner workings of myself as you have. Maybe I started and came to a pont where I realized that everything needs to be fed. The selfish parts of me, the giving part, the spritual side, the all the dimensions that youve mentioned in all 3 posts linked to this reply.

      The one thing that remains constant is my conscious self that acknowledges that whatever I am doing is categorized in one thing or another and what it will take to satisfy that need. Not satisfying a certain aspect whether it be selfish, goodness or my spirituality only makes it hungry and if it is starved then creates the self destructing snowball effect once its acknowledged. Even the good if it is starved. As youve mentioned in one of your posts. Sometimes what we think is good actually harms. In an effort to do good, and in doing good, how does it cause harm? Perhaps because in the intense want of doing good the goodness has become tainted somehow. Twisted? quite and I acknowledge the twistedness that is me 🙂

      Were all made up of many aspects good bad and indifferent. Its a precious balance that must be kept and to keep all aspects happy, our conscious self (which hopefully is good and not marred by other influences too much) has to be aware of what is happening. Why it is happening and make sure that the balance doesnt tip over to the dark side. Should things tip over the dark side then we have the ability to make decisions that although are darker, minimizes the negative effect on ourselves and the people around us.

      IE if I know that things arent going well and that the balance has shifted. In order to satisfy the dark selfish hunger I have for something. I indulge, in something deliciously decadent. I make sure that I wrap myself in the selfishness and enjoy it. That too shall pass. I, as a conscious being decide on what this decadent partaking will be. I decide the whens, wheres, hows and whys. I also make sure that it does good in some way. So in its selfish duration feed the need and at the same time there is some good that comes from it. Like learning something new which is good. Like helping someone out. The end product if its something good then it is so bad?

      So anyway… this has been a bit long winded and I apologize. Basically in a nutshell. Every aspect feeds on each other. Theres nothing that truly selfish if good is being accomplished (personally speaking of course)and as good is being fed theres a part of the selfish side that smirls at the inner glow it gives us. Thats selfish is it not.. somewhat? To take pride in doing good for someone else? We feel better because of it and that self indulgent…

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    2. Johnny

      Interesting diagram!

      I am particularly intrigued by your view of conscience. I think it is right that selfishness often creeps in and is culturally learned as a virtue. My question is about the relationship between a priori morality and culturally learned morality. Is culturally learned morality derived from the a priori morality? How does one discover a priori morality? Does everyone just “know” it or must it be worked out in the way that other a priori disciplines are i.e. logic and mathematics?

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    3. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Hey, good stuff! So much thinking and good topics, I hardly know how to give each one a good response. You are right to be worried about the inner self as being a strange place to go and look at under the microscope. It’s hard to say what you will ever find there.

      When you said that everything within the inner self needs to be fed, you got me thinking. Looking at my diagram (who knows if its accurate or not, but we’ll just use it for discussion), our two influences (the selfish and the conscience), and our hearts (the true us) vie for our attention to listen to what they want, and to act and go in the direction of their pushing. They are all influences on our will, the active part of our hearts.

      This is just me coming from my worldview, but it seems to be that if we have any needs, they are ALWAYS good. How we go about satisfying those needs (indulging in them as you say) might not always be the most beneficial, but the fact remains that the original need, no matter how it is satisfied, is a good need! The method of satisfaction of a need could range from good to very bad, but probably in most cases, its satisfaction can be obtained to some degree. How often I have indulged in satisfying a need badly, and ended up feeling unfulfilled. An example would be eating. We have a need – nourishment. How do we satisfy it? We could indulge in Burger King 3 times a day, and get really sick, but we would still receive the benefits of nourishment, although it would probably be meager. (By the way, I tried this when I was a teenager and got very sick. 🙂 ) So there seems to be a way to satisfy a need, but that does not mean it is fulfilling, it just means it did an adequate job.

      So what I am getting at is this very important belief of mine: That all human needs are GOOD. We are designed a certain way that includes an ideal way to satisfy them. We are designed.

      How you satisfy those needs can range from ideal to demonic. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that eating the very best is the way to satisfy the need? What guides our choice to satisfy it ideally or terribly? Our conscience and our self-destructive nature. The need itself originates in our hearts (or in this case, our hypothalamus) Herein lies my tear-my-hair-out problem. As you can see in the diagram, the self-destructive nature would have us choose the bad choice to satisfy any need, and it will have stronger weight on our decision making process then our conscience will. Why? Why are we drawn to what we know in our conscience is wrong? It looks better? It tastes better? It feels better? Because it is forbidden? Forbidden to whom? Us? Our own conscience? Against society? Good questions I intended to answer some day, but in the end, regardless of why the selfish nature is the stronger influence, it is a lie. Just because it looks good, feels good, and tastes good does not make it good, because our conscience KNOWS what is good, and anything that isn’t, well, is bad and therefore self-destructive.

      Nonetheless, I still go to Burger King every now and then. 🙂

      Seriously though, a need for nourishment is just one type of need, and it is one that the physical bodies needs, but since I believe we are spiritual, we also have spiritual needs that originate in the heart. The biggest one I can think of is the need to be wanted, to be loved, to be cherished by someone.

      You are right that something bad happens when our needs go unmet for too long. If we go hungry for too long, our bodies scream at us to find nourishment. If injustice goes on for too long, our conscience will scream at us until we finally act. If our hearts scream out to be cherished and loved, even though we’ve bought the lie that we aren’t worth cherishing, we will seek it out anyway regardless of if it is the ideal way. This used to be a tough problem for me, but not any longer since God gave me that dream. But the bottom line is that the need is not bad, it is GOOD.

      I think you are right about the existence of good and evil needing the other to exist. Not necessarily that we should indulge in evil to make good exist, though (not what you were saying, but I must say it because I believe the opposite). The way I see it is that the a-priori ethics part of my conscience came first, and by living life, I begin to learn what is good by experience. When I do something for the first time, I innately feel that it was good or bad (or indifferent in rare cases). The bad is immediately filed into the halls of my self-destructive nature, and a new way to hurt myself is now born and begins to haunt me with a pull stronger than my conscience. The more I discover what is right, the greater my self-destructive nature grows. Its influence will grow if I do not actively and consciously fight it.

      Do you see why my inner nature is so frustrating? Do you see why it is hard to draw an identity from there, which is hardly more than a war zone to the person desperately trying to do what their a-priori ethics tell them is right? I feel at times my identity closely resembles a fighter or a warrior rather than a creative artist. If you’ve read my post on the selfish nature, and my other post on the danger of philosophical thinking, I talk about the tragedy of my selfish nature having the power to cloud my memory of what is right and wrong as well. Huge battles to understand life-changing truth can be forgotten with a busy life and the passage of time. Unfair and frustrating. It seems to me that the odds are stacked against me. I am in a state to self-destruct if I do not continually fight for what is right within me, much less outside of me. I don’t blame you for looking inside and not liking what you saw. It’s a bloody battlefield for me, filled with the blood and gore of great causes, ideals and moments of choosing what I knew was right – more dead or dying than alive and fighting.

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    4. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Good questions on the relationship of cultural morality and a-priori ethics, and you’ve read my mind for a future post on where influences come from external to my inner nature. You probably have better insight than I do on this subject, but I’ll toss this out:

      To answer your questions briefly (because I want to discuss it in depth later along with the questions darling24_7 brought up) a-priori ethics are worked out by experiencing life. In some cases, you may not know what is right until you do it, and then you know. Once you get the basics of right/wrong based on experience, you can start to see patterns in where good can be applied across similar situations, so you don’t have to continually experience every single situation in life without a clue to its ethical implications. So it sounds like I’m saying it is learned, but it is not. You have an intuitive measuring stick to measure each action against – you just don’t know what it is until the unique situation in life occurs. A large part of our morality is roughed out as children. I can say this because I remember very clearly learning right and wrong as a child – I have a wildly good memory for some reason of my childhood. Many situations where I learned morality were not from my parents telling me, but from me learning by myself.

      A society’s morality is created by the inner-nature makeup of its most influential members. This does not mean the majority, nor the ones in political power, but whoever is most influential to the most number of people in any given culture. In this area, truth doesn’t matter, people’s perceptions do. Ask any marketing guru. People perceive morality though whatever channel and whatever social institution they are most influenced by (peer pressure, political party, media, church, etc.) If the people behind those influences have strong selfish natures, then so will the cultural moral code that people will feel drawn to follow as virtue. If the influential people live close to their a-priori ethics, then the cultural moral code will draw people to follow their ethical side. However, I am a realist – no matter how good a society is, it will never be more than 50% close to any a-priori ethics common to all men. The selfish nature is too strong. People in positions of influence are even more drawn to their selfish natures. You’ve heard of the old cliche “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Although I don’t totally believe that, there seems to be some truth there.

      Cultural morality is the manifestation of the same inner makeup of influential individual people within it on a larger scale. That is why I am trying so hard to understand the inner self first – because that holds the keys to how human society is formed and how it evolves.

      I’m curious to see what your thinking is on this. I’m not a unique thinker – a lot of my ideas are heavily influenced by Freud and Socrates, a few Christian thinkers who I greatly respect – John Eldridge and C.S. Lewis, but mostly a lot of cognitive and general psychology books I’ve read.  I took a number of psych courses in collage, and almost got a concentration.

      Reply to this comment.
    5. darling24_7

      Hey Jonathan,

      The inner self inspecting that I have done is by no means anything in detail like you have begun with yours. Mine has been an on again off again self evaluation of sorts used to ground me and sort of cleaning out the closet. Try to remove the negatives and see how the positives are doing and faring. I know there cant be just goodness in us and so the negatives that I carry I prefer to be the one to choose which ones I have. In as much as I have a choice that is.

      My thinking here is basic as I try not to confuse myself as that happens quite easily sometimes 🙂

      So, I hope you wont be trying that Burger King experiment again and youve learned your lesson there.

      Using something like the measuring stick that youve mentioned is a good way to describe how I see the different and many aspects of our inner selves. It needs to be balanced and in order to balance, something needs to be topped up/indulged. In order to do so (and were all different in this way) I look at the possible outcomes and decide on the one that causes less friction for anyone. The friction if any, I have to be able to handle myself or at least take the most of. So any negative vibes that emit from the act of satisfying/indulging rests mostly within me. Self destructing some would say… I say careful planning. I would never put myself in danger of going through something that I couldnt handle nor would I want someone else to suffer because of my decision. I also know that its not aleays this easy. We make things more complicated than they are sometimes and well… sometimes it is just easy.

      If we know that we choose something that isnt good. can we choose the path that will cause the least amount of ripples?

      Taking your example of over indulging with food. Not eating the right things. Yes thats something that people do that dont help them in many ways. Nutritionally, we know theres little value in what our bodies needs. Future issues that come with that is any habitual indulgence in eating food lacking in nutrition affect health and health waning will cause mental conflict as far as appearance (societys influence), self confidence will wane and so on.

      Every action has a reaction and everyone needs to be aware and contemplate a little longer before they act. (I think)

      You are absolutley right about it being a constant struggle to make a decision. Being good isnt easy 🙂 The gift of choice is powerful.

      Not that I didnt like what I saw when I looked within me. In fact its an eye opener. In my own way to twist things around I saw the things that were good, bad and indifferent. I saw them and knew that it was me. All of them. No matter how much I try to get rid of one. No matter how much I try and overwhelm one part to try and satisfy it for the rest of my life so I am left with only the good things. Its not so and doesnt work that way. Ive personally decided to love every good, bad and indifferent part of me and live simply and try to do more good than bad.

      Ive found that Ive accepted everything in me that makes me… me. I can use one to help with the other.

      SO like the food we have a choice of what to feed ourselves. We have a choice of what to bring inside us. Choice to do something to a large degree or to a small degree.

      I agree with your knowing good and being able to recognize it when we do it and yes every situation is different and we wont know something until it happens and the outcome of it being good or not.

      Knowlegde is power with each good and bad. For me to continuously win the fight 🙂 and its a struggle sometimes as you are a aware. You have to understand the other side. We are inhently good I believe. Influences change that and choices that lead you away from the path makes it difficult yes. In order for me anyway to do well and do right. I understnad the other side.

      Like in an arguement with someone its best to understand where they are coming from, why they are reacting and such which will help bring you to a compromise that satisfies both. Find out the details of the ‘bad/evil’ learn how it moves, manifests and grows. So that you can counter it with ‘good/light and positives’.

      Knowlegde is power. Evil/bad knows that in order for us to lean that way.. it has to be more appealing that what is not. Good/Light has remained steadfast in its simplicity and remains unassuming. It, as far as I have seen hasnt morphed into something that needs to tempt. Evil/bad has multiplied, morphed, mutated and become so abundant that its no wonder we are struggling.

      Knowledge is power. Stick to simplicity.

      As for what you see inside yourself. Im not anyone… but if the things youve done or not done or should have said and didnt. Youve learned something from it and thats something good. Youre doing the best you can. Thats all anyone can ask for.

      LOL another long one. Sorry.

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    6. Mark

      Very interesting. I will come back when I have more time to digest all of your thoughts. I am interested in hearing you expand on why you see the “Self-Distructive Nature” as the default.

      Reply to this comment.
    7. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Thanks for commenting Mark!
      Sorry I haven’t approved your comment for so long! My wife just had a baby while we were out of town visiting family! What a crazy time!! I will return soon and answer your question really as best as I can because its a really important one…

      Reply to this comment.
    8. Forgetful God

      This is an interesting diagram…I especially like the fact that I started with basically the same thing. The problem is that both sides are actually just reflections of the heart…quite literally they are both STILL you, but they are working together/against each other to make life what it is. Duality…isn’t it fun?
      Recently I wrote a book about how the mind works and how it came to be what it is. I would very much like to get your opinion on it. Please visit my blog and click on the book “You Are” on the right side of the screen. It’s free and only about 90 pages long…a quick read but worth it (in my humble opinion).

      By the way, congratulations on the baby…it’s always nice to see a reflection of your own mind being born again into the world. I have one on the way soon as well.

      A Forgetful God

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    9. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Forgetful God,
      Thanks for commenting! I would like to read your book! I do think you are onto something. We all have the potential to become something very much like the divine. As C.S. Lewis said, even the most boring person around us now will seem a creature of worship in the next life if we were to see him thus in this one. Even the angels are watching us wondering what will become of creation once we are fully realized a.k.a. ‘glorified’ in Christian-ese. 🙂

      Congrats on your baby coming soon!  Kids sure are a blessing.

      Reply to this comment.
    10. aaron bentley

      i have read your article and fid it very intersting but i think we can never truly under who we are because we are constanly changing due to experince, and therfore the influence that we allow to affect the real us changes too, so does that mean we are only a reflection of our surroundings. im only 16 and if im talking rubbish feel free to say so thx

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    11. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      You are not talking rubbish at all. You are right in that this diagram is always in flux. The makeup and boundaries of our inner self are constantly changing. It is hard to nail down who we are at any given point in time.

      Sadly, we are a product of our surroundings to a large degree. I for one believe it is very hard for a person to overcome their negative influences. I have been lucky to have a large amount of positive influences in my life. I grew up with a father and mother that truly cared about me, in a community of people that really loved me and looked after me too. It has made me who I am today. Not everyone has such a lucky beginning in life, and it is something I have over time come to realize, and have given people huge breaks because of this.

      But if we find ourselves hopelessly enslaved to our self-destructive nature, and our morality seems to have been broken too many times, there is still so much hope. To realize this bad state is a great thing.

      But it is hopefully refreshing to realize that your true heart is not evil. Your self-destructive nature is and many of society’s rules have the taint of that nature behind them as well. It is impossible to fight your own destructive nature if you believe that the real you, your true heart, is evil without hope. You can fight it. I mentioned this in a replay to your other comment, but I can repeat it quickly here because it is so important: You must realize that you are greatly loved by the One who made you – take back you heart from its constant bad influences – protect it. You must realize who you are to effectively fight against your darker nature. This is the continual fight of the spiritual life. Fighting against actual people is a distant second to the volume of time and energy you will spend fighting inside your own inner self.

      In case you were interested, I did not come up with the concept of the separated influences, it was from a bunch of other sources, the earliest and most notable was from Paul. I paraphrase Paul’s use of the word “Law” with “nature” – an independent entity that exists in our inner selves and never goes away:

      14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

      21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

      It seems like the answer to the problem of the desolation of the self-destructive nature upon our hearts is to find the strength with the One who made you in the first place – who is rooting for you without condemnation while you fight.

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