7 vital self-improvement lessons

Premises Underlying
 This Web Site

How Do Your Beliefs Compare?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/site/premises.htm

Updated 01-03-2015

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Chiseled over the portal of the ancient Greek temple at Delphi:

"Human beings have always employed an enormous amount of clever devices for running away from themselves... We can keep ourselves busy, fill our lives with so many diversions, stuff our heads with so much knowledge, involve ourselves with so many people and cover so much ground that we never have time to probe the fearful and wonderful world within... By middle life, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves."  - John Gardner

Go within, or go without - Neale Walsch, in "Conversations with God"

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      This YouTube video by the author previews what you'll find in this article...

      The purpose of the article is to raise your awareness of some vital beliefs you hold which significantly affect your life. This is not about what's right or wrong, it's about knowing yourself. The alternatives are unawareness, unrealistic expectations, reality distortions, and significant stress and pain.

      The content of this nonprofit educational Web site has been evolving since 1986, triggered by my starting to recover from a very low-nurturance (dysfunctional) childhood. The site is based on 50 adult years' observing and studying human development and behavior. For more on my background and credentials, see this.

      Premise - You'll enjoy your life and relationships more and accomplish more with them if you become aware of your basic beliefs on....

Persons (like YOU)

Personalities (like yours) and healing psychological wounds

Needs and nurturing


Human change

Relationships and relationship problems

Bonding, losses, and grieving

Effective communication

Spirituality and religion

Human systems

      All the articles in this self-improvement Website are designed to promote awareness on what you believe about these primal topics.

      If you find an unfamiliar or confusing term, see these definitions.

To get the most from this article...

  • decide whether your true Self is guiding your other busy subselves now. See premise #1 below.

  • read the introduction to this self-improvement Web site if you haven't done so already.

  • choose an undistracted time and place, and the open-minded curiosity of a student. Expect to learn something useful.

  • try this simple awareness exercise. Then with each premise below, reflect on whether you Agree, Disagree, or ? (something else). Take your time!

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises about Persons (You)

      1) There has never been another person like you in the history of the Earth. You have...

  • a unique personality - i.e. a combination of your many subselves' talents, limitations, knowledge, beliefs, preferences, and motivations. Your subselves and instincts cause you...

  • a dynamic mix of current and long-range primary needs which cause your emotions, thoughts, and goals; and motivate your habits and behaviors. And you have...

  • indisputable rights as a dignified, worthy person; including...

  • the right to respectfully assert your primary needs to other people.

These traits apply to every other person on the planet. (A D ?)

      2) Every child and adult (like YOU) is uniquely qualified to provide something of high worth to living things that no one else can provide. Part of maturing is discovering your true life purpose and finding ways to manifest it. People usually guided by their wise, resident true Self and a responsive, benign Higher Power seem most likely to discover and manifest their unique life purpose or mission. (A D ?)

      Have you found your life purpose yet? Do you know anyone who has?

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises About Personalities, Wounds, and Healing

      This YouTube video provides perspective on what you're about to read:

      3) Starting in (or before?) infancy, all normal kids, and adults evolve a unique personality. Evidence suggests that normal (vs. pathological) personalities are composed of semi-independent, interactive subselves, like the talented members of an orchestra or sports team.

      One universal subself can be called the true Self (capital "S"). S/He is innately talented at motivating, coordinating, and guiding the other subselves in calm and stressful situations. When one or more other subselves distrust and disable the Self, they become a "false self." (A D ?) For more perspective, see this article after you finish this

      Premise 4) True and false selves cause observable behaviors in adults and kids. This allows assessing anyone to see who's controlling their life. (A D ?)

      5) False-self dominance causes up to five interactive psychological wounds, ranging from mild to extreme. Recent research suggests that psychological stress during early childhood can significantly affect brain development and functioning. This promotes psychological wounds and long-term psychological, social, and physical health problems and premature death. (A D ?)

    6) Once aware of their psychological wounds and weary-enough of the wounds' painful effects ("hitting bottom''), any Grown Wounded Child (GWC) can evolve and work an effective way to "recover" - i.e. to (a) free their resident true Self, reduce their wounds, and improve key attitudes, priorities, and behaviors. (A D ?)

       7) The traditional labeling or diagnosis of abnormal behavior as "mental illness" and "sickness" is obsolete and potentially harmful. It promotes the use of expensive drugs to moderate (some) symptoms of psychological wounds, which hinders understanding and reducing the wounds thru appropriate therapy and learning. Similarly, ''wholistic health'' is a less polarizing and misleading tem than "mental health" (freedom from illness)" See this brief YouTube video for perspective.

      Lesson 1 in this Web site and its related guidebook are devoted to this vital wound-reduction ("recovery") process.

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises About Needs and Nurturing

      This YouTube video previews what you're about to read:

      8) All infants, kids, and adults (i.e. you) act to reduce current conscious and unconscious needs (discomforts). Much of our human behavior is need-driven. The rest is caused by primal instincts - automatic neurological and hormonal responses like breathing, sleeping, laughing, urinating, and digesting. Our needs (a) may conflict, and (b) vary in importance to us now and over time.

Often, what people think they need is a surface symptom of underlying primary needs. Anyone can develop the powerful skills of awareness and ''digging down'' to discern their primary needs. Trying to fill surface needs is like clipping off dandelion tops vs. pulling their roots - the primary needs remain unfilled, and the symptoms return. (Agree Disagree ?)

      Premise 9) All personal and social "problems" are unmet physical + psychological + spiritual + social needs (discomforts). Most personal and social conflicts are clashing needs ("I need to rest, and you need to dance."). Other conflicts are opposing values. "Problem-solving" and "conflict resolution" are the process of identifying, asserting, and filling each person's current primary needs "well enough." (A D ?)

      Recent research suggests that significant childhood trauma (e.g. abuse) can cause genes to activate which promote physical, cognitive, and psychological problems. We can wonder if such genes are then passed on to the next generation as part of the toxic [wounds + unawareness] cycle.

      10) Anyone (like you) can learn to be more aware of their primary needs and options for satisfying them at any time. Typical adults who have trouble doing this are psychologically wounded, unaware, and habitually self-neglectful. (A D ?)

      11) You are responsible for knowing and filling (satisfying) your primary needs. You may expect, ask, or demand that others help fill your needs, but you are ultimately responsible. You can choose who to help with their needs, how, when, and why. (A D ?)

    Premise 12) Nurturing means "filling needs." Every infant and child has an innate set of developmental needs. The adults who raised you and your childhood family can be ranked between "very unnurturing (dysfunctional)" to "highly nurturing (functional)," depending on how well your and their needs got met.

    This is also true of each of your ancestors and their childhood families. Families and groups where all adults' and kids' primary (vs. surface) needs are often filled well enough can be called "high nurturance." (A D ?)

      Recall - you're reading a summary of the basic beliefs underlying this educational Web site. This summary aims to help you clarify what you believe about several vital topics.

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises About Emotions

      13) Healthy infants, children, and adults constantly experience a dynamic mix of subtle to intense emotions (automatic mental + physical reactions) in response to...

  • current sensory information (taste, smell, sight, touch, hunger, thirst, sounds, etc.), and...

  • reactions to perceived and expected environmental changes.

      Emotions range from very pleasant (like satisfaction, joy, ecstasy, love, hope,...) to very unpleasant (e.g. terror, pain, overwhelm, jealousy, rage, remirse, depression, confusion, anxiety, disgust, frustration, hurt, guilt, and shame). (A D ?)

      14) Pleasant emotions occur when primary needs are filled, and/or certain brain areas are stimulated. Unpleasant emotions always signal some current primary needs aren't satisfied well enough. Because normal personalities are composed of semi-independent subselves (#3 above), infants, kids, and adults can feel several emotions at once - perhaps pleasant and unpleasant. (A D ?)

      15) The idea that some emotions are "negative," shameful, or bad is a myth. All emotions are useful ("positive") for identifying and filling unmet needs. (A D ?)

      Any motivated person can develop and use awareness and dig-down skills to identify their emotions and the primary needs that cause them. (A D ?)

      Premise 16) Typical men and women unconsciously re-create and seek the same level of nurturance (low to high) in their relationships, homes, and workplaces that they experienced as a young child. Once aware of this and accept full responsibility for filling their primary needs, anyone (e4.g. YOU) can improve (a) self-nurturance and (b) the nurturance-level of your environments over time. (A D ?)

      More basic premises about persons that shape this Web site...

      17) Normal unimpaired people have three "minds" - conscious, semi-conscious, and unconscious. "Unconscious" means "outside my awareness." Your perceptions and reactions every moment are shaped by a dynamic mix of body sensations and reactions in your three minds and primal instincts. Your minds (i.e. your personality subselves), body cells, and glands interact with each other in complex ways you can't understand, but can often "sense" or "intuit." (A D ?)

      18) Every person has the innate ability to sense spiritual guidance and comfort from a (the?) Higher Power. This ability often manifests as a personality subself which acts as a tireless liaison to your Higher Self, your soul, and other spiritual mentors or powers.

      Your Spiritual subself matures with age and experience, and wisely advises your Self and other Manager subselves in important situations. Many Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) can't hear or trust this priceless wisdom until hitting true bottom and choosing personal wound reduction. (A D ?)

      19) People who grow a non-judgmental interest in what's going on outside and "inside" of them (thoughts, feelings, urges, "senses," dreams, patterns, processes, sensations, intuitions, bodily processes, hunches...) gradually learn to live more self-directed, satisfying, productive, days and nights.

      Aware people also seem more apt to spontaneously provide more empathic nurturance to kids and other adults. People often ruled by false selves are frequently too distracted by inner conflicts and reacting to others' behaviors to notice and understand what's going on "inside." That can change any day - specially after experiencing some form of personal bottom. (A D ?)

      20) At any time, anyone (like you) can be judged to be somewhere between wholistically healthy to unhealthy. Your degree of health will promote or hinder your developing your full potential as a unique person - i.e. progressing on your life's purpose or mission (self actualization).

    How well your basic developmental needs were met during your early-childhood years has significantly affected how harmonious or chaotic your personality subselves are, and who usually leads them. Genetic factors also affect this in little-known ways. (A D ?)

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - Do you agree with these premises about persons? If not, are you clear on what you do believe? Do you need a break before continuing?

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises About Bonding, Losses, and Grieving

      21) Starting in infancy, wholistically-healthy people unconsciously form weak to strong attachments (bonds) with other people and things. We also bond with special things, places, sensory experiences (music, tastes, smells, movements,...) ideas, rituals, hopes, and fantasies. (A D ?)

      By choice or chance, these attachments suddenly or slowly break. From infancy on, our lives change and are inevitably studded with these minor to massive losses. Environmental changes may or may not cause significant losses (broken bonds). (A D ?)

      22) All organically-normal infants, kids, and adults have the instinctive abilities to (a) mourn and (b) endure the discomfort from significant losses until we accept them and what they mean - mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (A D ?)

      Healthy three-level grieving is essential for wholistic personal health and high-nurturance relationships and families. Our wounded, unaware Western culture discounts and hinders healthy grief by ceaselessly urging speed, over-stimulation, pleasure, and excitement. Older cultures know better. (A D ?)

      23) Every person (like you) evolves a personal "grieving policy" to live by - i.e. a set of semiconscious beliefs, values, and rules (shoulds, oughts, musts, have to's, can'ts, etc) about bonding, losses, and grieving. Most people are unaware of their personal and their family's grief policies, which can promote or hinder healthy grief. These policies can be consciously upgraded to ''pro grief,'' once (a) the person is aware of healthy grief basics and (b) their resident true Self is in charge (#3 above). (A D ?)

      24) Typical kids and adults need seven requisites for healthy grieving. Our society doesn't teach or promote these requisites, so we must often discover them on our own from life experience. Intentionally providing these requisites to dependent kids is a priceless life-long gift. (A D ?) Did your childhood caregivers give you this gift?

      25) Adults raised in, and kids now living in, low-nurturance families often lack internal and/or external permissions to mourn their losses and accept what their losses mean. This grief-blockage can promote personal illness + psychological problems + shallow or toxic relationships + low-nurturance groups. (A D ?)

      Lesson 3 in this Web site focuses on adults learning "good-grief" basics, and helping each other build pro-grief attitudes, relationships, and families.

      Again, pause, breathe, and reflect. What are you aware of now - what are you learning? When you're ready, review the last set of core premises underlying this Web site...

colorbutton.gif (663 bytes) Premises About Interpersonal Communication

      26) Any behavior that causes a "significant" mental, psychological, spiritual, or physical change in another person is "communication." So "not communicating" is impossible, because silence or "no response" imply meanings (messages). (Agree Disagree ?)

      27) Communication is a complex, dynamic, multi-level process caused by each person's drive to fill the current primary needs of their ruling personality subselves and (ideally) their partners' ruling subselves (A D ?)

      28) Communication is effective if...

  • all involved persons get their current primary needs met well enough (in their opinion), and...

  • everyone feels good enough about themselves, each other, and their communication process. (A D ?) 

      Premise 29) Subselves and people communicate to fill up to five current needs. Without mutual knowledge and process awareness, the odds of all participants filling these needs well enough in important situations can be under 10%. (A D ?)

      30) Most people are unaware of the communication processes among their subselves and with other people. Your ruling subselves can decide to become aware by...

  • learning to use key communication concepts and terms (Lesson 2 here),

  • practicing these seven skills, and...

  • noticing whether everyone's current needs get met or not. . (A D ?)

      31) Win-win problem-solving (vs. these common alternatives) can occur if each person...

  • is steadily guided by their true Self, and...

  • wants to learn and use communication basics to...

  • identify what they and their partner/s each need now; and each person...

  • values partners' current dignity and needs as equally important and valid, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or role/s;

      and if each person...

  • invites respectful brainstorming using all seven communication skills to see what options best fill everyone's current primary needs in good-enough ways. (A D ?)

      32) Whether relationships among personality subselves and between people are nurturing (need filling) or toxic (need-creating or amplifying) depends partly on the effectiveness of their shared awareness and communication skills. Anyone (e.g. you) can learn to improve the effectiveness of their communications at any time. (A D ?)

    In this Break the Cycle! self-improvement course, Lesson 2 and its related guidebook Satisfactions are devoted to learning effective thinking and communicating. To see what you (need to) know about communication basics, try this quiz and review these Q&A items.

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      These are the core beliefs that underlie the contents of this nonprofit Web site and the related guidebooks. For more perspective, browse these questions and answers, and take these quizzes. If you disagree with or don't care about most of these premises, this ad-free self-improvement course may be of little use to you.

Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll.

For validation of many of these premises, see these typical research summaries.

If you're a human-service provider, also see these premises about human behavior and effective professional service.


NEXT - study this online self-improvement course outline, and begin Lesson 1.

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