Episode Five: The three stages of self-world evolutionApr 14, 2022
The three stages of self-world evolution*.
*Evolution here is conceived as a non-linear and relational unfolding of self-with-universe, and as elemental (transformation or phase transition... not linear progress).
In this episode, I share the latest iteration of The SOLA System, as a three-step system of self becoming, unmasking and having clarity on how to see, know and be yourself.
Those three steps, or stages are:
Unlearning who you are not
Creating Self esteem
Creating Social esteem
This is not a one and done process, but a cyclical one that repeats in each cycle of growth/evolution of self.
Identifying where you are on a growth cycle, by locating your problem in one of the three stages, means you know how to frame it in terms of the solution, and in ways that lead to having more visibility, energy and agency.
How are you doing?
So last week I spoke a bit about this concept of a Tunnel of Un - and the unlearning of socialised ideas about ourselves.
What we didn’t go into is where those ideas and masks and habitual selves come from; which is all the ways we are taught by society and by the media and by our upbringing to fit in with certain ideas and values and ways of doing things.
And it can lead us to start to adapt to what we don’t really like, or to settle for things which don’t reflect our potential, or to not acknowledge ourselves for what we have created.
Those habits of separating from yourself or negating how you really feel, or what you need to be seen for, are also survival strategies and coping mechanisms that are useful, that helped you to be here now.
But becoming who you are being called to become next - the version of you that you are growing into now, needs a different set of strategies, and sometimes an evolved self concept. Your sense of who you are can get attached, stuck to what that version of you did create and did make happen and did overcome and survive. But maybe moving forward, what comes next is new ways to be yourself, and a new depth of self realisation.
This process of growing until those old strategies no longer fit and developing new ones, or ones that build upon the old ones is growing into new unknowns. It is feeling out in the dark. That is the Tunnel of Un and the idea of unlearning who you are not, which is the first step in The SOLA System.
And today I want to give an overview of The SOLA System in its updated form; the past versions focused on the 9 planets or areas of focus only.
More recently, in the delivery of The SOLA System program, I’ve been able to refine these through grouping them together into three steps.
So today I want to get into those three steps that contain the 9 planets or areas of transformation. And how you are always on one of those three. Or sometimes two or three of them.
Having three cyclical seasons in a growth period means you can identify where you are at. What problem am I facing and which of these three steps am I currently at that then points to the solution.
So consider it a framework for identifying where you are at in a current growth curve, by locating the problem you are facing in one of these three, and using it to frame the problem in terms of what you can do about it. How you can respond to whatever you are facing.
So just to zoom out a bit;
The SOLA System is a framework I came up with in early 2020 to contain and distil over a decade of thinking about the problem of how to see, know and be yourself as a neurodivergent, specifically autistic-status traits, but it really applies across the board of being human. And to think about it in terms of personal responsibility - the ability to respond - without bypassing the systemic issues, but actually asking: how do we solve them?
And which embraces and exalts the sensory sense-making within each of us as the basis for new forms of knowledge, including self-knowledge. Knowing HOW to actually be yourself, how to make this life work and make sense of being in human designed worlds where there is inequity and where things are designed via industrialism, imperialism and one-size-fits-most structures and so on.
And it’s gone through various iterative evolutions in the process of sharing and coaching with it.
But essentially it is a process of self-becoming for late-identified autistic folks focuses on how to create visibility, energy and agency.
So visibility meaning social and systemic as well as personal and relational. Energy as in spoons, as in your energy is yours to direct and is not a sunk cost of just being alive because of how much over-adapting or masking or sensory overload is required to navigate social designs, and then agency is about having the tools and mental models and structures that actually support and enable uncommon cognitive and embodied styles.
So there are 9 points, or planets. And I’ll go into details later on in another podcast. Today I just want to focus on the three over-arching steps, each of which relate to visibility, energy and agency.
So that you can locate the immediate problem you are facing or seeking to solve somewhere on this system, this model, and therefore know what to do about it.
So the first step in The SOLA System, the first step in unmasking and self-becoming, is unlearning that gaze of dominant culture, normatively and ableism in your self-concept, and unlearning it in your actions.
And in The SOLA System there are three planets in this first step that are each a mini course and process:
- Unlearning social conditioning; so the social condition of white supremacist racist ablest cisheteropatriarchy - specifically how does this show up in my relationship to myself?
- Unravelling the autism construct; we trace the roots of the ideological underpinnings of the clinical classification of autism back 2000 years so that we can see where we might be replicating these ideologies in our own thinking
- and then undoing habitual self negation; noticing where am I acting in agreement with ideas and values that don’t serve me; creating awareness for this. Where do I experience misplaced shame because of ideas and thoughts I have practiced, but actually don’t serve me.
So how you know that your problem is here, is because of how it leads you to feel. So this might be shame triggered by an experience in which someone else expresses an opinion or acts towards you in ways that lead you to feel less able to take up space, or that produce shame, or you respond through wanting to hide or fake or some kind of inner sense of inadequacy and deficiency that originated from outside, but you’ve internalised as a split or disconnection; it’s alienating in some way.
And this means tracing those ideas back to their sources, to their roots outside you, back to a systemic or external source, and to know that it’s not about you, but about these systems of harm that are so deeply embedded. So creating awareness of these and how they play out in your life and how you may have internalised them as not-enough-ness, or unconscious privilege or entitlement, or as a need to be right, or as misplaced shame and guilt and inadequacy.
But it’s often not enough to know the roots intellectually, and to know about systemic issues and how they may have played out in your own socialisation. Because you can know all of these things and still not experience transformation.
Which then leads to disillusionment.
I can see the problems, and yet I am still stuck.
So this is why information and knowledge about systemic issues is only the beginning. Recognising where you may have internalised them is step one. But there are two more steps to completing a cycle of transformation.
So the question to ask for step one is: is this shame or trauma or unfelt experiences that I can work on? Where am I making this mean things about me?
Which brings us to the next step; which is Creating Self Esteem.
And I like to define this in a very specific way in The SOLA System;
Self esteem is created in your relationship to yourself, your self-regard, your thoughts and actions you take, and the degree to which you honour sustained self-connection.
Okay. So that’s the definition that I want to offer you.
Self connection is being connected to the experience you are actually having, it’s creating safety in your own bodymind and in your own relationship to yourself, being on your own side, and being connected to the insights and boundaries and instincts that arise within.
So we often think about low self esteem as being about seeing ourselves in a way that is less-than or that doesn’t reflect positive self image or identity, or that is about under-estimating what we are capable of in a way that leads to feeling bad about ourselves. So low self esteem being negative feelings about ourselves.
What I want to reframe this as is: that your feelings about yourself if you have low self esteem are actually coming from your thoughts about yourself and the world that are inaccurate, that are skewed, in such a way that it then leads you to feel negatively, and then to take actions from that place of negative self-regard and negative feelings.
Which might be that there is something you have to do or be in order to feel good about yourself. Or that something else has to change first. Or that you need other people’s acceptance before you can be yourself or before you can prove of yourself. Okay so this idea that you have to change something about yourself or outside of yourself to feel good. Or that other people are to blame for how you feel about yourself. Which means you are then at the mercy of their actions. Or that you don’t deserve or aren’t worthy of what you really need or want.
When the values, rules and thoughts society teaches don't enable and affirm, we can end up with low self-esteem; having been conditioned to disconnect from ourselves, our own values and energetic congruency, in order to fit in with what is given social esteem; what is seen as correct, valued and right and wanted and desirable and true.
There are studies that show how when autistic people experience having a social identity that is negatively conceptualised, it also impacts self esteem, and even mental health.
And I would posit that it’s because of the impact of that negative social identity on your thoughts and then feelings and then the actions you take - it leads to disconnects.
And of course for others to treat you badly - that is disconnection too. We are also taught disconnects from the planet and from seasons and rhythms and from each other. All of our social ills can be thought of as disconnects.
If you are having thoughts about yourself that are like this, then those thoughts are going to lead to negative feelings and then drive specific actions. And those actions might then reinforce the sense of hopelessness or low self regard, because those actions will likely create more of what you are believing, and will teach your brain that your thoughts are to be believed.
What we act on is what we begin to believe as true.
Because if you don’t think you are worthy or if you think you are wrong, even if on a subconscious level, then you are going to over-adapt to other people and outside circumstances and lower your baseline standard for what you are willing to put up with.
Or you are going to distract from the negative feelings those negative thoughts create, by avoiding your feelings, which is another form of disconnect.
And we will stay there if we believe our negative thinking.
We might think it’s outside circumstances that is making us have low self esteem. And that may have been the precursor. But the reason we stay in low self esteem is because we then believe those thoughts.
Beliefs are just thoughts we think a lot.
So if you’ve been thinking about yourself in a certain way for years, it’s a question of trying on new thoughts and practicing them and finding evidence for them. Bringing conscious attention to what you are even thinking and believing
We think a lot of thoughts in a day, but most of them are running on loop, they are running past programming.
And a lot of that programming will be coming from outside influences. So if you’ve been taught that you are supposed to act a certain way or be able to do something with ease, or that sharing your gifts is showing off, and you believe those thoughts, then you are going to relate to your circumstances and yourself, as if that is true.
So low self esteem is the result of thinking that leads to taking actions that result in disconnecting from self.
Because your sense of self-honouring is lower than your conforming to outside expectations.
So the question to ask of yourself for step two is: is this happening in my relationship to myself?
How you create self esteem, is by levelling up the quality of the relationship you have with yourself, and your self-talk:
And the planets are:
4. Make self-connection your only goal; this takes the focus off of trying to be right or think your way out of how you feel, and into honouring the messages from your bodymind.
5. Author your self belief; so we get into the tools for thought work to uncover those negative and inaccurate thoughts and beliefs and replace them with thoughts and beliefs that enable greater self connection.
6. Centre in your Strengths. This is about knowing where you have opportunity to create more energy, through creating more interdependence.
And step three: is creating social esteem:
Social esteem, is created through how other people relate to you think about you, and support and affirm those actions towards sustained self connection. And it needs to be both positive and accurate.
I used to think that social esteem was only up to other people.
But we can create social esteem by modelling to people what to think about us through the thoughts and values and structures that we choose and live by and embody.
So this is not about telling anyone else what to think, or trying to change their thoughts about you, or needing them to agree with you, but instead embodying the high self regard as an assertion and reality that is true for you.
The creation of social esteem is the creation of culture shifts.
It is the invention of new models, new rules, new values, new structures, new gestures, ideas, thoughts, affects relational patterns, experiences, environments, designs, etc.
Organising your world into alignment with who you really are, modelling the values, structures and self-regard that you want to invite other people into.
This is about those culture shifts happening in your own life in more tangible ways.
You’ve created the self esteem to do it. Because it’s a new baseline standard you’ve set for yourself, and now everything in your life has to match it.
You don’t need other people to accept you as a pre-requisite to accepting and loving yourself and believing in yourself.
So you can create both.
So the question to ask yourself and how you know your problem is step there, is: is there a new level of leadership and responsibility that I’m being called to embody?
Do I need to share with people a perspective that is tranformative? Do I need to call people in to seeing more of me? Do I need to allow myself to take up more space? What cultural forms and messages and visibility can I embrace as the reason why I am here?
And if that is scary and intimidating then it’s returning to steps one and two and building up that self-assurance so that you can love yourself all the way through taking new actions and designing new structures and communicating with others, being in your body in new ways, forging new relational patterns and connections.
The important thing to say is that there is nothing left out of these steps.
This is all of it. This is how to unmask. This is how to see, know and be yourself - no matter what the outer circumstances are.
AND this is also how we expedite emergent perceptual and cognitive possibilities into tangible forms collectively; by each of us unlearning who we are not, then creating self esteem and social esteem to shift the culture in your own life.
That is what creates the energy, agency and visibility to design your life as you would have it and have the cultural or artistic impact you want, and maximise on what you can control towards solving the barriers you are facing.
And this is what I coach folks through in The SOLA System + Siblings - this is the framework that we move through, this is the blueprint so you can sidestep a lot of unnecessary misdirected ideas, and focus only on what actually creates the results you want, with support and within a group of people who ALSO get it, and who experience a lot of the same things.
So to recap;
Is this problem in my life about my own unlearning first, or what I’m making it mean about me? Or that I’ve adapted to and normalised what actually isn’t for me?
Or is this about creating self esteem through increasing self connection and so I’m not looking to other people to fill that gap or to approve of me as a pre-requisite?
Or is this problem inviting me to step into leadership in my own life and setting a new standard and inventing the way? Or modelling the social esteem that you want? And putting myself in a position to follow through and experience who I could be next in this world?
if you look at other marginal cultures that have created an impact and transformed the culture, these are the steps; step three is how the world knows about them. But it’s built on a foundation of steps one and two.
Each new growth period, each new evolution of self, follows this too. So you might reach a place of contentment, after step three, and then what comes next might then be ‘oh but am I worthy of that next thing I want?’ and it starts again.
So to finish, consider what problem you are facing right now, and if it’s a story you are telling yourself, or a question of self confidence and being on your own side and believing in yourself, or if it’s a question of taking new actions with that belief, and with the goal of setting a new standard in your life by being and embodying and modelling for others how you regard yourself and inviting them into that.
It’s only ever one of these three that you can respond to your life with, if not all at once.
So that is The SOLA System as a three-step system of self becoming.
Unlearning who you are not (which is that Tunnel of Un discomfort)
Creating Self esteem
Creating Social esteem
And the final step, is having a network of sensory siblings; supportive connections with others who are able to affirm and ground and reflect back who you are being, where often those who believe they know us best don’t see who we are becoming next.
Alright siblings, talk to you next week.
The UNMASKING UNSCHOOL Podcast
is for #autistic-status visionaries, creatives and change-makers, who are seeking a more empowering way to see, know and be yourself.