The Graduate Institute Alumni

The Dance of Discovering Deep Self

Though everyone has a personality, its source is seldom a point that receives focused individual research. From what ground does personality arise, and how does it evolve? One school of thought proposes that the root of our personality lies in our genetic code, while another argues for personality is an evolutionary product of our ongoing experience. In either case, our personality is inextricably linked to defining the nature of self. What does this self consist of, and how and why does it emerge as an entity consciously recognizing its mirror image as being distinct from "otherness"? Developmental psychologist, Jenny Wade, offers a unique perspective in considering this question. Her theory, based on the holonomic model of Bohmian reality, posits that we evolve through several distinct stages of consciousness. More specifically, through the dynamics of becoming aware of our development, we are able to consciously evolve toward an authentic, self-actualized and realized state of being.

In our search for understanding self, David Bohm's notion of reality is useful, if not, insightful. According to Bohm, the forms and patterns of reality are a result of the constant flux of a creative, dynamic and emergent undivided wholeness. These forms and patterns arise from the flow and change processes that are responsible for the transformation of being to becoming in what he called the holomovement. This phenomenon consists of two aspects: the explicate order (that which can be seen) and the implicate order (that which cannot be seen). The objects of the explicate order are in essence the unfolded projections of a much deeper, higher dimensional and fundamental enfolded implicate order. Novel structures spontaneously emerge form the holomovement, which itself provides an inexhaustible source of creativity.

Bohm's model provides us with processes for understanding the unfolding of one's own personality. It enables us to determine how the "I" emerges, transforms and may potentially transcend through conscious evolution of self. Just as Bohm’s notion of the implicate order of reality unfolds into the explicate forms we observe in our everyday life, the personal evolution of self appears to follow a process of unfolding other potential selves from some ground state of being. Therefore, these potential selves are always present in some latent form waiting to unfold and manifest in expressed form.

Webster's dictionary defines personality as: "the quality or state of being a person...the totality of an individual's behavioral and emotional tendencies". Thus, the act of reflecting on one's personality provides a window for the purpose of observing and knowing one's authentic self, as well as for noting its emergence. For centuries those interested in exploring inner space have developed personality surveys and tests to assess the unique patterns of behavioral and emotional tendencies that unfold during the natural growth and development of the individual. All of these assessment protocols agree on at least one concept— there exist distinguishable personality types. While one's basic patterns appear to resist change, it is clear that movement within a fundamental framework can and does occur throughout one's lifetime. Moreover, individuals can consciously evolve different aspects of self in the self-actualizing process known as becoming. For example, this is most easily seen in the various experiences and processes that together are described as engaging in a creative endeavor.

As we actively participate in the act of creatively expressing ourselves we transcend our normal state of conscious awareness and enter a transpersonal realm beyond space and time— the creative source of the universe. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to this state of being as “flow”. It is here where the egoic self melds with otherness to create a sense of oneness with reality—wholeness. Moreover, it is in this state that the creative self (e.g. artist, musician, scientist, athlete, and writer) encounters new images and insights that transfigure the familiar forms and patterns into new and unique frameworks of creative expression. In this regard the processes of creative expression are therapeutic, or at least they function in ways that actively and dramatically change and evolve personality characteristics. That these traits may be categorized within personality types, and that their patterns of self are predictable and definable, is apparent. That there are useful measurements of an individual's personality characteristics is obvious. That there are means for discovering the origins of one's own personality is promising. And, that the act of creating meaning is a means to consciously transforming and transcending one's own manifest self is nothing less than extraordinary.

Carl Jung’s psychotherapeutic experience led him to posit that there are conscious and unconscious aspects to the self. Moreover, the self construct arises, in part, from innate predispositions that evolve and unfold in time to develop into one’s personality. In analyzing the various personality patterns amongst his patients, Jung noted that they appear to exist as preferences that serve to bridge the conscious and unconscious realms of self. Moreover, conscious use of these preferences is purposeful and necessary in that it deals with the generation and expenditure of psychic energy. However, pathologies result when these predisposed preferences are either not utilized or suppressed. Carl Jung’s personality typology came to be based on two distinct dichotomous personality types: Introversion and Extroversion and two sets of functions: Thinking/Feeling and Sensing/Intuition. All functions are present in one’s psyche but three of them usually operate consciously, while the fourth, which operates unconsciously, compensates for the other three.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used personality questionnaires today. It was originally developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers in an attempt to provide women, who were entering the industrial workforce during World War II, with a way to identify which type of careers would best suit their unique abilities and personal characteristics. Their initial questionnaire evolved into its current iteration. They based their questions on Jung’s typological theories of personality. They added Perceiving/Judging to Jung’s opposing pairs of preferences (i.e. Extrovert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuitive, and Thinking/Feeling) to define eight different ways of dealing with information, which in turn resulted in sixteen Psychological Types.

While Jung’s typology and Myers and Briggs’ MBTI provide valid and reliable insight into the nature of one’s personality, they were both preceded by a more ancient and psychospiritual personality instrument— the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a personality instrument whose ancient cultural roots are found in Sufi tradition, and whose spiritual foundations emerge from notions common in both Kabbalistic and Christian religious beliefs. The word Enneagram stems from the Greek “ennnea,” meaning “nine” and “grammos” meaning “points.” It is an ancient model, intrinsic to Sufi mysticism, where it is applied to mapping cosmological processes and the unfolding of human consciousness. The Enneagram, as it is practiced today, describes nine different personality types and their interrelationships. Understanding one’s Enneagram gives the individual insight into personality through a range of human potentials in a model of consciousness that addresses the relationship between personality and other levels of human capability.

It is interesting to note that while both the MBTI and the Enneagram assess personality types, they measure different aspects of the psyche. The MBTI assesses the conscious, cognitive aspects of the psyche, whereas the Enneagram reveals aspects of the personality that emerge from the unconscious, and motivating forces underlying the psyche. Recent analyses have determined that while both typologies vary in their approach to understanding the psyche, the personality types of one are correlated with those of the other. Consequently, it is becoming more apparent that utilizing the insights revealed from both typologies provides a more complete context within which to understand the forces underlying motivation and behavior.

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decorated with shards of past

narratives smashed,

i assume a stance

of recognition.

nested within



that bring

a clarity of union,

i stand braced in a space

between then and the possible.

where piano wire dizzying,

sine wave resounding


paint-streaked scars

are epaulettes of the rising.

releasing my hands,

from the helve

i offer them

to you.

© M.G. Iannucci 2017

Photo: Warrior by Huang Art

Gianna Iannucci earned her MA in Conscious Evolution at The Graduate Institute

Her blog can be found at

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Finding the Courage to Grow

“Wholeness for humans depends on their ability to own their own shadow.”
~ Carl Jung

I have always been serious minded and practical. People who know me might say I’m conservative, conventional or downright square. Growing up in Catholic school, studying science in college, and working a corporate job prepared me for a stable course, and I didn’t stray far from it. That’s why it shocked my family a few months ago when I announced I was going to a festival in the Nevada desert called “Burning Man”.

“You are a 54-year-old suburban mom for God’s sake!”
“There will be drugs and sex.”
“People are naked!”
“That’s not who you are!”

It’s all true. There are drugs and sex at this crazy festival of radical inclusion and self-expression. Some people are naked but most wear costumes. There is also a leave no trace policy, no consumerism and a major emphasis on community participation including gifting without expectation.

Burning Man is an experiment in human consciousness; a pop up city of 70,000 representing all ages and all countries. People respect and care for each other like family, but they have to be self-reliant. Burning Man is like going to the moon for a week and bringing everything you need to survive in sweltering heat or freezing cold temperatures. It offers the good, bad and ugly things in life, right there for the taking. Being the sturdy New Englander I am, I almost didn’t go. It turned out to be both terrifying and the most mind-expanding experience of my life.

But let’s be real. I’m not a big fan of sleeping in a tent or using a Port-a-Potty. After two and a half decades of marriage and child rearing, trust me, I had built a pretty comfortable zone. But several years ago, after turning 50, I couldn’t deny the part of me that needed to grow and challenge hardened beliefs about the way the world worked. I began a mission to do things outside my comfort zone. I went back to school, trained in Consciousness Studies and started asking the Big Question: Who am I really? I had to push to my edges and experiment.

I’d like to say it was easy; that trying new things was effortless, but the fact was I had serious work to do. A painful chronic illness in my early forties had taken a toll on my confidence. I eventually conquered the disease but I was always worried about my limitations. One thing I took away from that time was a little tool I found to handle disabling pain; mindfulness meditation.

If I had not learned to work with my fear and deal with my insides all those years ago, I might still be that serious minded, practical (and afraid) person. I’d just be older. Certainly, I would NEVER have considered going to “Burning Man”.

Admittedly, I did stay in a sober camp and did not take drugs or go naked, but I was able to overcome my resistance to being in such a harsh, foreign environment, with people seemingly out of the Star Wars Cantina Bar and I even pulled together some weird costumes to participate. I allowed myself to be the kind of woman who would go to “Burning Man”.

So, what did I learn about myself? In working with a recent mindfulness meditation class, I had my first-time students remain silent for two minutes and then give feedback on the experience. Here are some comments:

Here is some sample text

“Couldn’t sit still.”
“Coming out of my skin.”

There is clearly difficulty in simply being. Our minds are conditioned to follow predetermined pathways and if we try to alter that momentum the discomfort can be severe. That’s why many spend a lifetime in the small zone of what’s comfortable even though the reality is terribly unsatisfying.

Being still to see who you really are takes courage. That’s why, “Go to your room!” is punishment for children. But, by doing the meditation practice, you can see yourself as you actually are; not as others need you to be. As I learn to accept all my parts, the good, bad and ugly, space is opening new pathways in my small conditioned mind. I am learning to experience life directly and be curious instead of judgmental. Engaging life with “beginners mind” I am having more fun than I have ever had. Even as a child.

Burning man was really just a metaphor for all the things I’ve been afraid to try. Meditation has been the life-changing tool that allowed me to see my obstacles more clearly and minimize their influence. Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” If that’s true, then shifting consciousness is the only way to find the courage to really grow.

Kimberly Ruggiero works as a transformational coach and fine artist. She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified in Mindfulness Meditation through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. She leads Mindfulness Meditation groups at The Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT.,, (203) 710-5502.

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