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Subjectivity and Objectivity

Posted on 03 Oct | 1 comment
James Bugental
James Bugental

Jim Bugental, a champion of subjectivity, has attempted to change a prevalent view that the focus on things objective is always worthwhile and that attention to the realm of inner awareness is much less, if at all, valuable. Jim sees that our tendency as human beings has long been to seek security and certainty in the objectivity side of the subjective/objective dialectic. (Sarbit, 1996, p. 21)

If we orient life objectively, we do not think or feel in the moment because we revert to our stored data to deal with our lives. We act as computers programmed to operate functionally and efficiently. As time goes on and we gain new information, we update our hard drive and software. If there is no subjective self we are not much different that a computer. The subjective self is what gives us our human qualities and capacities; not our physical body or the outside forces that serve as our computer programmers.  Bugental (1987) states:

Objectification of human beings is the insanity that is the toxic pollution in the sea in which we swim, the world in which we try to live. We have been hypnotized from our earliest years to believe that it must be so. I want to say that which we learn not to say. I want to stand outside the universal post-hypnotic suggestion, and shout, “Wake up!” (p. 263)

Many people today seem to rely upon The New Yorker, pop culture, or Facebook to make decisions in their life. Through relying upon these external forces, we are not utilizing our own subjective experience, potentially becoming detached from our own wants and desires.  Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Appelbaum, 1992). If we do not make the time to explore our values, feeling, beliefs, and emotions, the direction of existence will be constructed by the external world. Subjectivity has the ability to unlock doors and expose the depth of one’s being (Sarbit, 1996). When we busy ourselves with work, with social media, and with continual activity to avoid confronting who and what we are, there is a strong likelihood that we will be living a dissatisfied existence (Bugental, 1976).

Apathy develops because of the absence of subjective awareness (May, 1979). It takes time to cultivate the self, but that process must start somewhere. Growing up, becoming the executive decision maker in regards to our lives, requires the development of a reasonably stable set of definitions of who and what we are and what the world is. In establishing this vision many sources such as parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, and the media are considered, but each of us alone weaves our own unique design for existence (Bugental, 1999). The subjective self must illuminate in response to the challenges reality presents on a daily basis.

The answer is in each of us. The subjectivity of each of us is the proverbial DNA of our uniqueness and individuality (Bugental, 1976). The lack of subjective awareness causes an inability to see the possibility of choice. Choice comes from being aware of the possibilities that exist when responsibility is taken for the direction our lives are taking. There is no doubt that environment and observed behaviors can contribute to our worldview. However, we have the power either to accept or reject what we see. We may not be able to control our circumstance, but we can control how they respond to it (Frankl, 1959). 

Bugental refers to experiencing the inner awareness as the I-ness.  I-ness occurs when we know we want something clearly and not because someone told us that most people want it or that is it popular opinion of the masses (Bugental, 1976). We are all trying to make sense of the world in a new way. This can lead to confusion. However, it seems we are looking for external answers to an internal process. The I-ness is missing. If we begin to listen to our voice different options will manifest. Bugental stated,

“I was never taught to listen within myself. Instead I was taught to listen to the outside to parents, teachers, Boy Scout leaders, professors, bosses, the church, the government, psychologists, science-almost any outer source of instruction in how to live my life.” (Bugental, 1976, p. 283)

A space for actively communicating feelings is important, but not as important as knowing that a subjective self has the potential to exist. The change agent is the allowing what lies beneath to surface. Taking direction from the inner voice can summon new ideas and possibilities.

Inner experiencing is our fundamental and often overlooked true home.  When we make subjective awareness a priority we discover an inner solidity and orientation in living (Bugental, 1978). “Some days we are so alive, and some days we feel ourselves slipping away.  It is the great tragedy of human experience that time and again we are blind and deaf to the opportunities for fuller living” (Bugental, 1976, p. 1). We are most alive when we are open to all the many facets of my inner desires, emotions, the flow of ideas, body sensations, relationships, reasoning, forethought, concern for others, sense of  our values, and all else within us. We must integrate all the aspects of our being so that we can live a more fruitful existence that which is ground in authenticity (Bugental, 1976). We must be centered in our experiencing.  If we do not take life seriously, it will slip away and we will be arrested in the stage of non-being.

In order to live with vitality and not in a state of non-being, we must be fully responsibility and conscious of what we do (Bugental, 1976).

“If we allow our identity to become bound up with objective thing-ness, then non-being is inevitable.  Identity based on what [we] have done, how [we are viewed], what others think of [us], is past-bound identity. It can lead to staleness and repetitiousness in living. Only true process identity is alive in the moment and free to change and evolve with the flow of [our lives].” (Bugental, 1976, p. 54)

“When we become more fully aware of how we want to be within our own being and of all the influences that have kept us from choosing to actually be that way, then we are in the process of change.” (Bugental, 1976, p. 289)

Thus, the more awareness, the more consciousness we have. The more we are conscious, the more we are living authentically.  The more authentically we live, the more vitality we have.

-- Robert Buonfiglio

Read other essays by Robert Buonfiglio

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Comments and Discussions

Really enjoyed the post

Really enjoyed the post especially the line; "We are most alive when we are open to all the many facets of my inner desires, emotions, the flow of ideas, body sensations, relationships, reasoning, forethought, concern for others, sense of our values, and all else within us."

I feel that the media age has ushered in such a prevalence of "objective thing-ness" that it is now impossible to truly achieve subjective awareness.

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