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The Cycle of Awareness

The Cycle of Awareness

The circle represents the self/the person/the organism. Outside the circle is the environ-ment, i.e., everything which is not the person. The perimeter of the circle represents the boundary between the self and the environment, often referred to as the ego-boundary. In physical terms this can actually be the skin; psychologically it is a person™s sense of him or herself.

A healthy ego-boundary is firm, yet pliable. Such a person would have a clear sense of who he or she was, self-belief and the ability to relate well to others.

An unhealthy ego-boundary could be:-

a) overly permeable. Such a person may appear to be compliant, too eager to please, easily influenced. He or she would not have a strong sense of themselves, and often lose that sense altogether in a close relationship.

b) too rigid and impenetrable. Such a person may appear inflexible. He or she might not relate well to others, indeed may find it impossible to enjoy a close, intimate relationship with someone. There is no space to grow and develop as a person.

We need to remember that thoughts and feelings actually generate energy. Energy is real. You may not necessarily be able to see it or smell it, but it exists nevertheless.

So, if we decide that we want something, energy is produced to help us obtain that something; and that energy needs to be expressed, out from the body and on to the environment in some way (just speaking is one way!), otherwise, the energy stays trapped inside the body.

Figure One shows seven points around the circle (examples below):

  1. Sensation dryness in the mouth
  1. Awareness realising one is thirsty
  1. Mobilisation deciding to have a drink and going towards it
  1. Action actually getting the drink
  1. Final contact drinking (the organism is in contact with the environment)
  1. Satisfaction thirst is quenched
  1. Withdrawal – a kind of limbo, state of homeostasis or  balance, before another need emerges

The clockwise journey around the Cycle of Awareness represents a healthy flow of energy, generated in the organism and finally expressed out on to the environment.

The example given is a physical one for simplicity’s sake, but the same pattern exists for emotional needs.

However, in unhealthy functioning, blocks can occur at each point. These blocks™ or boundary disturbances or in Freudian terms, defence mechanisms, interrupt the natural flow of having our needs met.


  1. Desensitisation: perhaps as a result of abuse or neglect, we numb ourselves to pain and discomfort, become stoical.
  1. Deflection: like denial. We refuse to be aware of feeling that might be painful.
  1. Introjection: instead of deciding what we want and going for it, we are stuck with what we think we ought to do, or must not do, or how we think we should feel
  1. Projection: attributing a feeling or behaviour perhaps to someone else and not recognising it in oneself.
  1. Retroflection: emotion, such as anger, is bottled up inside instead of being expressed. Doing to yourself what you would like to do to others.
  1. Egotism: instead of feeling satisfaction at a job well done, we go over and over it, analysing everything to death.
  1. Confluence: not being able to let go. Losing oneself in a relationship.

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