Our Personal Development

2007-04-16 20:13:35

Roel Stemmer

In the foregoing article I painted my starting point as regards our sustainable behaviour, putting across each other dualism and unity, at which in my view it is a must to learn to behave from unity. Now I will take a look as well at our appreciation in life, determining for our character, as at our brains, determining for our mental attitude. The one and the other belong together and I will argue that we have to develop the spiritual base for the social and emotional balance that facilitates the cognitive learning process and may lead towards sustainable acting.

Of course your reactions are also now very welcome.

Roel Stemmer, chairman Enviro-Net


Our appreciation in life

Values are forming the base of our personality. Prof. Dr H.J.M. Hermans, professor Theory of Personality at the Catholic University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, describes the following about our appreciation in life (1986):

Our actions are closely connected to the deeper foundations of our personality. The following two basic motives of our appreciation in life can be distinguished:

·        The S-motive: the strive of man for self-assertion and self-expansion.

·        The O-motive: the strive for a bond with something (for instance nature, art) or somebody (for instance in relationships or with friends).

Six distinct basic forms are closely linked to these basic motives. It is important for our development and personal growth to learn to distinguish between these six types, because every person has been found to have his imbalances. The six types are situated in a diagram shaped like a vase. Please, have a look at the here showed picture.

I here mention the two utmost, namely the bottom and the upper side as situated in a diagram shaped like a vase:

Living as in a dungeon. The blocking domains.

On the bottom of the vase the most negative domains of our value system are situated. They are characterized by the absence of both S-feelings and O-feelings. Key words that apply here are: sinking feeling, overstrain, victim, isolation and emptiness. The archetype of this blocking experience is the prisoner, who is not only extremely confined in its actions, but is also pushed into social isolation.

Life in its fullness. The SO-domains.

The mouth of the vase symbolizes the situation in which life makes itself known in its fullness and richness. Here the SO-domains dominate, with both the S- and the O-motive being expressed in an integrated experience. If more then two persons are involved, forming a group, the SO-experience permits leaves space for their being different in their unity. This experience is characterized by the terms: fullness, integration, mutual confirmation and animated power. The characterizing archetype is the figure of the holy saint. The word holy has its origin in the Greece ‘holos’ that means ‘whole’. It has to do with integration of the S- and O-side within our personality that as a figure of power allows itself to inspire by a more embraced giving meaning.

So when I speak about integrated human beings, I do mean people with this final personality



Our brains

The above called appreciation of life arises from our brains. The Dutch psychologist Piet Vroon, who died January 1998, was a passionate solicitor of rationality in science, politics and policy and at the same time fascinated by the irrational. He developed the theory of ‘the three-piece stacked brain’, with which he showed why ‘people are not doing what they say and are not saying what they do’.

He links instinctive, emotional and intelligent behaviour with three brain functions, originated at three crucial moments in development.

1.         The oldest is the bottom brain layer, developed about 250 000 years ago, dating from the age of the reptiles

2.         About 70 000 years ago, after the period of the mammals the limbic system developed

3.         On top of these, the neo cortex developed in the next phase, the phase of the primates.

This is how man responds; surviving, either short term rewards, or long-term behaviour. Because of these layers words, deeds, attitudes and behaviour often don’t match. There is a discrepancy between our attitude and our behaviour. There is no unity in our minds.


We are living in the historical period of our development at which we have to learn to use our neo cortex in a special way. It means that it covers the rest of our brains in a way that we think in a long-term and take along ourselves in decision-making and in keeping acting. That’s a typical educational assignment.

Growing towards integrated persons asks in fact attention for spirituality. Because of we have to take into account what was before and what will be after our life. It means to be deeply convinced of your own existence on a line from the past to the future in the sense of an inner confirmation.

Example. A few months ago I had a taxi-ride from a motel to the airport of Chicago. I got a conversation with the cabdriver. In no time we both agreed about the mad situation of the world. Twenty years ago he had run away from Macedonia to the United States. He ascertained a discrepancy in situation then and now and was very worried about all that happened nowadays. By bidding farewell he said: “I do not know how, but see you later.” I think this is an example of spirituality. In a very short time you understand each other and his last words may go over the border of our life. It is the one and the other in relation to each other that comes together in our attitude.

At stake is the personal experience of togetherness with total life in a way that we are able to position us between past and future. Between ‘I am allowed to be there’ and ‘just there is hope’. It is spiritual to know you are acquainted with before conception and just have hope at the end of your life. It is on the one hand a sense of solidarity with the One, total life, and on the other hand sympathizing with all that is living. It arises in closeness by distance. That’s difficult. That is to take along you in all-direct acting. It means to give the other space in to solve things self by overcoming your own dualism. You warrant yourself against ducking in emotions in order to be able to be very closed with the other at crucial moments.


It is an expensive obligation of education in the teacher–student relationship to give attention to the here above called ‘spiritual’ development. This spirituality forms the base for the social and emotional development of the human being and facilitates the cognitive learning process. Not only sustainable acting as such is at stake, but it is also a must for problem solving as regards dropouts, nagging behaviour, school absenteeism etc. It is a question of to learn to know the natural caring dimension of your personality.


HERMANS, Hubert J. M., HERMANS-JANSEN, Els. Het verdeelde gemoed : over de grondmotieven in ons dagelijks leven. Baarn : H. Nelissen B.V., 1986. ISBN neuvedeno.