Main Pages

By Region



Self Boundaries

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Self Boundaries?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Self Boundaries

Fusion of Many Separate Self-Images

What matters here for our discussion is that the sense of entity and identity (self-boundaries) is established gradually in the first three years of life, and that it is a process of fusion of many separate self-images into a total overall self-image. This self-image is not the external image that most people think of as “self-image”; it is more of an inner, comprehensive, mostly unconscious image of oneself, of which the external image (basically the social facade) is just a part. Thus the entire world-view of a person, the structure of his world, so to speak, consists of this overall self-image plus the total constellation of object images, in relation to each other.

The Void, pg. 13

Self-Boundaries are Connected with Grades of Space

The grades of space, we will observe, are each connected generally with one of these sets of boundaries. The first kind of space, for instance, acts to dissolve the boundaries of the external self-image. However, it will not have what is needed to penetrate more deeply to affect the deeper sets of boundaries. However, other spaces may emerge, each capable of penetrating more deeply into the subtle boundaries of the self.

The Void, pg. 146

Self-Boundaries Function as Walls that are Not Permeable to Real Contact

The individuality of ego has a sense of separateness that is based on the building of self-boundaries. These boundaries contribute to the sense of being an individual. However, these boundaries become walls separating the individual from other human beings, and from the universe in general. Even if we take psychological individuation to be more than the development of the psychic structure, for instance if we take it to be the emotional experience of oneself resulting from such mental structure, the boundaries still function as walls, which are not permeable to real contact. Ego boundaries create a much more profound separateness than is usually recognized. Object relations theory regards ego boundaries as necessary for the sense of being a separate and unique individual, the fruit of the process of ego development; but it does not appreciate how much such boundaries separate human beings from each other, or how they make true contact impossible.

Space Exposes Self-Boundaries

This illustrates the primary reason for the extreme difficulty encountered when an individual attempts to achieve a clear experience of open space through meditation techniques, as in Eastern spiritual schools; for the experience of space, because it involves the dissolving of defenses, will bring into consciousness any distortions in body-image. The defense mechanisms of the ego will then automatically mobilize to prevent consciousness of the affective experiences associated with these distortions. This mobilization of defenses in effect amounts to the repression of space. Space not only reveals distortions, but because it exposes self-boundaries, it naturally brings into consciousness all the identifications making up these boundaries, as well as any affects and memories connected to them. Naturally then, space will be vehemently defended against. Space is actually dynamically repressed; and this fact, besides explaining the difficulty in experiencing space, indicates the usefulness of psychodynamic techniques to those seeking this experience. Our experience is that the psychodynamic method does allow greater success than simple meditation in eliciting the perception of space, especially when it is used in understanding and eliminating the difficulties that arise in response to the experience of space.

The Void, pg. 49

Table of the Grades of Space


Image Related Space Characteristics Associations
\ self-image
Clear space Clear, empty, and light spaciousness. It is related generally to the external self-image, which is the closest set of boundaries to our normal consciousness... Associated fear is of disintegration
Black space This is an empty, light, but black spaciousness. Its phenomenological relation to the clear space is like the relation of night to day. The loss of this deeper boundary is usually experienced as a loss of identity; associated fear is one of disintegration... the fear is of not knowing who one is.
External body-image (the nucleus of the external self-image) Clear dense space Dealing with the boundaries of the external body image will lead to a clear kind of space, different from the above clear space in that it will paradoxically be experienced as full. It will have a fullness and a Presence, like the body. But at the same time it will be space. It is a compact and dense space experienced at the same time \ as openness. That openness is immense and powerful... The experience of this space allows the perception that the boundaries of the body are themselves space, and hence are not real boundaries.
Internal body-image (the nucleus of the internal self-image) Black dense space Dealing with the boundaries of the internal body image will precipitate the experience of a dense space like the preceding one, but black instead of clear. This space arises when the individual lets go of the sense of identity stemming from inner bodily sensations... The loss of this set of boundaries will usually bring the fear of loss of the body itself. So in dealing with this particular set of boundaries, the individual comes across the fear of death.

The Void, pg. 146

Thoughts Are Limited by Self-Images

Self-boundaries determine even what one is able to think. While it is true that different impressions stimulate different thoughts in the same person, still these thoughts are pretty much determined by the person’s sense of who he is, that is, his self-image. So the thoughts that go through a person's mind are not really accidental, chaotic, or disconnected, although they may sometimes appear so. They appear chaotic because a large segment of the self-image is unconscious or preconscious, and thus shapes thoughts and experiences in a way that the conscious mind cannot be aware of. This fact makes it possible for a person, by careful observation of the patterns and trends in his thoughts, to gain much information concerning his sense of identity.

The Void, pg. 15

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach

See past editions of the Diamond Approach newsletter