Self-Governance – The Foundation to All Personal Development Work

Siim Land

Being as great as one can be is a responsibility as well as a privilege for all of us. Inner and outer growth can happen in many ways but the foundation to all personal development work is self-governance and mastery.

Who Do You Think You Are

Where do you think the “SELF” is within you?

Well, there isn’t an exact place where you could find and take hold of it. It’s more like an image you create in your own head and which you use to correspond with the world. Bare with me.

  • The basal ganglia, also called the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of our brain. It governs balance, territoriality, mating, feeding and other instinctual activities.
  • Then we have the center part that comprises the „limbic system“, which consists of the septum, amygdalae, hypothalamus, hippocampal complex, and cingulate cortex. This the mammalian or monkey brain – the brain of emotions and social hierarchies.
  • Finally, at the front, there’s the human brain, the cerebral cortex. This is where rational thinking is, especially at the pre-frontal cortex. It’s the most recent step in the evolution of the mammalian brain and gives the ability for language, abstraction, planning and perception.

brain regions

If you wonder where you are, then the answer is right behind your forehead. That’s where the notion of „SELF“ gets created. But it’s more than that.

Consciousness Enters the Arena

There’s some correspondence here as well.

  • The reptilian brain governs your physiological processes, such as the need for food and shelter. It’s concerned about the physical plane of existence e.g the body.
  • The Limbic system is based on emotion, feelings and thoughts. It’s your mind.
  • The neocortex is above the other two because of being capable of rationality. It’s the crown jewel of evolution and human development. I can’t tell you whether or not that’s where your soul/spirit and true self lies, but it’s still on higher ground.

The difference between our spirit/soul and the body and mind is that it is on a higher level of heightened awareness. While the body and mind act based on instinct and emotion, respectfully, then the prefrontal cortex gives us the ability to be aware of these processes.

This meta-cognition enables us to think about how we think. It distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom and makes us human.

Descartes said: „Cogito ergo sum,“ which means „I think, therefore I am.“ Based on our knowledge, it should be „I think about my thinking, therefore I am… aware of myself.“

Meta-Awareness – I Know I Know

The soul is an eternal and all-prevading substance, which is the foundation to the phenomenon of consciousness. It’s the essence that brings together the body and mind.

According to the quantum physicist Michio Kaku: „Consciousness is the number of feedback loops required to create a module of your position in space with relationship with other organisms and time.“ Let me make it easier to understand: „Consciousness is the ability to be aware of oneself and others in space and time.“

  • A thermostat has a lower level of consciousness because it only has one dimension of existence, which is to measure temperature.
  • Reptiles follow their instinct and are only concerned with having something in their stomach (hopefully not you and I) and reproduction.
  • Monkeys have complex social structures but still don’t possess reason or language.
  • Most advanced of them all is human consciousess. Not only do we think about our thinking but also can evaluate our position in space and time. We can see ourselves in the past and can create modules of our future selves as well.

This meta-awareness changes the game completely. When the body and mind are definitely deeply connected and intertwined with each other, then the spirit is outside of this loop entirely. The best illustration I can think of is the Illuminati pyramid with the eye at the top, floating above the rest of the structure.

Consciousness is the eye in the pyramid, it’s what makes us human. 

But simply having it isn’t enough. Being aware of oneself doesn’t mean that you can rise above and start floating above. This is where self-mastery comes into play.

Conscious Self-Mastery

The 3 planes of existence also correspond with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

  • At the bottom, there are yet again the physiological needs. The first and foremost purpose of any organism is to provide the body with food and shelter. It’s the conduct of the reptilian brain.
  • In the middle, there are psychological desires, such as prestige and a sense of belongingness. As you remember, the limbic system governs our emotions and social interactions – the mind. This is as far as the chimpanzees have managed to climb with their group living.
  • The next and final step of our current development is self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential, including creativity and fulfillment. Reaching this stage isn’t possible without covering the preceding ones. This is the point where we lift ourselves off the rest of the pyramid and attain meta-awareness. We’re aware of being aware and our spirit can see itself floating above the body and mind.

In order to reach self-actualization and start working on it, you need to first achieve self-mastery. If the foundation is disfunctional, then you won’t be able to get past the initial stages of simply surviving. If the platform in the middle isn’t solid enough, you can’t set aside your ego and control it. The last quantum leap requires you to overcome these issues by taking control of your body and mind.

How the Ego Pulls You by the Finger

Ever since Freud and Jung, many psychologists afterwards have noted that the human personality is governed by several different “sub-egos.” There is the procrastinator, the hustler, the scientist, the artist, the extrovert, the athlete and millions of more.

What tends to dominate depends on how much power we’ve given to one of these “egos.” It happens on a habitual basis and is influenced by our thoughts and actions. Who we think we are will begin to recreate the patterns of behavior we’ve omitted to ourselves. This creates a certain circle of personalities that we have inside our psyche.

circle of egos

There are going to be several characters who will begin to dominate over the others. For instance, you may develop the tendency to always take things too seriously because you’ve suppressed your inner child due to some reason. Likewise, you may adopt the mentality of a victim, if you’ve suffered some sort of a psychological trauma in the past. As a result, you begin to see the world as a hostile force that’s out to get you. It imposes fear and enforces the duality between your ego and the cosmos.

The ego will always try to protect itself and not let any other of these personalities into its inner circle. Why? It’s afraid of losing its throne and thus perishing. Survival is detrimental for the reproduction of the ego’s agenda. It’s only interest has to do with making the cut itself, at the expense of others.

The Foundation to All Personal Development Work

All personal development work involves self-actualization – being as great as one can be. By notion, you’re setting aside your past ego, which is nothing else but an illusion created by the mind.

Everything you think you are is nothing else but the result of conditioning you’ve received from the society, your parents, school and so on.

The idea behind the “SELF” is a defence mechanism of your subconscious mind. As you perceive the environment around you, the ego imposes the false perception of duality – a chasm between you and the world. A kaleidoscopic deception.

The foundation to all personal development work is the understanding and governance of your sub-egos. It involves being more conscious and meta-aware about what actually goes on.


In Ancient Greek philosophy the word Enkratia is often defined as self-control, but a much better term to use would be self-governance or mastery. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, so that we would be able to influence our behavior and align it with our true self. The root of the word kratia translates into government, being the basis of demokratia (democracy, rule of the people).

Enkratia was also one of the themes of Plato’s masterpiece, The Republic, which on its surface talks about politics, but the physical city-state also serves as a metaphor to understand the principles of inner governance. In Greek philosophy, this is called hegemonikon (hegemony).

For Plato himself, the only way to achieve this effectively is to let the Inner Governor take the form of a philosopher or lover of wisdom, the one who seeks the truth about oneself and the world. There are still other sub-egos that remain who will begin to fight for their domain. Plato uses another metaphor for this of a ship’s captain and his crew who are prone towards mutiny. We’re the captain and our egos are the mutinous crew.

Conscious Self-Mastery Vol.2

It’s essential to orchestrate these different facets of our being into a harmonious union, rather than being ruled by chaos and a disorganized personality, which is called akrasia.

Psychologically, self-mastery is also the emergence of a special sub-ego – the Inner Governor, who directs the others. However, that character isn’t derived from the ego, it’s from our higher levels of consciousness – the soul who is meta-aware about the presence of the entire conundrum.

Characteristics of Heightened Consciousness

The foundation to all personal development work is higher levels of consciousness. It’s the ability of being meta-aware that who you think you are isn’t in truthful correspondence with your true self.

Self-mastery is about recognizing the presence of your conflicting egos and subconscious parts of your being e.g. the basal ganglia and the Lymbic system. Inner governance derives from the prefrontal cortex – the place that makes us human.

What are the characteristics of this heightened awareness.

  • Love of wisdom and the truth.
  • Self-enquiry and inner reflection.
  • Understanding and recognition of the ego.
  • Mindful governance of your subconscious urges.
  • Rationality and moderation.
  • Self-control and discipline.
  • Deciding to be better and grow as a person.
  • Striving towards being as great as you can be – self-actualization.
  • Attainment of non-dual perspective.
  • Providing your unique skills to the whole of humanity and the world.

Enter the Body Mind Agoge

The foundation to all personal development work is consciousness. Self-governance, mastery or awareness – it can come under many names.

As we’ve seen, we’re being pulled and controlled by the less human parts of our psyche. The body and mind are mostly acting from the perspective of the ego and their own agendas for survival. It happens because of an “evolutionary time lag” between our consciousness and primal physiology.

The Agoge was the rigorous education system of Ancient Spartan youth. It involved physical and mental training which made them the greatest warriors of all time. They were more than brutes, as they had completely lost their perspective of the self and acted as a united whole on the battlefield.

The Body Mind Agoge is a philosophy and a discipline of holistic personal development. It’s self-actualization writ large. The idea isn’t about going through some sort of a boot camp. Instead, it involves achieving self-mastery and establishing conscious inner enkratia.

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Body Mind Agoge Cover
Body Mind Agoge Cover