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Consciousness And Personal Development – What Gives?

Written by: Paul Betito, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In my work I am not only treating mental distress but often engaging executive protocols for personal development—that is, I am often enacting high-performance, fine-grained implementation adjusted to dynamic needs and analysis and interpretation.

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However, personal needs—let alone strategic conduits and vectors for personal development, the adaptations of personal needs—are rarely self-evident. In fact, of the few paradoxical elements I am exposed to in my vocation as a Registered Social Worker and psychotherapist, such as when repetitious self-help or cognitive exercises work against the mental grain, thereby frequently redressing the reason(s) for a referral or presenting concerns yet in obstreperous, convoluted, frustrating or even denial-based ways, or when my unentitled and unfamiliar role to others as a psychotherapist succeeds to profoundly nurture them or maturely fulfill unmet needs associated with roles in a person’s life that may be unrelated to mine, the most paradoxical in fact is that it often takes a long time for clients, patients or People Seeking Services (PSSs) to formulate trajectories for their needs that are sufficiently linear—that is, sufficiently cogent, organized and adaptive—to be comprehensible to their everyday awareness, physical or manifest realization and eventual self-evaluation.


What this means, in effect, is that most people I work with don’t tend to decode or decipher exactly what they mean and intend to bring to me to work on.

However, they are hardly at fault for this. I would not even call this in error; most of the time, in fact, people simply passively realize that therapy is where they ought to go, and that a Registered Social Worker, psychotherapist, counsellor or other clinical professional is whom they ought to see, neither of which clearly makes any assumption about the range, expertise, credibility, specialization or opportunity to be availed of.

It may be difficult to believe, but the overwhelming majority of people I encounter in my work struggle to operationalize—to define, to discretize, to mechanize—even their most singular, most subjective, most distressing, least reducible, ignorable, manageable or displaceable complaints, slights and injuries, subjections, stresses and traumas, and outright or manifest pathologies.


Now, the ordinary road to self-insight into mental illness or pathology, compared to something like the road to insight into simple and complex desires (that is, learning what to select preferentially in life, learning how to mobilize conscious experience according to subjective aims, etc.), tend both in actuality to be marred by the same amount of neglect and avoidance; pain, which is at play with respect to how we gain insight into mental illness or pathology, acts to constrain our immanent fields of inner vision (thereby reducing our developmental landscape), creating loci of focal attention or zones of flow in consciousness in more of a brute-force manner than does free or uninhibited experience.

The Attention of Desire

Desires, conversely, through inimitable pathways in the brain draw themselves into focal attention, thereby causing often rapid shifts in the architectonics of our psyches, which however thanks to thermodynamic laws are always in proportion to respective levels of relative neural resource recruitment; desires, in their relevant areas of the brain, generally displace, subvert and undermine neural energy that is orthogonal—not necessarily opposite—to their own neural representations, creating a pretty unequal territorialization at the level of the ego—of, in this case, personal identity and self-development.

The Somatic Side: No Free Lunch

Clearly, the difficulty with personal development at its most responsive level lies somewhere in the first place between negotiating somatic demands (including heeding the alarm bells of pain and suffering), which can be said to emerge into a certain reality of preponderance or impartial occupancy in consciousness, in a way resembling the process of infarction in the metaphorical bloodstream of experience: somatic demands are tough—if not impossible—to ignore, and for this reason they are often prized for their contributions to our life or personal boundaries, or, contrariwise, they may be loathed—sometimes even loathed beyond repair.

One thing about somatic demands is certain: they are always prominent to awareness, albeit not necessarily to conscious awareness.

It is not possible to avoid scientific exercise in the process of personal development; in particular, personal development calls upon us to energize our utmost self-knowledge including, naturally, various medical and somatic limits, which tend to be more demanding than other categorical delimitations.

The Desire Side: Bridging the Gap

Opposite somatic demands we find desire. At its highest level, desire functions like a subjective basin for uncovering unique or individual trajectories in consciousness; in other words, we use desire to find our way through the dark.

At a lower level, desire clears the way for self-awareness to stabilize and integrate its components. Imagine desire like a highly knotted and tangled string that becomes untangled as its ends are gently pulled in opposite directions.

The Leap-Of-Faith Model

The leap-of-faith model assumes people do not need to know what they are hoping to achieve in obtaining psychotherapy; it assumes that a service provider will best identify the needs, even the personal goals, of PSSs.

The leap-of-faith model tends to manifest when we homogenize the pool of available professionals, when we ignore, neglect or fail to value individual differences and when we fail to cherish and maintain how these contribute to the nuances of possibility and outcome.

To be fair, it is perfectly appropriate for psychotherapy to be a leap-of-faith model. Yet it ought to be evident that this model is less than ideal.

Independent Actor

Firstly, the leap-of-faith model assumes the solicited professional to be an independent actor who acts like a point of insertion into the consciousness of the PSS, a denial-dependent assumption steeped in savior mentality which neglects context, knowledge, self-determination and many other irrefutable aspects of consciousness.


Secondly, the leap-of-faith model dis-incentivizes service-seeking; it trims or cuts off how desire—which tends to be the driving force of consciousness—may repair perceptual distances and connect the dots of potential and possible satisfaction. In this way it stands to fail not only executive needs, since these tend to have forces predicated in desire going for them already, but also less precocious, less irrefragable, perhaps less constrained and effectual needs, such as for example due diligence needs (in legal, forensic, policing and military spheres), monitoring or quantitative outcome measurement needs (in self-development), or protocol adherence needs (in science and technology).

Substitute Willpower

Thirdly, this model also tends to be confusing when it comes to personal development. Most fundamentally, it confuses the professional coach or clinical professional of choice (who is assumed to know better) for a substitute source of volition, since our designated outlets for personal development—that is, the things we hope to achieve—like mental concerns are always hidden or occluded by the shrouds and patinas of missing links, which for personal development is most commonly the awning gap between present and future, and are also separated by the individual imprint of conscious dedication, in other words, by a sense of complete ownership of the possibility or possibilities in question.

Personal Development And Executive Ownership

It is essential to know that personal development evokes something called executive ownership, a principle in consciousness that results when our executive cognitive faculties of planning, organization and self-awareness successfully constrain and register pure coherence, which is the psychic complex of creative flow.

Executive ownership is at the center of consciousness between somatic demand and desire. And personal development evokes it in a much more arousing or stimulating way than, say, trauma-focused counselling does, which deals significantly with the effects of stress, something which is equally as readily disposed or gotten rid of as it is registered to awareness, assembled amidst embodied neural centers and externalized or communicated. Before becoming negativized—or, worse still, threatening—stress acts like a reflection of the way perceived things happen to be, as if our bodies were holding up a mirror for the sensory traces of those things specifically to hold something about them in perception when they are removed from it.

This arousal or stimulation can, in and of itself, entirely create the whole of discharge energy of personal development, and it is imperative that underlying motivations such as stress be understood and separated from the radical charge of personal development if it is to be successful.

Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware

From the perspective of consciousness, personal development is prone to over-idealization. It is not without caveats. For instance, it enacts multifarious dimensions of mental time which are then used to separate, assimilate, test or dissimulate and eventually normalize layers of experience, something which is more of a configurational than routine or maintenance concern, a concern, that is, with complex life coordinates as opposed to pure, largely built-in autonomous control like a goal of wanting to reduce drug use might have, since addiction is grown and eroded almost entirely out of desire and not especially informed by time except in narrative (for example, personal meaning) and technically trivial ways (for example, drug tapering needs, withdrawal or cessation syndrome potential, etc.).

Clearly, personal development should and does typically transpire in more than just the self-evident dimensions allowed by conscious demarcation, between on the one hand somatic demands and unimpeded health and, on the other, for example desire for more optimal functioning; it requires, that is, transitional substance, outlets or matter in between that are indifferent to parameters of consciousness per se, like drivers on the road or trees in the forest.

Rethinking The Middle

Come to think of it, it is unlikely that we would associate personal development with such imperative claims to our attention as soma and desire, knowing the impetus to personal development is pretty easily discovered in life, and least of all might we tend to settle for configuring the balance of personal development upon perceived immutability (soma) and vulnerability (desire) respectively, which is why the latter are not points or bases of departure but, in this case, the self-salient parameters of consciousness (and, in this manner, are inclusive as opposed to ordinal). Yet, this is not the whole story.

Consciousness For Personal Development

Outlets like physical exercise targets, instrument practice goals and productivity output amounts can be a challenging venue for personal development; they are not strategic, inasmuch they lack immediate relevance to ongoing development and are more like clefts or detours in experience. Typically, personal development is about purely self-relevant—not extensive or extensible—dimensions of change.

What we need for personal development, instead, is the unimpeded and unrestricted apparatus of pure attention, the seamless transition, made possible and impelled by consciousness alone.

For this purpose, in between consciousness and personal development, between a core sense of self and internal and external stimuli and our projected aims and goals, I propose a four-part model for personal development using consciousness as the guiding—and completely mechanizable—force for progress.

Consciousness For Personal Development: The Four Core Modes

Many PSSs lack skills of compartmentalization allowing for self-implementation of dynamic change, making coarse-grained modes of consciousness much more accessible than discrete behaviours.

We are tapping into modes of consciousness whenever, in fact, we experience changes in ourselves, in our work, in our days and in other facets of our experience.

I stratify my four proposed core modes of consciousness for personal development as follows:

  1. Somatic Consciousness: Somatic Consciousness is what we use to model the experience of our bodies in space and time. It gives us the feeling of being grounded in the world and is tapped by organic qualities and properties such as self-image, by illness and disability, mindfulness and meditation practices, metabolism and breathing exercises, deliberate self-care, and the various forms of perceptual interfacing that we engage in on a regular basis.

  2. Motor Consciousness: Motor Consciousness is what we use to create dynamism, juxtaposition, processual flow, behavioural activation and general levels of arousal and stimulation. It is the epicenter of movement, causation and consequential determinism.

  3. Capital Consciousness: Capital Consciousness is what we use to create virtuality, emulation and representation in the world. It is resource-based (material, financial, natural, etc.), poignant and intensive, indefatigable and distributive.

  4. Systems Consciousness: Finally, Systems Consciousness connects sense of self with social, institutional, organizational, ecological and network structures in the world. It is based in pattern recognition (which is an expertise of mine). It creates local and general commutativity, promulgation and a sense of oneness with the world and other people.

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Paul Betito, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paul Betito is a Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist with a virtual and in-person private practice in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has expertise in complex systems theory, psychoanalytic theories, cognitive therapies and the study of consciousness.



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