Two Selves Theory

face vase illusionThe existence of “Two Selves” has been accepted through Nobel Prize winning research. Much of the research about what’s known about our two selves has come via the research of Kahneman and Tversky. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in 2002 largely from the work he did with the late Amos Tversky. The “two selves” theory” points to a significant failing of our current psychologies – in which only the ego or self has come under scrutiny. What’s been missing is our whole other half – our inherently whole and satisfied Self. Time has come for you to pay attention to this one, too.

cat thinkingThe Conceptual self is often called the ego. This is who we have learned to be. This one the one sees differences and separates through logic and conceptual understanding. This one constructs a story-like personal history, makes beliefs and opinions, has great interest in personal status, achievement, security and money. Anxiety, insecurity, anger, self-doubt, depression, and greed are its inevitable companions. People take this view just to get through each day but associating with it makes one feel unfulfilled, inauthentic, defensive and aggressive. Taking on this view also means mistakenly and harmfully living in a conceptual world.

cropped-what-a-cat-sees.jpgThe Experiential Self is our perceptual view – the untransformed reality occurring prior to conceptualizing our ego. It’s who we are without our concept of ourself, our self-image. Where the ego makes distinctions and separates good from bad, the perceptual self sees wholeness through direct experience. This view has only the immediacy of each moment, acceptance of things as they are and an integrated sense of being. Happiness, kindness, generosity, and ethical behavior are its inevitable companions. Only the perceptual self has the capacity for unconditional love and full self-acceptance. It’s always there, but it’s frequently blocked out by the mental noise and unwarranted warnings of our boxes of concepts – our thoughts. Returning to the perceptual view means living authentically in a fluid, perceptual world – just as it is.

Becoming disinterested in ruminative thought allows re-engagement with the perceptual world – one in which the stress brought about by conceptual living decreases and both well-being and creativity return.

In terms of wellness, creativeness, insightfulness, education about over use of concepts/ thoughts and how to return to a perceptual, experiential view by developing attentional power are the two basic remedies.


An interesting video by Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winner, on this same topic can be found here …

Remembering and Experiencing Selves by Daniel Kahneman @ TED

An excellent, academic summary about the “two selves” is that of Kahneman and Riis (2005) … here below

Living and Thinking About It. Kahneman and Riis (2005)

Please also read my own article “Conceptual Versus Perceptual Information Processing: Implications for Subjective Reporting” in the December 2014 issue of APA’s Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics.”

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