One of my passions is thinking deeply about personhood. I am in the process of developing a model that attempts to integrate many different perspectives on how human beings are constituted. See the diagram in the section below for explication during the following explanation.


Humans enter the world embodied. Through this embodied existence and her interaction with the external environment, an individual develops heuristic capabilities based on the norms of existence. From an internalized understanding of these norms, a kind of hermeneutic, an individual makes choices accordingly—a “causa normalis” or an applied will pertaining to norms emerges. As an embodied individual interacts with the norms of existence, a memory of this interaction through time emerges in parallel to create stable ways of being in relationship to the world and others. This situationally activated web of the self in relationship I call the “autoplexus” or the self network.


At each intersection of these developing realms of personhood are the modes of personhood. The causa normalis  (CN) is the realm associated with pattern recognition and heuristics as well as the motivating force of the will. When this is brought to bear upon the realm of the body, which is that which is particular and existent, we see the motivated application of norms to particularity leading to something external or existent. This is action, doing, and the modality of ethics.

The autoplexus is the realm associated with the experience of personhood through time relationally to others and contexts. When the autoplexus intersects with the CN, the modality of epistemology emerges: how we know what we know. This modality is bound by context and norms. Experientially, knowing manifests in both thought and feeling as the CN and autoplexus contribute to the endeavor. Because the autoplexus is non-explicit and is a repository of self-states and experiences it contributes to knowing primarily via feeling. Alternatively, the CN is primarily explicit and able to be the subject of its own heuristic function leading to the experience of thought in the mode of knowing.

When the particularity and singularity of the realm of the body intersects with the contextual, situational and relationally networked realm of the autoplexus, the mode of being arises. This can be thought of as the particularity of what is happening externally in the existent activating the relevant self-states from the autoplexus. This mode is ontological in nature and is experienced as presence.


Because the existent present is continuously changing, any specific mode of being exists only in the present whereupon it changes as the present becomes the past and the experience of having been is integrated into the realms of the body and autoplexus. Similarly, as the mode of doing is engaged, there is the sense that it is effecting some outcome that reaches into future possibilities and brings them to bear upon the present. This is the means by which the CN refines its heuristic and reality tests its norms. Additionally, as this mode brings some future outcome to bear upon the present, the realm of the body also has the opportunity to integrate what was experienced. The mode of knowing, on the other hand, is more persistent than the modes of doing and being in that it is an internalized repository that primarily draws upon past experience.

The experience of integration between all of these realms and modes of personhood is the experience of identity. They coalesce through a process of integration which is not just what we do, or how we are, or what we think and feel, but the sum of these things that is greater than the individual parts. I also suspect that it is from this place of final integration that the experience of desire emerges to complete the integrative circuit.


Body-based therapies attempt to intervene on that realm, as the other two are not available externally for direct interaction. Alternatively, from a talk-therapy perspective, interventions occur primarily via the modes of personhood. Different therapeutic modalities tend to focus their interventions on one of the three modalities of personhood primarily while not neglecting the other two.

Relationally based methodologies tend to emphasize awareness of the here-and-now between the client and the therapist and how what is in the present contains expectations from past relationships. Therapists employing this method often de-emphasize goal-oriented interventions or metric-based approaches to gauge therapeutic progress potentially negatively impacting the mode of doing. The therapist with this approach tends to focus on containing the realm of the body as awareness is drawn to it and activating past self-states from the realm of the autoplexus for examination and re-experiencing in the present.  

Cognitive methodlogies focus instead on how a person has come to know something by an examination of past interactions and the possibility of future ones. They tend to de-emphasize awareness of what is happening in the mode of being between the therapist and client relying instead on manualized interventions that exist independent of the relationship. Therapists using this methodlogy are often engaged in examining historical self-states from the autoplexus and correcting heuristic functions of the CN. 

Behavioral methodologies tend to de-emphasize the past and instead focus their efforts on changing future outcomes and experiences in the present. Therapists from this methodology attempt to intervene in the modality of doing with the hope that subsequent outcomes will positively effect change in the CN. Additionally, they also attempt to provide interventions that can be used in the moment to contain and provide a sense of control over undesirable reactions in the realm of the body.


I have not yet laid out how dysfunction manifests within each realm and mode of personhood. This is more of a therapist's concern. Briefly, however, as certain experiences interfere with integration between these realms and modes, the possibility for this dysfunction to become integrated and internalized into identity exists and increasingly does so as this interfering experience reoccurs. An example would be having an experience of powerlessness where a person was unable to do or effect an outcome because of interference of some kind. This has the potential to skew the functioning of the CN. Chronic re-exposure may even lead to drastic dysfunction and inability to have realistic expectations of the self, others, or the world. Of course, such an experience would also be stored in the repository of the autoplexus and may even have lasting repercussions in the realm of the body, depending on the specifics.

My hope in proposing this model is that different therapeutic modalities could learn to value the strengths of their various approaches to effect change in a person. It may be that this model could also help therapists ascertain which intervention would be of the most benefit to a client based on the type of integrative dysfunction they are experiencing. 

Finally, considering this proposed model, I believe that the therapist has the most access to the present during a session and as such, through presence is able to bring about the most significant changes through the mode of being. Also, because the mode of being is the least explicit, it is also perhaps the mode least susceptible to conscious manipulation and thus the most convincing in its authenticity of response to a client. Authenticity and believability of response are most likely directly related to how integratively transformative the therapeutic relationship is to a client's personhood. The other two modes, due to the influence of the CN, can be more explicitly and consciously presented to a client and as such may not be as readily integrated due to the transactional nature of the therapeutic relationship.


From a broad perspective, I believe that a person changes when there is sufficient exposure to a new way of experiencing the self that it is integrated into a person's sense of identity. This is a neutral way of discussing change as this new way of experiencing the self could be desirable or undesirable.

Many of life's circumstances, experiences, and relationships often do not facilitate experiencing the self in a consistently desirable way and over time an individual begins to believe that this way they are negatively experiencing themselves must be a truth about who they are. At this point, that "truth" becomes integrated into their sense of identity.

The hope of therapy then, is that the therapeutic relationship can be one where an individual can expose these undesirable "truths" for the lies they are. This unraveling happens with the therapist as a safe and trustworthy presence to help them face these lies. This is done by confronting expectations of shame with loving presence, reframing and reimagining how they perceive themselves  and their past to better reflect reality and free them to experience truth, and grieving past harm to free up past experiences of their self that are stuck in the past. Over time, as these new experiences consistently undermine the indwelt lies, an individual comes to believe the ways they are being experienced and integrate them as truths into their identity.

In short, we need an Other to change what we believe about ourselves and this Other needs to resist colluding with the lies we believe long enough to show us the truth of our own goodness until we can believe it for ourselves.

 For more details on my philosophy of change and personhood see the section below.

diving in

If you have an academic interest in the therapeutic approach I employ please read on! If you haven't met me in person, please know that I don't engage in therapeutic interactions with the same kind of academic tone you will read below.

I wanted to provide this section as a window into how my thoughts about therapy have been formed. I enjoy reading, thinking, and writing about theoretical and philosophical psychology and hope you will enjoy the following as well.

Personal Philosophy of Change

Theoretical and Philosophical Models


©2017 by Ben Adams Counseling