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the "Baby Onion" and Our Social Priorities

Getting to Know the "Real You"

In this visual article, we briefly explore the inner four layers of the Emergence Personality Theory: the Layers of Aloneness. We also show how accessing these four inner layers can reveal "the real you"; meaning, your true, healthy, loving self. What keeps us from seeing this side of ourselves? The outer six layers. Thus, ordinarily, our true selves get obscured by our BLocks, symptoms, blame, and detachments. This means one of the most useful things about knowing your social priorities is that you get to see who you are beneath these outer layers. What then? You get to better gauge where you need help and better guide your healing efforts.

Baby Onion

Introducing the "Baby Onion"

What you see above is what we Emergence Practitioners call, the "Baby Onion."

What is the "baby onion"?

The baby onion represents the part of our personalities which existed before we became jaded to life. In effect, it is the heart and soul of who we are, our inner, honest, naively innocent selves.

In a way, you could say this is who we are had we had never been hurt by life. Thus, this is the clear and perfectly-human being who resides inside us all, the part of us people see when we are genuinely being ourselves.

In essence then, this is our authentic self, the very core of who we are and why we do things.

This, then, is what the drawing I've placed above represents; it represents our authentic self. And to understand how it represents this authentic self, begin with the idea that we Emergence Practitioners use a theory of personality called the Layers of Aloneness.

What is this theory like?

This theory uses a succession of ten layers to explain human personality.

This theory is also a developmental theory of personality, in that we see personality unfolding and growing similarly to how an onion grows and unfolds.

This is why, then, when we draw this theory, we draw a ten layer onion.

Please know that in this article, we will be focusing on the inner four layers of this onion, which is the part of the ten layers we call, the "baby onion."

Why call it the baby onion?

Because these four, inner layers are the parts of our personalities which emerge in our early childhoods, from conception to about age four. In this aspect, we have much in common with other developmental theories of personality.

Where we differ though is in how we see babies in this first four years. We see them as innocent and vulnerable.

Don't other theorists see this vulnerability as well?

To some extent, yes. However, we also believe these four layers remain permanently vulnerable and permanently innocent and in this way, we see personality, and people, quite differently. People aren't broken. They simply have parts of this baby onion BLocked and so, act inauthentic.

But isn't this just some fancy way to let people off the hook for their wrong doings?

Not at all. It's just that we see peoples' responsibility beginning with uncovering and using these inner four layers. We also see doing anything less than this as at best, well-intentioned efforts which simply lead to more hell; the actual "road to hell" to use a common cliche.

Here, then, is where I will be focusing in this article; on briefly describing these inner four layers. More over, rather than focusing on the theoretical differences I've just mentioned, I simply want to offer an introductory look at how and why we posit this innocence.

Where do we start?

Let's begin with a visual metaphor for how we see these four layers forming.

Baby Onion

the Inner Two Layers of the Baby Onion,
Layers 10 and 9: Connection - the "Light of Unity"

What I've drawn above is a visual metaphor for how the four inner layers of personality form. In this metaphor, we've used a candle to represent the two, inner most layers, Layer 10 and Layer 9.

Layer Ten represents the connection we established in the moment we were conceived. We see this as the basis for all connections we make to what is divine in our world, from the divine beauty in the Grand Canyon to the divine beauty in a sunset.

We call this inner layer, the Layer of "Divine Connection."

Next we have Layer Nine, the Layer of "Personal Connection. In this layer, we find all the connections we felt from conception to the moment before our birth. This layer then becomes the root of all the personal connections we make, whether they be between actual persons, living or not, or between us and the things we shape into person-like beings, such as the Buddhist's "ghosts of wanting" or Freud's "unconscious."

In Layer Nine then, we see two kinds of "personal" connections. We see the connections we make to actual people, and we see the connections we make to anthropomorphic metaphors, those non-human aspects of our world to whom we assign people-like qualities.

Realize, things like "teddy-bears" and "god" fall into this category. Thus, no real "god" or "God" would actually be as flawed as we human are. At least none I'd trust. Even so, we regularly and frequently feel the source of our world is a flawed and broken being. How sad.

So how can we forget the true nature of this part of ourselves?

Again, because this authentic reality is obscured by, or lays buried beneath, six other layers of personality. Both of these things really. This is also how people who spend years meditating can sometimes have profound spiritual experiences. How? They get to see beneath these six outer layers to the four authentic inner layers within: They get to see the only layers in them which do not forget the existence of our anthropomorphic self centeredness.

Finally, we see these two layers; Layer 10 and Layer 9, as the basis of what is "light" in our world, the essence of all energy, within and without.

And what the essence of this light?

Connection. The "relativity" Einstein wrote about, only in a more personal, human form.

What's in the next layer then?

The fall from paradise. The being thrown out of the Garden of Eden. The separation referred to in the Course in Miracles. And the still point in the process of birth.

Layer 8: Aloneness - the "Prism of Separation"

Continuing with our metaphor for the Baby Onion, we come to the next layer in human personality, Layer 8, the Layer of Aloneness. What's in this Layer?

Begin by noticing what we've chosen to represent this layer. A "prism." Why a prism? Because we see pure and total aloneness as what divides the Light of Connection into the darkness of our needs. And lest you be put off by this some what unscientific description, this Layer represents what happens to us in the first instant in which become physically separate from our mothers.

It is also what happens to all mothers in this moment, and in speaking with many mothers, most do remember this experience. In fact, quite a few women ask me, how could a man even know this moment existed?

The how is not important. Knowing that it exists, however, was the clue from which the whole of human personality became clearer.

So is this layer scientific? Empirical to be more exact?

Yes. It is. And were you to be consciously standing in the room in that moment, and were you to have the conscious awareness with which to sense the profound aloneness present in all those witnessing the birth, you would know what I mean.

What if you have never done this though? How could you know what this aloneness means?

Have you ever been in an accident? Then there was a still-point moment in the instant before the impact, or fall, or recoil.

Have you ever suffered a personal loss, such as moment in which you first learned of a serious illness in yourself or in a loved one? Then you experienced a still-point moment in the fraction of a second in between being on high alert and being in shock.

So are we literally still in these still-point moments?

Actually, no. In fact, experiencing this difference, the difference between our experience of total stillness and the reality that life continued on without us, is what makes these moments so profoundly difficult.

In a way, these experiences are the most profoundly inaccurate of any we perceive. We actually experience being totally alone and separate from all else, even though this is a literal impossibility.

What makes these moments even more important though is the fact that all critical life events include this moment of aloneness. This is true whether they be wounding moments, healing moments, discovery moments; what ever. More over, just as I've represented this moment in the metaphor, these still-point moments are the "middle moments" in all these important life events.

Now consider for a moment what I've just said. Layer 8 experiences are the middle moments in every important event we have ever had and will ever have. Thus, whether these middle moments occur in the middle of an urge to do drugs or alcohol additively; wherein we feel totally alone and unable to stop, or whether these middle moments occur in the midst of a personal discovery, like falling in love with some thing or some one; wherein the exact moment we fall is never visible; either way, these middle moments mark the transitions between our being one person and then another. We change in these moments. We permanently change.

One final point. Please know that these moments are not moments in which we feel lonely. Loneliness requires we know someone else exists, at least on paper. Rather, "the "aloneness" of Layer 8 is the abject absence of anyone or anything else, similar to the state Zen Buddhists' aspire to when they seek to become totally empty of the world.

Remember though, they do this in order to discover the true nature of this world, and not because they see this world as bad or broken. In a sense then, our theory of personality has some very deep connections to the form of Buddhism. We do, in fact, very much see Buddhism as a true theory of personality.

What's in the next layer?

The "divided light of unity," the experience of which we call, "need."

Here again, we can make a direct comparison between the Buddhist theory of personality and ours. The Buddhists see use a personal metaphor; the "Ghost of Wanting"; to represent the cause of human suffering. We, then, see this Layer, the 9th Layer, as being very similar.

So what's actually in this 7th Layer?

Layer 7: Need - the "Primary Colors of Human Personality"

Let's begin with the idea that there are two parts to this layer, the "character type" part and the "Social Priority" part. Let's start with the "character type" part.

"Character type" is simply the first thing we experience after we experience a still-point moment. Thus, in the moment immediately following the physical separation of mother and baby, what happens? The baby cries. And what is the essence of that cry? "ME! What about ME!"

In this moment then, all humans make their first request for help meeting their needs. Or rather, we demand this help.

And what is the essence of what we demand? The beginning of the second part of Layer 7, our first Social Priority; Sensation.

Thus the first thing we demand is something sensory, such as being physically held and spoken to so on. In a way, we demand to know we are not alone, and that there is another human being there with us.

What makes this so important to us?

Well think about what we experience in the instant just before our awareness of having this need. We experience the profoundly painful illusion that we are utterly and totally alone. This on the heels of having had the profound experience of being very deeply connected to someone; the connection we had to our mothers throughout our pregnancy.

Remember, too, human babies are born relatively blind. We can't see anyone in those first moments. Not that we would know what we were seeing even if we were born sighted. Thus, even if we could see from birth, we would more resemble a blind person whose sight was suddenly restored than a sighted person who knew what to make of what they saw.

We are born, however, able to make some sense out of being touched and hearing sounds. Within minutes then, we bond to the scent, touch, and sound of our mothers.

Can you now see why Kanner's Autism is so profoundly disabling? People with Kanner's Autism relive this experience of total aloneness over and over and cannot see past it.

Fortunately, most of us do not get this autism, and in time, we develop to the next phase, somewhere around age six months.

What happens then?

We begin to see normally. We do, in fact, begin to better develop this sense from about age three months. At six months, we see pretty well, including that we see with depth perception.

What changes in us?

The focus of what we need changes, from sensation itself to "sensing things."

What happens if a baby gets stuck here?

OCD. Or OCPD. The baby gets stuck in their need to sense things, whether this be by repeatedly touching them in a predictable manner or by obsessively organizing them into a predictable pattern.

Of course, most babies do not get stuck here. For them, what comes next?

Just prior to turning one or so, about three-quarters of all human babies move into the second character type; what I call, the "you" character type or the "two" character type. What's this character type like?

Well, at or near age ten months or so, babies begin to realize there are other beings out there, other people who also have needs.

What's this look like?

In the ten to fourteen days in which a baby realizes this, the baby will begin to look out before doing what it wants to do. Prior to this time, the baby will simply do whatever it wants to do with no regard for who or what is out there.

Please know, this "no regard for the needs of others" is a normal and necessary part of human development. Unfortunately, a few babies get stuck in this character type and so, have a hard time later in life with understanding why others have needs.

In truth then, about a quarter of all babies remain in this character type, and if they also sustain serious psychological injuries, these people become mentally ill. In fact, if you consider what I've just said, you will see why mental illness is so hard to treat. It's hard to treat anyone who sees only their own needs.

Fortunately, even most "ones" do not sustain serious enough psychological injuries to make them mentally ill. Thus, while they may appear selfish to others at times, they also make great leaders and movie stars and athletes No surprise we feel like "babying" them so.

As for the other three quarters of us, we do move on to the next character type, wherein we spend a lot of time "checking for the needs of others."

And the baby's Social Priority? Does it change in this second year as well?

Often, yes, a baby's Social Priorities do normally change from a focus of "sensing things" to a focus of "assigning words, labels, and context to the things they sense."

Here then is what most babies are like in their second year of life. They have a character type of "you," and they have a Social Priority of "understanding the things they sense."

What if a baby gets stuck in this year of life?

For one thing, they end up constantly needing to meet the needs of others, something known popularly as being "codependent." Also, a few babies get stuck in this year's Social Priority and so, get the kind of autism we call, "Asperger's Disorder."

What is Asperger's Disorder?

It's when people get stuck in "understanding the things they sense."

In a way, the "autism" part of this diagnosis comes from the fact that these people treat everything in the world, including other people, as "things they need to understand."

These people are not cold, then, although they are often mistaken for being cold. No, rather they are simply stuck in seeing everything in the world as something they need to learn about and master. Including other people, and especially the relating to and being with other people.

I have this condition. I am also a "two," which is to say, my character type was formed in my second year of life.

Said in other words, I am a perpetual "you"; a consummate "giver"; and I am a perpetual learner and explorer of everything in life.

Obviously, I have learned to see beyond the limits of these conditions or I couldn't now be speaking to you with such warmth and compassion. Even so, I consider my first language to be Asperger's and being a "two," and I consider all else to be "second languages."

Most babies don't get what I have though. What happens to these babies?

About fifty percent of all babies go on to both the next character type; a "me then you," and on to the next Social Priority; "being free from having to understand the things you sense."

What do these two things look like?

Let's start with this third character type, which we most times call being a "three."

Obviously this name, like the names for the first two character types, comes from the year in which the baby first lives like this.

As to what this looks like, in the third year of life, about half of all babies, whenever they feel needy, first, demand that they immediately get what they want.

"Me!" Give ME what I want! Right now!"

This is followed by feeling some sense of remorse for having been so demanding, which then leads to their refocusing onto the needs of those they were just demanding from. This goes something like;

"You. What about you. Do you want me to do anything for you now?"; spoken softly.

Interestingly enough, babies whose Social Priority is "freedom" miss seeing how their demands for the freedom to get whatever they want precariously offsets the freedom of anyone who wants to say, "no." In a way, they value freedom but only for themselves.

What next? Is there anything else?

As far as Social Priorities, no, they are done. Thus these four Social Priorities are:

[1] sensation,
[2] things,
[3] understanding, and
[4] freedom

And these four priorities are all there are. After age four, then we simply expand on, and develop, and mix and match, and integrate into ourselves these four Social Priorities in varying levels of importance.

As far as character type though, there is one more, a fourth and final type.

We call this type a "you then me."

We also refer to it by the year of life it happens in, in which case we call it being a "four."

What is a "four?"

A "four" is a person who is pretty close to being a mirror image of a "three." Thus, rather than being a "me then you," a "four" is a "you then me."

Notice the words I've been using. "Me." "You." "You then Me." "Me then You."

Now insert this question into the mix: "Whose needs do you see as important right now?"

This, then is what people character type implies; whose needs do I consciously experience when I'm needy.

As the four character types then, the four ways people can answer this question are:

  1. as a Me ("I see my needs as important right now.");
    I am a "First Year of Life Person." I am a "One."
  2. as a You ("I see your needs as important right now.");
    I am a Second Year of Life Person." I am a "Two."
  3. as a Me then You ("I see my needs as important right now. Then when I'm done, I see your needs as important right now.");
    I am a "Third Year of Life Person." I am a "Three."
    and finally,
  4. as a You then Me ("I see your needs as important right now. Then, when I have met your needs, I see my needs as important right now.")
    I am a "Fourth Year of Life Person." I am a "Four."

These four character types are whose needs we see. The four Social Priorities then are what we think these needs are.

Now let's summarize all these ideas by taking a look at the drawing below. In it, you'll find a more empirical version of the Baby Onion, wherein the facts I've just introduced get pasted onto a time line of the first four years of a baby's life.

Normal Four Social Priorities as an Onion

the Four Normal Layers of the Baby Onion

First, notice the time scale which runs through the middle of this drawing. It represents our lives from birth through our about fourth year of life.

Next, notice the colored arrows just below this time line. These four arrows represent our needs to give and receive, otherwise known as our "character type."

Below these four arrows then is the sequence in which we normally learn about our world; the four basic needs we all have; our Social Priorities. These four priorities are: [1] sensation / comfort; [2] organization / neatness; [3] ideas / understanding; and [4] will / freedom.

What you see next in the drawing is the sequence of the four ways we separate from our world; the three Individuations and the one Integration ; [1] Visual Individuation, [2] Physical Individuation, [3] Personal Individuation, and [4] Social Integration.

Finally, notice how both the four Character Types and the Four Social Priorities overlap in time. Thus, a person may have and Asperger's diagnosis and have some OCD symptoms. Or a person may have an ADD diagnosis but still occasionally be very willing to sit still and learn.

Inverted Four Social Priorities as an Onion

the Four Inverted Layers of the Baby Onion

Finally, we see what we call, the "Inverted Baby Onion." What does this drawing represent?

It represents the thing which can happen to us all whenever we relive an injury. How's this work?

Well, say you are normally a "two" character type; a "You." This means that normally, you are a very giving person. To everyone except to yourself.

If you relive an injury though, it is very possible you will invert this need and in a sense, become a strange character type known as a "Me for You."

What's this look character type like?

It looks very much like a "me" character type only the needs you fill are someone else's, not yours.

They are also not the needs of any one other than the person you currently designate as needy. Thus, to everyone other than to this designated needy person, you appear to be very selfish and ungiving.

How can you know whether your character type is inverted?

Inverted character types feel forced to fill the needs they see as valid. Thus, a "me for you," inverted "two," will feel compelled to fill the needs of only the currently designated needy person. And no one else's. Even at the expense of themselves and the expense of all others. Said in other words, you become very selfish about filling the needs of the one person you currently see as needy, even at the experience of others.

What about the Social Priorities then? Do they invert?

Yes, they do. And if you read the labels for each Social Priority, you'll see the essence of the inversion. Thus, the focus of the first Social Priority; "comfort" becomes [1] "discomfort." And the focus of the second Social Priority; "neatness"; becomes [2] "disorganization." The focus of the third Social Priority; "understanding"; becomes [3] "confusion." Finally, the focus of the fourth Social Priority; "freedom"; becomes [4] "rules."

These, then are the four inverted Social Priorities: [1] discomfort, [2] disorganization, [3] disinterest, and [4] disrespect.

As needs then, they become what we feel forced to give or get, depending on our character type.

One final note. It is possible, and common, for people to have an inverted Social Priority and a normal character type. It is also possible for a person to have a normal Social Priority and an inverted character type.

This means there are four possible combinations:

[1] Normal Character Type / Normal Social Priority
[2] Inverted Character Type / Inverted Social Priority
[3] Inverted Character Type / Normal Social Priority, and
[4] Normal Character Type / Inverted Social Priority.

A Brief Summary

Feeling overwhelmed?

Me too.

Surprised that I am? Well, the simple truth is, I have spend most of the past year just trying to sort out the possibilities. And I'm no where near done. In fact, I feel like I'm just beginning.

Feel better?

I hope so. Maybe together we can sort out what this stuff all means.

As for the summary, let me try to keep it simple.

The Baby Onion is metaphor I use to represent the four inner layers of human personality. These four layers are: Layer 10: Divine Connections; Layer 9: Personal Connections; Layer 8: Aloneness; and Layer 7: Need.

Layers 10 and 9 represent the light of unity, the experiences we have which put the "gas in our tanks."

Layer 8 represents the "prism of aloneness": the "still-point moments in our lives. In these moments, we blank out and feel profoundly alone. No surprise that it is in these moment that we do harm, either to ourselves, or to others, or to both.

Finally, Layer 7 represents the divided light of connection; or what we refer to as the "Primary Colors of Human Personality." These colors generally take two forms; Character Type and Social Priority.

The first part of Layer 7, our Character Type, represents the "who" of our neediness; the two directions we feel neediness: Me (getting) and "You" (giving).

In a way, these two states are the two personal experiences of yin and yang, only the order would be more like yang and yin.

The second part of Layer 7, then; Social Priority; represents the "what" of neediness; the thing we feel we need to get or give. These "what's" take four general forms: [1] Comfort, [2] Neatness, [3] Understanding, and [4] Freedom.

Finally, in times of stress, these two Layer 7 experiences can become forced and unnatural. In these times, our Character Type and Social Priorities can become inverted; in effect; mere distortions of our true selves. In these times, the four inverted Social Priorities invert and become: [1] discomfort, [2] disorganization, [3] disinterest, and [4] disrespect.

So what's the point of all this?

As I said in the beginning, what the Baby Onion is not is just some fancy way to let people off the hook for their wrong doings. Or some fancy therapists way of sanitizing peoples' illnesses.

What it is, then, is the best way people can know what they are, and are not, responsible for, beginning with being responsible for uncovering and using what is in these inner four layers.

Finally, as we said previously, we also see doing anything less than this as, at best, well-intentioned efforts which simply lead to more hell; the actual "road to hell" to use a common cliche.

Please do explore these things more deeply then. If not for you, then for someone you love.

Good luck on your journey.


To see how the Social Priorities Relate to Learning Disabilities

To learn about the Layers of Aloneness Personality Theory in more depth