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Skulpturpark „Vånas Konst“, Vanås, Schweden.

In Search Of The Lost Context

A selfie is quickly taken,
self-esteem takes more time.

A fictitious round table discussion with guests: a Zen master, an Indian guru, a psychotherapist and a neuropsychologist discuss how self-image and self-esteem develop. The ego experiences itself in the context of people, space and events. Self-images and self-awareness arise in this context. Self-esteem develops over time from the quality of these relationships. This needs to be learnt and practised.


Most relationships seem so transitory
They’re all good but not the permanent one
Who doesn’t long for someone to hold
Who knows how to love you without being told
Natasha Bedingfield: „Soulmate“. Am Schluss dieses Textes ist ein Link zum Song.

………. and yet he was where he wanted to be: a stranger among strangers and a stranger to himself …………
Henry Schoch: „Schmetterlinge im erkalteten Universum“

The highest kindness is not to be good to others, but to assume that others mean well by me
Maurice Blondel: „Tagebuch vor Gott“

In search of the self,
selfie and social media enable a view from the outside.
Relationships and shared attention enable an inner experience.
Marc Melchert


HOST: I would like to welcome our audience to this evening’s event. Our speakers are ‹Yoda 2.0›, ‹Ramana› and ‹Therapist›. Our guest speaker is an expert in neuropsychology. The title on the invitation was inspired by Marcel Proust. His major work is called «In Search of Lost Time», which we have changed to «In Search of Lost Context». Both titles fit the theme. Today we are talking about the relationship we have with our context. More specifically, the quality of that relationship and how that relationship evolves over time. When we consciously experience the context, it gives us a picture of ourselves! When this is put into a temporal sequence, self-esteem is created. As we will see, this is an important aspect of working with children: The foundations are laid early! Self-image, self-esteem, quality of relationships, context: what do these words mean? I very much hope that our speakers will help us to understand this better.

THERAPEUT: You’re right, there is a need for clarification. In our dialogue, we want to bring these words to life together. OK, I’ll get started! As soon as we are together, we form a context: a frame of reference, an environment, a context, a framework.

Host: You mean a network of relationships?

THERAPEUT: Yes, exactly. I would like to be more precise: The relationships in this network have characteristics and a temporal development. We have a unique relationship with our respective context at any given time. Depending on its composition, each context has its own characteristics with its own mood and we experience this space and this mood in our own individual way.

HOST: In a nutshell, this means that each network has its own quality, characterised by our individual relationships and by the passage of time.

THERAPEUT: This creates a unique network.

YODA: (interrupts)…. Mindfulness for the current context …. (squints her eyes and smiles contentedly) …. This is meditation ….

THERAPEUT: …. This creates an interaction between the I and the context and when we consciously experience this, a self-image is created. The consciously experienced relationship with the context creates a self-awareness = I experience myself. When I take a photo of myself with a smartphone, a selfie is created, a picture of myself = I see a screen with a picture of myself.

GUEST: Isn’t that the same thing?

THERAPEUT: The technical device is a crutch for consciousness, a mental «cyborg» and the context is very limited: ME + device. I can take many selfies, which gives me a collection of images of myself, but it doesn’t give me an experience of myself: Me and my context in a time lapse.

YODA: The selfie remains an external process, becoming aware of the moment is an internal experience.

RAMANA: Hence the important question: Which part of my ME is active now? Which part of my I is interacting with the context?

YODA: Yes, exactly, which part and which moment! Every moment has a current awareness of the I with the current context. This is called «here and now».

THERAPEUT: (looks round) We are sitting here together and discussing, i.e. we are forming a context together ….

RAMANA: (interrupts) …. Certain parts of our I …. We are rarely present with our full attention, so the question is always: Which part of me is currently connected to the context?

THERAPEUT: (reflects) Yes, that is important because it changes the quality of the relationship. (pause) Either way, we shape the context and the context shapes us, it’s an interaction. Take our salon, for example: on the one hand, I shape the mood in the room and on the other, this mood shapes my own experience. It depends on my personality how well I can engage with this interaction and how I experience it.

RAMANA: So here, too, the questions are: Who in the room is saying this? Which part of this person in the room is saying this?

Host: Let me summarise: We sit together and form a context, i.e. we have a frame of reference with each other, plus the relationship to the place and the topic we are talking about. Everyone has their own relationship to those present and also to the topic being discussed.

THERAPEUT: Yes, exactly! To the people and to the topic! Let’s go one step further. Because there is a place and a time (a duration), it becomes an event: the relationship to the people and to the thoughts is set in a temporal sequence.

Host: Because there are different relationships to the topic and the context, concepts and ideas are illuminated from different angles. This creates a multi-faceted picture ….

YODA: …. a hologram ….

THERAPEUT: …. that we can then take out of the context into our everyday lives. A mental experience … and also an emotional experience.

Host: By the way, thoughts in connection with an experience are the best way to learn something new. (looks at the neuropsychologist)

NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST: (nods) Yes, that’s what neuropsychology says: when cognition, action and emotion come together, learning can take place optimally. Learning is an event in itself: relationship, place and time.

YODA: (squints) Hmm, hmm, if THERAPEUT gets too complicated, talks too long and gets into trouble, then we can learn better…?

THERAPEUT: Yes, exactly, how right Yoda is!

(all laugh)

HOST: We’re already in the middle of it! I hate to interrupt your fervour, but I’d like to continue with the introduction I started. We have decided to look at this topic from the perspective of early childhood development. I will now turn to this and would like to start with an impressive film clip. It is about the «Still Face Experiment». In this experiment, scientists investigated what happens when a small child is deprived of the attention and loving care that is essential for survival. The experiment shows that an unexpected loss of contact is disturbing and painful for a small child.

Now I show you the Film clip from YouTube: „Still Face Experiment“ von Dr. Edward Tronick:

Film clip: Ed Tronick, director of UMass Boston’s Infant-Parent Mental Health Program (UMass Boston) and Distinguished Professor of Psychology, discusses the cognitive abilities of infants to read and react to their social surroundings.
(© 2007 ZERO TO THREE)

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The child desperately searches for the lost context.

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Film clip: Scene from «Blue Jasmine» by Woody Allen from 2013.
The scene shows Jasmine with her sister’s 2 sons. She tells the 2 children about her failed life.
(©2013 Sony Pictures classics / Director: Woody Allen)

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Attention deficit disorder is actually a disorder of relationship quality.

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You go there to show how you want to be, but the mirror shows you how you are.
Commentary by Judi James on the reality TV programme «Big Brother“.

The neurosis wants to manipulate the context so that it fits the fantasised ego image.
Marc Melchert on Reality TV

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Film clip: Gerhard Hüther explains how the parts of the brain work together and develop.
Scene from the film “Alphabet».
(© 2013 Prisma Film)

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  • Durch Nervenfasern verbundene Gehirn-Zellen erzeugen Gedanken, Gefühle und Bewegung. Die Nervenfasern bestimmen die Beziehung der Hirnzellen zueinander. Die Qualität der Verbindungen (Beziehung) beeinflusst die Hirnleistung.

Geist ist wertneutral — Die Hirnleistung ist relativ zur Beziehungsqualität.

  • Das Beziehungsnetz von Personen erzeugt einen Kontext und im zeitlichen Verlauf ein Ereignis. Die Beziehungsqualität der Personen untereinander beeinflusst die Stimmung.

Der Kontext und das Ereignis sind wertneutral — Die Stimmung ist relativ zur Beziehungsqualität.

  • Ich erlebe mich selber in einem Kontext, es entsteht ein Selbst-Bild. Der Selbst-Wert entsteht im Laufe der Zeit (Abfolge von Bildern) und ist relativ zu meiner Art und Weise, wie ich die Beziehungen im Kontext erlebe.

Das wahrnehmende ICH und der Kontext sind wertneutral — Der Selbstwert ist relativ zur Beziehungsqualität.

(everyone talks in confusion)

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The field of polarity has a centre. Mindfulness is the exercise, awareness is the effect produced. Mindfulness generates awareness for the relationship between the ego and its context. Meditation is mindfulness set in the course of time.
Marc Melchert

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„ …. Quality is not a thing, it is an event …. “
Robert M. Pirsig: „Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“.

Host: (squinting at therapist) You can read more about this in the interview with the author of this blog: About a Boy and his Blog.

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(Everyone talks slowly with pauses)

YODA: …. Practise mindfulness constantly …. I shape the context, the context shapes me …. It is an interaction …. I and context are interdependent ….

HOST: …. How I call the forest …. it sounds out ….

YODA: …. What I call into context …. returns as an echo ….

THERAPEUT: …. In psychological terms this means ….

Neurosis stages itself …. and creates what it fears the most….
Marc Melchert

(long break)

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The context is a table:
We sit at this table and place our part on it. Each part on the table is value-neutral in itself «as it is». The pieces take on their own meaning and value relative to the table and the other pieces on it.
What we put on the table and what we take from it or leave on the table characterises our own soul and the mood at the table. Everyone makes their own menu.
In this picture, quality is the ability to put together a wholesome menu from this laid table: We take what is suitable and leave what is unsuitable. I am responsible, not the table, not the others.
This is an event every time and it takes mindfulness …. and experience …. and practice …. and time.
(Ann Suter)

(langes Schweigen)

HOST: To bring you back down to earth, I’ll end by showing you the wonderful song by Natasha Bedingfield «Soulmate». The quote in the invitation is from this song. It’s a recording from Antenne Bayern – I love this unplugged version.

Movie clip fom Radiostation «Antenne Bayern»
Natasha Bedingfield, Soulmate, unplugged,  30.5.2011. 
(Standard-YouTube-Lizenz – auf YouTube gestellt von Antenne Bayern)

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