An overview of the 3-S approach

Program Overview


"I am often confronted by the necessity of standing by one of my empirical selves and relinquishing the rest ... the seeker of his truest, strongest, deepest self must review the list carefully, and pick out the one on which to stake his salvation."
William James, Principles of Psychology (1890-1950). NY:Dover Press, pp. 309-310.


What is Self ? ... What is Me ? ... What is my personal Path?

Who has time for such questions in the course of a day that requires going on automatic pilot in order to survive? The notion of a personal path now seems passé. Nowadays a more apt metaphor would probably be a high-speed super-highway that takes one rapidly towards ... what? -- happiness? ... misery? Yet more questions, with no time to reflect on an answer.

This high-speed mental "highway" that takes us rapidly through life may appear to be externally generated and perpetuated (i.e., by the fast-paced society in which we live). However, if we were to examine it more closely, we would find that it is constructed primarily of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that uniquely characterize each of us as individuals. Psychologists refer to the underlying structure of these habitual patterns as 'self¬ schemas.'

As described in the section Theoretical Foundation for 3-S, self-schemas filter incoming information, they differentiate and generate judgments about sensations (e.g., as self-relevant -- desirable/pleasurable, undesirable/aversive, or neutral), and they guide action, at the most primitive level, in pursuit of sensations that are desirable and avoidance of those that are aversive. Thus, through this self-schematic process, we create "the world" of our personal experience believing that this is "Me;" this is my "Self;" this is how "I" respond predictably and consistently to sensory contact with an otherwise unpredictable, impermanent external world.

It seems that once accessed, a habitual self-schema, just like a high-speed highway, can be extremely difficult to exit. If we were able to stop and examine it carefully, we may find that it is actually not taking us anywhere that is personally meaningful. That you are reading these words suggests you are someone for whom the word "Spirituality" has personal meaning. However, you, like many others, may be finding it difficult to experience and express your Spirituality in your daily life while being transported rapidly, automatically, through each day by your habitual self-schemas.

Even if you have found a Spiritual path that is capable of providing meaning and relief from suffering, chances are that you are finding it difficult to travel this path in the normal course of a day in which it has to compete with the high-speed highway of your habitual self-schemas. In comparison, your Spiritual path may seem like a narrow and overgrown trail through a thicket, difficult to access, and once accessed, slow to travel; its destination often hidden from view.

In the 3-S program, the concepts of "self-schema," "path," and "highway" are regarded as useful metaphors for the purpose of personal transformation. They do not, of course, reflect the complexity of the concepts of "the self" or "spirituality" as psychologists, philosophers, and theologians might discuss them (the interested reader is referred to the literature cited in the References). In the 3-S program, a Spiritual self-schema (i.e., the individual's Spiritual path) is viewed as a cognitive structure which, when carefully and elaborately constructed and maintained, provides the individual access to the experience and expression of what will be referred to in the 3-S program as, Spiritual nature. The 3-S program makes no attempt to define Spiritual nature for the individual. Qualities and characteristics attributed to it, such as a sense of interconnection with all living things and/or with a Supreme Being or Higher Power, will vary widely. However, in seeking some common ground, the program does begin with the proposition that individuals who seek to understand their Spiritual nature will, at the very least, view this intrinsic aspect of their being as wholly compatible with compassion, and wholly incompatible with causing harm to self or others.

Thus, the Spiritual Self-Schema (3-S) program seeks to help individuals

  • to discover their own Spiritual path that leads to compassion for self and others and to relief from suffering;
  • to make their unique Spiritual path increasingly accessible in their daily lives;
  • to use their Spiritual path to cope with adversity and to change behaviors that cause harm to self or others.

The 3-S program has three phases ...


You may work on each phase sequentially, at your own pace.

  • The goal of Phase 1 is as follows:
    to become aware of the readily accessed, high-speed path (or highway) one typically takes (the habitual self-schema) that defines how one experiences and expresses one's "Self" in the normal course of daily life, and to determine the compatibility of its automated pattern of thought, feeling, and behavior with the attainment of one's personal Spiritual ideals.
  • The goal of Phase 2 is as follows:
    to construct (or strengthen) one's unique Spiritual path and to transform it into one that is easily accessed, well-maintained, and convenient for daily use. This path is referred to in the 3-S program as the "Spiritual self-schema;" it is a habitual pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to be developed during the course of the 3-S program in order to provide ongoing access to the experience and expression of one's Spiritual nature -- however that is defined by the individual.
  • The goal of Phase 3 is as follows:
    to transform one's Spiritual self-schema into one's predominant or "habitual" self-schema, such that any previously traveled paths that led to suffering now fall into a state of disrepair from lack of use, and one's Spiritual path becomes wider, stronger, and available for use in every aspect of daily life, including coping with adversity and changing behaviors that cause harm to self or others.

    To accomplish these goals, the 3-S program integrates cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) with meditative practices common to a number of the major religious traditions into a non-sectarian, self-help program suitable for individuals of all faiths. Through self-reflection and mindfulness training, individuals become increasingly aware of those habitually activated self-schemas that prevent them from experiencing and expressing their Spiritual nature, and by developing and rehearsing new cognitive scripts and behavioral action sequences they construct a Spiritual self-schema (a personal Spiritual Path) that will provide ready access to the experience and expression of their Spirituality throughout daily life.
  • Materials Needed:
    You will need a 3-ring binder (not provided) labeled 'My 3-S Journal' to store your 3-S materials. If you prefer electronic storage of your 3-S records, create a new folder (labeled 3-S) on your computer's hard-drive. 3-S worksheets are available as hard copies at the end of this text. They are also available either by clicking on the name of each worksheet as it appears in the text (each worksheet opens as a new page). You may also access the Worksheets via a link on the About 3-S page. If you choose to proceed electronically, before you begin the 3-S program, it is recommended that you save all of the 3-S Worksheets to your hard-drive as HTML files, so that all the required code is retained. Then, when indicated in the text, open your HTML file and enter the information requested. When you have finished completing the Worksheet, save it to the 3-S folder on your computer and/or print a copy and file it in your 3-S Journal.
  • Glossary:
    Definitions of terms that may be unfamiliar are available by clicking on the term when it appears in the text (when viewed on the 3-S website). These definitions are also available in a glossary suitable for printing and filing in your 3-S Journal.
What to expect:
Becoming aware of the activation of a habitual pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving requires being motivated to change, being willing to make a commitment of time, and actively participating in the program. Each of the phases, outlined above, requires you to:

  • Reflect -- this includes both cognitive self-reflection and behavioral self-observation);
  • Rehearse -- this involves mental rehearsal, using meditation and guided visualization, as well as behavioral practice (acting as if you are on your Spiritual path during the course of your usual daily activities); and
  • Record -- this involves keeping a record of your reflections, observations, and images, as well as a schedule for, and content of, your behavioral practice.

This process is intentionally repetitive. The more methods you use, the more likely you will be able to identify what "path" (schema) you are accessing at any given moment and to make the decision either to remain on that path or to access another. Initially, you will need to set aside 30 minutes each day.

Before you begin ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my personal Spirituality compatible with compassion for self and others and with relief from suffering?
  2. Am I willing to examine honestly the paths that I take habitually in daily life that lead me away from my Spiritual nature and toward suffering?
  3. Am I willing to set aside time each day to construct, utilize, and maintain my own Spiritual path -- one that will facilitate the experience and expression of my Spirituality in my daily life?
If you did not answer 'yes' to each of these questions, this program may not be right for you.

If you did answer ‘yes’, please proceed to Phase I.