Human Design – not-self mechanics – Parts 1 – 5

By Richard Rudd


‘Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha’s most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali Canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha’s teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the ‘anatta’ or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as “self” or “not-self” would not apply.’                     


                                                                                                                    Thanissaro Bhikkhu

If you are at all interested in Human Design, then the above statement should quietly blow you off your seat. It states that it is more than probable that Buddha taught the first strategy of the Not-Self, not as a concept to be discussed by scholars and monks, but as a living means of attaining awakening. Human Design is the new science of awakening, and thus it has much in common with the Buddha, even though it has virtually nothing in common with Buddhism. Since most westerners find Buddhist terminology rather complex and obscure, let’s redefine some of these basic terms in plain English:

True Self – Our original nature

Not-Self – Our conditioned nature

Awakening – The continual surrender to both

The most important thing to remember about the Not-Self is that it isn’t bad, and it isn’t something we are trying to get rid of. It is simply a fact of the way in which the world works. We humans do not know ourselves. We are caught in a great complex web of conditioning. In fact, the Not-Self is a part of the global genetic programme. In other words, the world is supposed to operate according to the laws of the Not-Self, just as some people are designed to awaken to the True Self. It is all part of a great movie. I like to see the Self and the Not-Self as 2 sides of an hourglass, connected in the middle. As soon as you meet your design for the first time, the hourglass tips and the sand begins to rush down the narrow neck. It will take seven years to empty into the lower glass, and even then, some sand will always be stuck in the neck, since not all our cells can be renewed. Certain bone cells and liver cells for example will never be replaced, and will thus always carry some small vestige of our Not-Self programming.

What Buddha was saying was that if you find out all that you are not, whatever remains at the end is what you are. This is the state of awakening, and it contains the paradox of both states, while at the same time transcending them.

The funniest thing of all is that if you live as your True Self rather than your Not-Self, your life may not change very much at all! You certainly won’t escape your suffering. The only real difference is that you won’t try to.


In order to understand the Not-Self in someone’s design, we have to build a story out of the genetic continuity in their design. The not-self is rooted in the incorrect functioning of one’s strategy. Because the not-self conditioning takes place in the first seven year cycle of our lives, it is not something we can easily get to grips with. 99.9% of Humanity do not even remember who they are.

 Above is the design of a 4.6 single definition generator. In this case, we immediately know that this person will feel frustrated in life because her energy systems do not have direct access to the throat. Now let us travel through each of her undefined centres in turn and watch the story of her not-self unravel.

The greatest conditioning factor in any design is the three awareness centres. In the above case, both the ajna centre and the solar plexus centre are undefined, so that is a good place to begin. 

In the undefined ajna centre, you can see that there are 3 activations, the most important of which is the design Pluto in the 4th gate. Pluto has a disproportionate effect on our design, representing our deepest Truth. This person is always looking for a solid logical foundation in order to feel safe about her future. Added to this, both her south nodes are in the 47th gate of oppression. She is also under pressure to resolve the past in some way. You can already see the beginning of the not-self story. She is a 4.6 generator so the first thirty years of her life will have been a real challenge for her. She is a deeply mutative person with the channel 3/60 and is bound to have to deal with alternating chaos and order in her life. The conditioning in her mind will drive her to worry about the future and to try and take action to make her feel more secure in life. As someone who is also insatiable, she wants an answer to everything in life.

People with undefined minds often compare themselves to others. This is because all their anxieties emerge when their minds are defined by the presence of other people. This mind will be drawn to new ideas above all else (the 11) because that is how she finds expression through her 56. The not-self strategy of such a mind is to constantly try and stimulate others in order to escape feeling inadequate (16).

Naturally, if this person is living her design, all these attributes will function very differently. If she waits for the right opportunities in life, she will find that people will naturally seek her out as a role model, bringing their ideas to her.  She can then objectively and logically assess (4) these ideas, drawing upon her experience (47) and use her mental and vocal skills (16) to create new ways of seeing and expressing things (56). That is the gift of an undefined mind. 

Now let us turn to the undefined Solar Plexus centre. You can see that there are 4 gates activated in this centre, which are dormant until the centre becomes defined. These gates are called hanging gates, and by examining them, we will see how the not-self operates through this person’s emotional system. When you see several hanging gates in an undefined centre, there is always a story waiting to be synthesised out of them. Here we have the 30, desire, the 37, friendship, the 6, intimacy and the 22, romance. There are many keynotes that go with each gate, and one of the tricks of playing with keynotes is to choose the ones that seem to fit together easily. So, we have someone who is conditioned by a deep desire for intimacy, romance and friendship. That may remind us of the 4/6 profile, whose sexuality is based on the themes of friendship and trying to find a soul mate. 

Being undefined, this is someone who cannot control their emotional wave around other people. Because this is an emotional system that is open and seeking intimacy, this person probably had many disappointments in her first thirty years of life, especially if she was jumping on other people’s highs and lows. She will have learned from her mistakes and in the middle phase of life will hide her longings behind her aloofness. The undefined solar plexus is a great storehouse for guilt and shame, and it would be so easy for this person to think that there is something inherently wrong with her, thus hiding her pain behind a brave façade. 

The combination of the undefined ajna and undefined solar plexus is also a recipe for disaster in the not-self. The undefined mind spends its whole time trying to work out ways to stabilise the emotions in her life. It also ends up trying to find all kinds of reasons for why she feels this and why she feels that. These reasons can very easily lead to emotional decisions that in turn lead to her trying to initiate things in life instead of waiting and responding from a place of coolness.

However, perhaps the greatest conditioning gates in this person’s design are the 48, the gate of depth and the fear of inadequacy, and the 20, the gate of the Now. When either or both of these gates are defined, she can suddenly manifest. All the potential frustration can be alleviated and she can express all that power from her root and sacral centres. So the not-self of this person will seek out these two gates her whole life. She is driven by the urge to always have the solutions in the now. The 18/58 can easily see what needs fixing, but it doesn’t have a solution. The solutions are in the 48. So She can see what is wrong with everyone and herself, she has the skills in the 16 to implement a change, but she is not in control of the actual answer! This is the core of her generator dilemma, and the root of her frustration. It can lead her into all sorts of trouble. If she knows how to wait, both the solutions and the knowledge of how to improve things will come from others. Then she can express her mutative gift clearly and correctly. However, without the vital knowledge of her Type and strategy, all she will do is offer her criticism to the wrong people at the wrong time. Like so many generators living a not-self life, she won’t wait to be asked first, and in her case, out of her own fear of inadequacy.


Hexagram Line Structure; The Not-Self Lines

Everything in Human Design is a binary, and just as there are keynotes for the authentic Self in Human Design, there are also keynotes for the Not-Self. Below are the Not-Self keynotes for the classic line structure of any hexagram.

Line 6: Disconnected

Line 5: Paranoid

Line 4: Unaccepted

Line 3: Ashamed

Line 2: Unaware

Line 1: Insecure

Out of these basic keynotes an entire science of the Not-Self can be created. I encourage you all to have a deeper look at your own charts with these keynotes in mind. The more familiar you are with channels and gates, the easier it is to use the formula. Below are some examples of how to use these keys by applying them to hexagrams and gates in your own design:

Gate 29, line 1: People are who insecure about making commitments

Gate 45, line 1: People who feel insecure about being at the top of the hierarchy

Gate 18, line 2: People who are unaware of when they are being critical

Gate 13, line 2: People who are unaware of what they are hearing or not hearing

Gate 27, line 3: People who are ashamed of caring for themselves

Gate 64, line 3: People who are ashamed to dwell on their own past

Gate 43, line 4: People who try to use their knowing in order to feel accepted

Gate 53, line 4: People who try to feel accepted by always beginning something new

Gate 22, line 5: People who are paranoid about how others think they feel

Gate 2, line 5: People who are paranoid about being expected to go in a certain direction

Gate 31, line 6: People who are disconnected from the way in which they influence others

Gate 26, line 6: People who are disconnected from how they manipulate others


The Not-Self Profiles and the 12 Defence Mechanisms

1st – Insecure

2nd – Unaware

3rd – Ashamed            

4th – Unaccepted

5th – Paranoid

6th – Disconnected

In Part 3 we looked at the Not-Self line keynotes and their application to any line in your design. Now we will see them combined through the 12 profiles. Out of these combinations of the not-self keynotes arise the 12 archetypal defence mechanisms of all human beings. This knowledge has all kinds of deep implications in the field of psychology as well as being a foundation stone of a whole new science of awakening. The keys below represent only the very surface of this knowledge – a knowledge that is both revolutionary and deeply disturbing to the very existence of Not-Self within each of us. Thus I invite you to observe your own reactions upon reading it!

The 12 Archetypal Defence Mechanisms of the Not-Self

1/3 They are insecure about feeling ashamed – They try to make things right in order to feel more secure about themselves, only to find that they make more mistakes and consequently feel more insecure. Their Defence strategy is to bury themselves in whatever they do.

1/4 They are insecure about not being accepted – They slowly shut down because every time they try to externalise, they end up feeling more insecure because they always meet resistance.

2/4 They are unaware of feeling unaccepted – They are always shocked when other people reject or resist them, and consequently they gradually shut themselves off in their own busy little worlds.

2/5 They are unaware of being paranoid – They behave as though they don’t care what others think of them (when they care more than anything), thus they alienate themselves without understanding why.

3/5 They are ashamed of their paranoia – They try to fix their own mistakes based on what others may or may not think of them. They either conform out of guilt or rebel out of denial.

3/6 They are ashamed of feeling disconnected – They try to fix this by being a perfect role model, only to discover that they can’t be, which makes them feel even more ashamed. Their Defence strategy is to keep on keeping on in the hope that things will get better, whilst pretending all along that nothing is wrong.

4/6 They feel unaccepted because they are disconnected – they adopt a rigid attitude of denial that hides a deep fear of not being accepted. They maintain a tight control over their lives and are adept at masking their vulnerability, thus making it difficult for others to pierce their aloofness.

4/1 They feel unaccepted out of their insecurity – They try to become accepted in order to feel secure, but in trying, they end up distancing themselves from others in the process. Thus, they hide their light under a bushel for fear of being resisted.

5/1 They are paranoid about being insecure – They try to hide their insecurity from others by their actions, and ironically in doing so, they actually expose it. The more they expose their insecurities, the more withdrawn they become.

5/2 They are paranoid about being unaware – They try to regulate their behaviour so as not to draw attention to themselves in the hope of being left alone. Out of a fear of themselves, they try to control their lives by locking themselves away in their own private world.

6/2 They are disconnected from being unaware – Because they cannot identify with what others see in them, they assume that others simply do not understand them. Thus they adopt an attitude of denial that makes them come across as arrogant and aloof. This results in them feeling even more misunderstood and disconnected from others.

6/3 They are disconnected from feeling ashamed. They try to hide from their mistakes by denying their own sense of guilt. Their defence from feeling pain is to keep on keeping on, in the hope that they will forget their past. This refusal to acknowledge their own mistakes makes it very difficult for them to trust in others and consequently they try anything that helps them escape their pain.


Questions and Answers

Over the course of the past 4 articles, I have received quite a lot of response and feedback on my articles about the Not-Self. I always welcome such feedback, as it helps to bring clarity to some important issues. Below I believe are the two most important responses that have emerged. I think they also serve as a nice summary to this whole subject of the Not-Self.

What is the “Not-Self”?

Self is your true behavioural nature that emerges without resistance into the world. Not-Self is a conditioned programming overlaid upon your true Self. The moment Not-Self behaviour emerges into the world it meets resistance and goes on meeting resistance. Your Not-Self is created by your upbringing, your society, your parents, peers and the world in general. 

Be clear that when you look at your Rave chart the open centres are not to be confused with your Not-Self. In and of themselves they are innocent parts of your nature that are the most vulnerable to conditioning. Because they are your true gifts, they can also easily become your wounds. The Not-Self is a dysfunctioning of ALL your centres. The white one’s are trained to behave as if they were coloured in and the coloured ones are where we meet the resistance from trying to live what we are not. You can only really meet resistance where you are fixed. For example, you may have an undefined Throat centre and a defined emotional centre. You try to attract attention because that is the Not-Self strategy of an undefined throat, but you meet the resistance in your emotions because that is where you are fixed. 

When you first begin to become aware of your Not-Self, you slowly become aware of your True Self hiding behind it. All you need is patience, in order to see every possible variation of your Not-Self and the resistance it goes on meeting again and again. The more clearly you can see your Not-Self (and it is uncomfortable) the more clearly you can see your True Self. In simply seeing the Not-Self, the programming loosens its grip. After seven years, very little of the Not-Self programming remains and you are left as you were intended be. Remember that the Not-Self itself is still there, it is the programming (conditioning) of the Not-Self that has fallen away. When this happens you live from your true self; simply surrendered to life as it moves through you, making its own choices whilst you stand by the side watching the process. 

What is “Awakening”?

In The Science of The Not-Self – Part 1 I described the Not-Self and the true Self as a part of each other, like two sides of an hourglass:  when you meet your Design, the hourglass tips and the deconditioning process begins. While you are going through this process what you are learning is what is going wrong. In the Rave I Ching the 18th hexagram, line 6 is called ‘Buddhahood’. This hexagram is called ‘Work on what has been spoilt’. In other words, perfection (which is what the 18 is always seeking) is about seeing all the layers of the Not-Self. It is a realisation process, a vipassana meditation that allows whatever action to reveal your true state. The more you watch and wait, the clearer the line becomes between what is you and what isn’t you. Until one day you lie exposed to the truth of what you are: neither Self or Not-Self, simply a pattern looking at itself, beyond definition. It is when you become aware of all the white parts in your design and you become aware of all the coloured parts as well, and in the consciousness that dances between the two arises a third transcendent state. It cannot be described in words other than poetry, and it is the paradox of being awake.

Simply put, one is awake if one is designed to awaken, and before you ask, no that cannot be read anywhere in the design. It depends if that is your fractal. In the Rave I Ching the 60th gate states that acceptance of limitation is the first step in transcendence. Thinking about it makes no difference, neither does doing anything. If you awaken, there is no doubt. If you don’t awaken, there is no doubt either.

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