"SILM® is a systems model applied in coaching psychology practice to develop potential both within and in the world toward fulfillment with wellbeing."
© 2013 Judd, L.S.
SILM® is an integrative model that can serve as a framework for coaching psychology practice. At the heart of this meta-system is a "mental gearbox" that allows us to appreciate things from different perspectives (see Fig. 1). The four "mental gears" that underpin these perspectives are Spatial, Intuitive, Logical and Material (hence the acronym SILM®). The Spatial "gear" (mental mode) enables us to experience a connected world of things, such that we can understand the notion of a universe, the Internet, or a human being and all his or her needs, living and working in a particular social and organisational environment. To cope with this complexity the Intuitive mode (creativity) helps us to gain some sense of the structure of our world and to seek out novel solutions for meeting our needs and adapting to the particular arbitrary world in which we find ourselves. The Logic mode allows us to work things out in a linear way, to plan, and proceed step by step. The Material mode relates to the physical organism's needs, drives, accumulated knowledge, and coping skills. The Logic and Spatial modes are associated more with conscious experience, the Material and Intuitive modes, with unconscious processes. Different theoretical perspectives within psychology reflect these alternative mental modes.
Unlike a mechanical gearbox that can only engage one gear at a time our mental gears can function independently or in combination. Constable painted the countryside as he saw it (Spatial/Logic/Material), Picasso abstractly represented his subjects (Spatial/Intuitive/Material). Both structured their paintings with focal points, but one applied his skill and talent to faithfully reproduce the scene, while the other expressed his imagination and creativity in a symbolic representation of his subject. Yet, in a way Constable did apply his intuition in capturing the ambience of the scene he was painting, and there is some degree of logical structure to Picasso's art.
When it all comes together things naturally flow along. We cope with the familiar world using all our "mental gears" to a greater or lesser degree simultaneously, in an almost automatic, unconscious way. But when the natural flow is interrupted we may experience a direct emotional response and behave instinctively (fend off an attack say), or become conscious of associated feelings (i.e., insecurity or frustration) that prompt a "change of metal gear" to logically analyse a situation to gain confidence, adapt, or perhaps seek a creative solution to deal with things more effectively. Thus the human organism (body) can interact directly and automatically with the world, or with intent, the "self" can manage its interactions with the natural and arbitrary worlds that we construct. The sports person may need to step back from competition to focus on a particular aspect of his or her technique in order to improve performance (Logic mode). Whilst rational analysis may highlight areas for improvement, and step-by-step practice develop skill (Material mode), a complete mental shift is required to return to competition, where motivation, meaning and purpose power performance (holistic flow).
The original SILM® model illustrates the complex dynamic in which the mental gearbox operates (see Fig. 2). The central column (A) represents all modes functioning harmoniously more or less automatically with the potential for Emotion and Rational thought to alternate gradually or suddenly. Our attention may be drawn to something unusual such that we might progress linearly along a particular arch, or suddenly "flip" from (A) to (B) with, for example, a flash of inspiration (Catastrophe Theory, see Thom, 1972). Alternatively, we might intentionally change from mode to mode along (B) as we "search" letters of the alphabet (Logic) to solve a crossword clue prompting "pop-out" word solutions (Intuitive—see Novick & Sherman, 2003). The left-brain—right-brain divide is not absolute fact, different brain functions can be associated with multiple areas of the brain, and in some left handed people hemispherical functioning is reversed.
For coaching psychology practice it is accepted that people will differ in what mental gears (modes) they may favour or naturally use, and how. They will also differ in their response to things, some people being more emotional and creative, others perhaps more logical and methodical, whilst some are able to manage mental modes and emotional response in perfect harmony.
The aim is to explore the particular unique mind-body dynamic of the individual within the human and arbitrary world systems that he or she exists. This somewhat overwhelming task of gaining some insight into how cognitive processes, emotions, consciousness, human and arbitrary world systems interact cannot be undertaken as a logical exercise. But the nature of complexity is such that sometimes subtle insights can initiate major change. SILM® is a fractal (Mandelbrot, 1982) that can be applied across multiple levels of scale to simplify the challenge of exploring complexity from different perspectives through time and space.
The individual may spot a new way of linking or using things in the World (Spatial), this may spurn further personal insights or entrepreneurial opportunity (Intuitive), followed by planning (Logic) how to progress the idea, then trying it out in the World (Material). Marie Curie's advances in the field of radioactivity, Bill Gates and computer operating systems, Mark Zuckerberg and social networking are classic examples of this cycle of development. In the field of learning and teaching the same principles can also be applied, consider Kolb's Learning cycle, Figure 3.
The SILM® approach advocates a multi-perspective stance, developing a creative sensitivity to emergent patterns and themes both within and in the world, then "changing mental gear" to intentionally focus on areas for development and, if appropriate, for change. With a return to immersion in the world, silent, parallel, mindful reflection "shadows" action and outcome, facilitating, almost unconsciously, subtle change and skill development toward fulfillment with wellbeing. Hitherto, this notion of adopting alternate perspectives by "moving across" synchronous parallel mental modes has not been overtly suggested in the literature concerning practice in coaching psychology.
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Copyright © 2015 Linton S. Judd
Site author: Linton S. Judd MBPsS MISCP
BSc (Psy) MSc (Coun.Psy) MA (Mng.Psy) MSc (Bus.Psy)
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