The top 2x2 table shows the four SILM® modes, "mental gears" that we can use to manage our experience within and in the World. Sometimes we may work with one "mental gear" at a time, (see "pop-out" vs "search" solutions) and at other times we may use them all in perfect synchronized "flow", as when engrossed in some absorbing task. Click a square to learn more about these different mental modes.
Looking to the centre pane, the human body underpins a mind in the World. The body is made up of several co-ordinated systems, such as vascular and nervous, that normally just keep going of their own accord. On another level coping skills and intuitive decision-making operate with little conscious control. Our emotions are the mediator between the physical organism, unconscious processing and the Self in the World. Fear can compel the body to respond directly and fast to immediate danger; or alert you to a potential risk that requires slow deliberate thought before action (see System 1—System 2).
Most significantly, our emotion systems have no capacity to doubt or question, when you are angry you just are angry, and it can sometimes take considerable willpower to show restraint. But we exist in a world of social rules and laws, and whilst anger may on occasion be required for self-protection, usually we have to manage our anger appropriately. Likewise, with enthusiasm, that wonderful business idea that we know with the certainty and conviction of emotion cannot fail; it needs to be checked with a little bit of rational thought before we steam ahead risking our life savings, or getting into debt.
The human organism evolved to survive the natural world without question. Water will always be water, and our need to drink it absolute. But the worlds we construct, and how they are interpreted and described, is arbitrary. It's not always the case that that's the way things are, or how they have to be done. Change, by viewing things from a different perspective, may well be possible. It's just that most of the time we get on with things without thinking, unconsciously motivated, applying coping skills and old habits.
The lower 2x2 table illustrates different aspects of the arbitrary world we construct. For example, we have to obey natural laws, such as heat food to cook it (absolute fact), but how we heat it is arbitrary. That can be on a log fire, barbecue, in a gas, electric or oil powered oven, or by steam, or microwave. In the UK we drive on the left, the rest of Europe drives on the right. Driving a car is an absolute (Material) skill the body just performs, but driving on the left or right side of the road (Spatial) is arbitrary, determined by the traffic laws of the particular country we are driving in.
Coming up against a problem novel solutions may just come to mind (Intuitive), but then applied by practical design (Logic). SILM® coaching psychology is about balancing our physical and emotional needs within the limitless possibilities of our arbitrary World—"toward fulfilment and success with wellbeing". The physical organism that evolved to survive the absolutte natural world of the Stone Age must now adapt to the evolving arbitrary Worlds we construct, maintaining the symbiotic relationship between the absolute and the arbitrary to their mutual benefit.
Spatial Mode - connecting things, helps us deal with complexity.
Galaxy - we first see the natural night sky as a whole (spatial; absolute) but once we know about constellations (arbitrary World constructs) then we may look for patterns in the stars to navigate by (logic).
Golf - we tend to enthusiastically follow the tournament (arbitrary construct) and score board, rather than focus on, tees, greens, holes, flags, metal sticks, and a small ball.
Coaching Psychology - The Spatial mode allows us to be aware of the here and now, a focus of Gestalt and Humanistic approaches. It also helps us to make holistic sense of our World and, moving through time, sense and envision an ideal future, increasing motivation. Some sense of the bigger picture in the background can help us through challenging times. In sport or business, imagine winning or success, to see you through a tough training regime, or burning the midnight oil.
Intuitive Mode - making new, initially unconscious connections between what we know and see helps us to come up with new ideas and innovate.
Picasso - painted everyday things in a way that was new and original.
Coaching Psychology - creativity is an adaption from sensing and monitoring our surroundings as hunter-gathers, alert to risk in the absolute natural world. Learning to harness these powers and capture a fleeting moment of insight is the source of all new and original ideas. But the process can also be slow. Tackle a problem, but if you get stuck, leave it and do something else; the unconscious will continue to work on the problem and a solution may then just naturally come to mind. Traditional Psychodynamic approaches stress biological drives, but our creativity suggests there is far more to the unconscious.
Logic Mode - step by step processing
Chess - a board game (arbitrary) is played one move, one player, at a time. This serial processing we use for sequential tasks, such as developing computer code or planning ahead, e.g., critical path method in construction; assembly lines in the motor industry.
Coaching Psychology - the logic mode helps us to take stock of situations, organize data to facilitate decision-making and plan ahead. Coming up with an idea that fosters some great vision and emotion needs to then be thought through carefully and planned if it is to be effectively put into practice. Emotion has no capacity to question or doubt (see Tri-une Brain). Cognitive approaches focus on a person's beliefs and appraisals which affect how they might feel and behave.
Material Mode - we develop unconscious coping skills and routines for dealing with the World, emotions and feelings let us know how things are going. We feel good about mastering a difficult new skill, or give up, frustrated by something that doesn't work.
Pottery - fragments of pottery that are thousands of years old have been found that suggest skill development has been key to our progress.
Coaching Psychology - as well as skills humans also rely on habit, hence they may go to work by the same route every day. Amazon and Facebook work hard to exploit this trait of habit formation. Consider your habits, do they help or hinder? Skills, do you use and trust other peoples' skills enough, or do you think you can do everything yourself? Behavioural psychology focuses on mangaing behaviour and adaption.
Spatial - connected world, physical, mental and virtual.
Organisation - Internet; Global business; United Nations
Structure - the world of connected things is about the ever increasing sophistication of tools, products and their connectedness. The connected way a city, or country, functions is not unlike the human organism and its brain. Human networks are not only physical, they establish social and commercial connections often related to the control of natural resources, manufactured goods, property, and the wealth generated—power and politics.
Coaching Psychology - assess and reflect upon the connected World, and your place in it, to elicit creative ideas and solutions.
Intuitive - creating new things
Novel uses - adapting the wheel to run on rails, raise water from the river, add sails to make a windmill. It's a worn phrase, but 'thinking outside the box' is a good habit.
Coaching Psychology - foster creativity - putting yourself in new and challenging situations can foster change, helping you come up with new ideas and ways of doing things: online shopping; Dyson Cleaners; contactless payment.
Logic - step by step processes; manufacturing processes; scientific method
Strategy - planning how to achieve goals
Adapting - in a fast changing world organisations need to adapt fast, but essentially with a plan, for which there will always be time, and if not, make time.
Material - assets and intellectual property, branding, reputation
National, Organizational and personal Wealth - organizations seek to increase their asset base to create wealth and fund research and development. As our Worlds evolve different opportunities for wealth creation, and loss, arise. Once established branding, reputation, and performance are assets [see memes] "planted" in the minds (Material mode) of the customer or client.
Coaching Psychology - it is fine balance choosing between security and risk. Behavioural economics.
Human beings have a physical body that belongs to the natural world, basic systems continue to function in the interest of survival of the organism. Other systems in the brain allowed humans to develop skills and adapt to a more settled lifestyle, storing firewood and grain for a hard winter for example. As skill level increased it became possible to gradually transform the environment removing much of the uncertainty and vulnerability of a natural existence.
The level of sophistication of our arbitrary worlds now extends from the superficial to the fantastic. However, those innate responses that allowed us to survive the natural world have not been displaced, they underpin our being in the world. But the conviction and rawness of an emotional response, essential to survival in the moment, lacks any capacity to reason or negotiate the often slower rule-bound arbitrary worlds that we have constructed, or to distinguish the trivial from the fantastic. Hence scary movies and advertising work. Belief and certainty can be a boon when taking on new challenges or overcoming adversity, but they can prevent us from questionning the way things are usually done, and if they are not working, acknowledging that fact and figuring out how things could be done differently or better.
Site author: Linton S. Judd MBPsS MISCP
BSc (Psy) MSc (Coun.Psy) MA (Mng.Psy) MSc (Bus.Psy)
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