Many of us like to think we can read people – and that an advantage of face to face work is that you can see the colour of their eyes – or at least their body language. In my view this is not a simple matter. There are advantages to being present with people but they, like most other ‘truths’, are spoiled by generalisations, distortions and deletions.
If you download the pdf below from the New Scientist, you’ll see that it’s not as easy to read body language as we like to think. Much of our certainty about others is driven by the need to reduce our uncertainty about ourselves - and so we look for closure & simple interpretations and drive these with generalisations.
No, you must be prepared to spend time with your informants in a way that allows them to unfold & emerge before you, only then can you calibrate the weight and significance of their words and gestures – and this matters whether you are F2F or online.
Too much rush will increase your own doubt and uncertainty and lead you to jump to conclusions. It is wholly uncertain that these will predict behaviour.
According to legend, the Buddha was born Siddharta Guatama, the son of a King in a palace in the foothills of the Himalayas. Like Oedipus his destiny had been foretold – that he would become either a powerful king or a holy man. Like parents throughout the ages, his parents opted for the safe job with plenty of status and so they devoted their lives to making sure he would come to love privilege. They made his life a luxurious prison, pampering him with finery and keeping him inside a world of ostentatious luxury where every whim was satisfied…
It was only at the age of 29 that he ventured outside where he saw what have become known in Buddhist lore as the ‘Four Sights’ – an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a wandering monk. The first three symbolized the inevitability of impermanance, and the three fates awaiting us all. Siddharta was shocked into abandoning his complacency and becoming the fourth sight, a wandering monk. It was some years later that he achieved enlightenment (waking up) after spending the night sitting beneath a tree. He became thereafter Buddha – the one who woke up – but it was the four initial sights that awoke his understanding of impermanence.
Thus Buddhism’s path to serenity began with a confrontation with the negative and the choice whether to avoid it and return to the palace of pleasures or to embrace it and walk through the world thus equipped, albeit with few luxuries & less delusions.
We can see that once again the path that produces serenity involves seeing reality in all its aspects and not running away. He who became Buddha literally stepped outside into the ‘No-go’ areas that his parents tried to shield him from – and there he found enlightenment.
We have discovered on our work on Creativity that No-Go areas are often the most fruitful places to find insight – partly because no-one has bothered to look there before!
What are your No-Go areas and how might you fare if you explored them? There are lots of safe and interesting ways of doing this…
*See Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
I’ve tried for years to explain the idea that resistance ensures persistence. I am indebted to the brilliant Oliver Burkeman* for bringing to my attention two important stories that demonstrate this idea. Both are founding myths of world culture. I will start with the Oedipus tale.
The essence of the story is that when Oedipus is born to the King and Queen of Thebes his horrible fate – that he will kill one parent and marry the other – has already been foretold by an oracle. His mother and father, desperate to avoid this fate, persuade a local shepherd to take the newborn and kill him. The shepherd cannot bring himself to abandon the child and passes him to another instead. The child lives and subsequently becomes the adoptive son of the King and Queen of Corinth. When Oedipus confronts them some time later with the rumour that he is adopted they deny it…and so when he hears of the oracle’s terrible forecast, he believes that they are the parents to whom it refers. Deciding to escape the curse, he puts as much distance between himself and his ‘false’ parents as he can.
Unfortunately the place to which he flees is Thebes and his terrible fate takes over: he becomes involved in an argument over a chariot and kills its occupant, who turns out to have been his father. Then he falls in love with and marries his mother, who on learning of the truth, commits suicide, leaving Oedipus to blind himself in despair…
The relevance of this tale to our daily lives was, I believe, hijacked by Freud’s insistence that it related to boy’s desire to have sex with their mothers. And although there is important insight in this interpretation, the story has a more central significance than that.
It tells us that if we try to run away from our deepest fears, they may arrive again in front of us as a result of our attempts to outmanoeuvre them. Indeed, our very dodging may ensure that we end up producing the result we dread.
The moral of the tale? Make friends with your demons, they are only aspects of your imagination and if you try to resist them, they will persist.
In next post our second story, that of Siddharta Guatama, who became the Buddha [‘the one who woke up’] we will see that attempts to make certain aspects of life ‘no-go’ areas that you do not have to face is similarly futile…
*See Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
The cartoon here from Tom Fishburne would be simply funny if it did not remind me of so many of my own and other’s attempts to imbue brands with significance beyond their means. However did we think that buying a snack or a new pair of shades could act as a lever to world peace, or the end of poverty or abuse?
The answer is simple: wish fulfillment. As Freud pointed out, there is a strong unconscious drive to fulfil our wishes, some of them noble alongside the more shady ones! There are many good people in marketing, advertising and market research, people who at some level may regret tying their working lives up in the promotion of goods and services that, while amusing and diverting, do not move us forward as persons or societies. They may be left with the desire to make a difference, to contribute to a better world.
This wish to build something better persists within us all and is relentlessly driven by the nightly invasion of chilling and horrific images of cruelty and suffering that haunt our living rooms via our TV screens – as we sit there sipping our drink and munching our snack. There is an unspoken feeling that we must/should do something, yet apart from giving to charity, what can we do? We are left feeling powerless, and a little bit guilty…
The unconscioius mind, not using logic in the way that the trained mind does, attempts to rescue us by making a simple adjustment: why not conflate the promotion of snacks or washing powder with your ideal of a better world – and ‘Hey Presto’ you can change the world as you crunch your salt & vinegar. What a relief!
Then assailed by an uneasy feeling of ridiculousness at the naivety of this idea, we seek others as trapped as ourselves in the hurly burly of commercialism to gather in workshops to ‘stretch the brand’. We employ what Janis (1972) called ‘groupthink’ – a mode of thinking where the desire for harmony and cohesiveness overcomes our realistic appraisal of alternatives.
Laddering is itself no mean idea, coming as it does from psychologist George Kelly who used it to understand the underlying beliefs driving our behaviour. Used in this way, within the integrity of a single person’s framework it is a mighty tool. Stretched to provide a ‘tool’ for giving our sales work greater significance and influence in the world, it is simply a comforting delusion. No wonder the flipcharts from that workshop are forgotten somewhere on a shelf in D 43.
Hardly any of us realise that there are as many types of listening as there are of speaking. We are familiar with the ideas of tones of voice, but not with its equivalent – tones of listening. Yet we all know whether and how someone is listening to us or not within seconds!
In Facilitation 1 we tackle this issue of listening in depth with a series of exercises which practice different ways of focusing your listening and different ways of giving accurate feedback to those you are supposed to be listening to. This movie is about Accurate Empathic Listening – a key skill – and an underdeveloped one – for insight workers and qualitative researchers.
Although we can agree sympathetically with Einstein’s thought about the primacy afforded to reason, the truth is actually different. As Kahneman points out, 95% of what we do, say, think is actually generated pretty much automatically – out of an amalgam of sensory experience, past experience, affect (emotion) and intention. Kahneman calls this System 1 thinking – automatic, instantaneous and everyday. It has little capacity to weigh up evidence or to balance alternatives. Thus automatic responses, driven by affect, do rule the day – and hence it is extremely difficult to reason anybody out of an opinion or decision that they did not arrive at by reason in the first place.
“The word is not the route to the psyche. In the beginning was not the word, but the act.”
Jacob Moreno is the founder of Psychodrama, the use of theatrical performance and staging to re-enact events and circumstances from life. Trained as a doctor in Vienna 1912-1917, he rejected Freudian theory while still at medical school. In his autobiography, he writes that he told Freud after a lecture that he gave: “I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their home, in their natural surroundings. You analyse their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyse them and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.”
Starting in 1921 he began experimenting with drama as a way of treating psychiatric patients in groups. He founded The Spontaneity Theatre which used improvisational drama as a means of treatment.
In the 1920’s he also developed a set of ideas which he termed Sociometry – a research method for looking at the social structure of groups which involved Sociograms illustrating these structures. Moreno moved to the USA in 1925 and held position at Columbia University. These ideas are very useful in group work.
- Humans are not just biologically determined (as Freud thought) but have a spiritual side and are influenced by their social context. “He did not believe in Freud’s model … Freud came from biology, Moreno was inspired by the great religions of this world. Freud was atheistic. Moreno was not.”
- He emphasises the importance of creativity and spontaneityin human life. Children have a lot of these things but they get squashed. Life produces constraints, society demands conformity, and therefore people get mired in habitual ways of responding where their spontaneity is stifled. He believed that therapeutic intervention should have the aim of enabling people to reconnect with their spontaneity and thus allow them to:
- be more integrated as people
- be able to respond more flexibly and creatively to new situations, and in the way they lead their lives
- Psychodrama as an intervention is designed to bring these aims about. He developed a range of techniques within Psychodrama such as role reversal and empty chair (before Fritz Perls).
In Zerka Moreno’s words (in an interview with Victor Yalom Ph.D. on psychotherapy.net)
“The easiest way to think about [Psychodrama] is ‘the mind in action’. Instead of talking about your concerns we say ‘Don’t tell me. Show me! Showing means to act it out … it helps you to express yourself in a new way .. a way that life doesn’t usually permit [in order to] make you more integrated.”
“We’re all broken and need to become more cohesive, more integrated from within. Through the catharsis of integration, we become balanced, within and without.”
You can find a download of this summary here: Psychology on a Page 11: Psychodrama
By far the best thing if you want to experience this style of work is to do one of our Action Techniques Days.
My model is derived from years of experience in working with people on perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviour – and the relationships between them.
From that work I have noticed a set of interlocking motivational drivers that persist in daily life. These drivers are made more or less potent by current events, fashions and culture.
The first driver is the need to self-actualise that I have called the Progressive Tendency. The second and opposing force is the need to Regress, to fall back on tried and tested routines, brands and behaviours. All of us experience some tension between these forces in our daily lives.
A third and integrating driver I call Reparation and it describes the need to make amends, to fix the broken or do the undone. The reparative tendency swings into play either when we have done too little (been too regressive) or gone too far (been too progressive).
The picture above illustrates this Creative Tension. Take a moment to find it in yourself – and in that way you can validate this model through your own experience.
Can you see in your life, a tendency to one or other of these extremes? Do you typically do too little or too much? Our explorations have revealed that most of us have some arenas in which we constantly do too little, while in others we do too much. That kind of imbalance in daily life leads both to the need to compensate but also to the occurrence of breakthroughs from time to time because of our persistence!
The recession has made it difficult for most people to anticipate progress in the near future. This is frustrating in an individualistic culture and, I believe drives the prominence of internet brands with their feeling of progressiveness together with those brands that practice innovation as a core competence (Apple, Amazon, Groupon). There’s also an illusion with these brands that you’re at the forefront, merely because you click on this or that.
The regressive component in brands is found among those most familiar to us and where they get their service right, allow us to relax and experience a feeling of being ‘held’ and safe. Well known names are prominent here, like W H Smith, Greggs and the NHS – at its best.
Within this blog I cannot calculate what your brand – or your favourite brand if you are a customer – stands for in terms of these drivers, but by using my diagnostic discovery techniques in empirical studies I can help you work out where you stand and what your customers want you to focus on. This is crucial information because whatever your current style through which you have attracted and satisfied your customers’ motives, it may be time either to reinforce that position or to incorporate another part of the motivational palette. The X Factor is a classic example of a ‘product’ that blends Progressive, Regressive and Reparative elements!
We have used Reframing as a tool many times over the years and I remain interested in new examples that I hear about which strike me as useful. Today I heard from my wife about a Community Psychology Group in Newcastle. One of its members, Joel Yoelli, has come up with a fascinating reframe using the idea of Accidents.
In brief, there is a growing tendency for vehicle accident victims to receive some form of psychological therapy as part of their recovery. We know that CBT and EDMR and other therapies can be effective at lessening the grip of trauma from car crashes and the like.
Joel has neatly extended this ‘accident’ metaphor from accidents with vehicles to accidents with people. The idea is that people are traumatised by accidents with people just as they may be by physical collisions. I think its really helpful.
Self Consciousness – and why it matters to insight seekers
We are very different when gripped by emotion from times when reason dominates.
Most of us go to considerable lengths to present a reasonable – and reasoning – self to others. Special circumstances for allowing emotion and unreason to dominate are available but carefully boundaried – sports fans in all their regalia, music concerts, services and rituals which mark transitions or passing on.
The tool we use to govern and monitor this presentation of ourselves in everyday life is self-awareness.
There is a uniquely human form of self-awareness called self-consciousness. This is the basis of our capacity both to fit in with others and cultural norms, but also to transcend the immediate situation and live in terms of the possible.
This in turn constitutes the basis of psychological freedom. It means that the future is not the past, but a place of possibility.
Self-consciousness arises as we start to distinguish ourselves from others in infancy and is increased when we acquire ‘theory of mind’ – the knowledge that other people are conscious too and that their worlds might be similar to ours in some respects but different in others. As we grow in years self-consciousness is moderated by cultural norms and lessons we are taught by experience and education.
By the time we are adults we have a veritable dictionary of modes or practices that we use to moderate the self we display. We continually update this dictionary if we are smart, but may choose to become ‘fixed in our ways’ either as a conscious strategy or as an unconscious defence against disappointment.
You will have your own opinion of how you are seen by others. The way you are perceived may also vary between the different groups you find yourself in. You might be the life and soul of the party at home, yet very quiet among strangers. You might make your workmates laugh ‘til they cry, or be someone who pursues their work quietly. You may have all these characteristics yet play them differently from time to time.
The important point is that self-consciousness is the filter through which everything you do, say and feel is passed and moderated. There is hardly a moment, except when securely alone in the most intimate parts of our homes, that we are free from this filter: ‘what will they think of me if I do or say that?’
For the insight seeker, this applies to all meetings and encounters where you are in search of insight. Everyone has their filters in place – especially among a group of relative strangers, where you do not know your status or have control of the agenda. This is a recipe for caution and carefulness.
It is this fact, that we are all already moderated by self-consciousness that has led us to create micro-cultures where the standard norms do not apply when we want to gain insights. It has also made us quite suspicious of attempts to standardize, stereotype or assign traits to people. People are deciding their comportment based on norms, culture and minimizing risk or maximizing effectiveness. It may not reflect their true desires or intentions at all! We are all actors.
This text is downloadable as a pdf here: Self-Consciousness
Whatever you think of Tony Blair, in terms of technique the work we did for him in 2005 was a unique piece of insight work. So much so in fact that this work with its innovations in understanding the use of personality in political markets has made its way into the American Annals of Political Science and – even in the UK where Blair has been demonised – the paper was nominated for Best Paper at the MRS Conference, 2006.
People have short memories and have forgotten that 54% of us supported military action in Iraq in 2003. There is a very British tradition of gung-ho militarism that tends to fade as the real life-and-death consequences of war play out on our screens and papers. We are still not averse to the odd bit of Johnny Foreigner bashing provided we can convince ourselves that right is on our side.
My purpose in making this paper available here is not to condone or castigate Blair and his administration. It is to make the insight work that helped him recover his standing in the run-up to the 2005 election available to students of qualitative technique – particularly Two-Chair work which, under Nicky’s direction – was fundamental to this project. As far as I know it has never been used on a national issue, before or since.
Download the Paper here: Reconnecting the Prime Minister, 2005
Treat yourself to a book by this eloquent and deeply human man! His contribution was primarily as a thinker - drawing together political (Marx), psychoanalytic (Freud), theological and sociological ideas. Has an interest in the economic and cultural roots of personality – not just the biological and personal (c.f. Freud). Very close to being an ‘existentialist’. Respectful yet critical of Freud, whose thinking he regarded as contradictory and limiting. I am indebted to Nicky Forsythe for her brilliant summary of this complex thinker, below:
Fromm’s key ideas are:
the importance of freedom of will and independent action:
- using our own reason to establish values rather than adhering mindlessly to received values
- he believes we are hugely influenced by our class, culture, biology and personal history BUT we have the capacity to transcend these influences. Did not believe in determinism, which sets him apart from both instinctivists like Freud and positivists like the behaviourists
with freedom comes uncertainty, isolation, alienation and bewilderment. We are inclined to avoid these through one of three means:
- authoritarianism – doing what we are told by a person/system
- automaton conformity – merging with the prevailing mores of our society; adopting conventions – e.g. being a ‘fashion victim’ which is a horizontal counterpart to authoritarianism
- destructiveness – attempting to eliminate others – or yourself
The kind of tactic we use depends on our family culture. He talks about three kinds of families:
symbiotic families where some members of the family are ‘swallowed up’ by other members – typically this takes the form of children becoming the reflection of their parents’ wishes. This happens a lot with girls in traditional societies
- leads to the authoritarian escape
withdrawing families – Type 1 a more recent type which has evolved in Northern Europe over last 200 years. These families are prevalent wherever merchants became an important layer of society – essentially they are the bourgeousie
- parents very demanding of children
- perfectionism – living by the rules – is encouraged
- children expected to succeed & meet high standards
- leads to destructive escape – this is internalised until circumstances like war permit its release. We saw an outburst of children’s reaction to these pressures in the outburst of destructiveness in the recent London riots. It is clear that many of those taking part could not live according to these pressures & ideals
withdrawing families – Type 2 the modern family where children are considered the ‘equals’ of parents; parents want to be their kids’ buddies; children turn to peers for their values. The ‘modern, shallow, TV family’
- leads to automaton conformity
Fromm believes in what he calls the ‘social unconscious’ – unwritten rules dictated by class and culture which affect the way we think and behave. We aren’t even aware of these influences and may think we’re acting according to our free will when we aren’t. He identifies 5 orientations within this social unconscious:
- Receptive orientation. People who expect to receive what they need and are passive in their orientation. People with this orientation are found at the bottom of any society: slaves, serfs, welfare families. We might call this ‘benefits culture’. On the positive side they are accepting and optimistic; on the negative they are submissive and wishful.
- Exploitative orientation. People who expect to take what they need through coercion. Prevalent in upper classes – aristocracy, colonial powers. On the positive side, assertive, proactive. On the negative side, aggressive, seductive, coercive.
- Hoarding orientation. The emphasis here is on accumulating and keeping. This orientation is prevalent amongst the bourgeousie/middle classes and is exemplified by the Protestant Work Ethic. On the positive side, these people are economical, prudent and practical. On the negative side they are stingy and unimaginative.
- Marketing orientation. This is the orientation of modern society. The emphasis is on selling. A big emphasis on packaging and advertising. Preoccupation with things looking good – my family, job, education. On the positive side, this encourages sociability, purposefulness, being enterprising. On the negative side it gives rise to shallow, amoral, childish thinking and behaviour.
- Productive orientation. This is the ‘healthy’ one! These people do not shirk from freedom and responsibility. They value being rather than (as in all the other orientations) having. In the productive orientation you are defined by your actions not by what you have, you prefer reason to rules and freedom to conformity.
You can download a pdf of this summary here: Psychology on a Page 10: Fromm
With the previous two posts on Gestalt and Rogers I have started to focus in on the psychologists who have most influence on my contemporary thinking and practice. Another such is Otto Rank, the first non-medical practitioner of psycho-analysis.
Like many of Freud’s followers, Rank’s perspective on our nature and the developmental steps that shaped it differed from Freud’s – and on a topic that was central to Freud, the importance of the Oedipal Conflict in shaping our personality.
Rank believed that the influence of early experience made its impact long before the Oedipal period (usually said to last from 3 to 6 years). Rank cited the Birth Trauma as the experience that did most to shape our character. The essential effect of birth was, to Rank’s mind, the creation of something he called separation anxiety, the shadow of which followed us throughout life:
“Life in itself is a mere succession of separations. Beginning with birth, going through several weaning periods and the development of the individual personality, and finally culminating in death – which represents the final separation.”
We are then, to suffer ‘separation anxiety’ from birth against which we struggle by seeking to merge with or relate to others. This anxiety takes shape as a creative tension throughout life around whether to seek new untried paths or to follow tried and tested routes (e.g. products we’ve bought before) or simply to mimic others.
To summarise, we can reach a sense in Rank’s early thoughts of human life lived between the competing desires, on the one hand to separate, to individuate, while on the other to merge and surrender to the whole, to fall into the arms of another or our community. The point is that both these desires are present in the moment. This also translates to an orientation to time and process:
‘…the fear of both going forward and of going backward”
(Rank, 1929–31, p. 124).
When we translate this thinking into work and everyday life we can sense this intra-personal dilemma for ourselves, almost without exception in any moment of doubt or anxiety. Shall I go forward or backwards here – adopt a progressive approach or rely on ideas I have used before? Shall I go it alone or band together with others for support? At any moment then, in any choice, the creative tension between merging (or repeating known patterns) and individuating (striking out on a new path) must be a core influence on personal, professional and consumer decisions. For me it is vital that we encourage participants to explore the role of goods, services and brands in negotiating these issues – and arrive at a considered appraisal of where the community stands in weighing the ‘individuating’ or separating, versus ‘merging’ or joining properties of any brand now and in future.
I have visualized this tension here, which will appear if you click on this link: Creative Tension, after Rank
You can download a pdf of this summary here: Psychology on a Page 9: Rank
Rogers’ theory of the self is humanistic and phenomenological. However, in spite of a ‘New Age’ fascination with Rogers, his work is neither ephemeral nor lacking empirical foundations. He always stood for embracing and evaluating evidence from the phenomena and experiences of the people he met and the meanings that they made of their lives.
His theory was based on 19 propositions that I have reduced to the 12 most important for our Course and practice:
- All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience of which they are the centre.
- The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is “reality” for the individual.
- A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self. [This is my favourite: a wonderful description of how we emerge from our background in a way that allows never-ending re-evaluation and renewal!]
- As a result of interaction with the environment, and particularly as a result of interaction with others, the structure of the self is formed – an organized, fluid but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of characteristics and relationships of the “I” or the “me”, together with values attached to these concepts.
- The organism has a basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the organism. On occasions this can lead to maladaptive behaviour.
- The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.
- Behaviour is basically the goal-directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced, in the field as perceived.
- Emotion accompanies, and in general facilitates, such goal directed behaviour, the kind of emotion being related to the perceived significance of the behaviour for the maintenance and enhancement of the organism.
- Most of the ways of behaving that are adopted by the organism are those that are consistent with the concept of self.
- In some instances, behaviour may be brought about by organic experiences and needs which have not been symbolized. Such behaviour may be inconsistent with the structure of the self but in such instances the behaviour is not “owned” by the individual.
- Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.
- Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of threat to the self structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences.
Additionally, Rogers is known for practicing “unconditional positive regard,” which we have adapted for our Course and practice as a ‘culture of acknowledgment’. You will find many more examples of the influence of Roger’s on my thinking and practice here, published in the IJMR (International Journal of Market Research, May 2012): Paper Website Version
Here is a pdf of this page for your records: Psychology on a Page: Carl Rogers
Jung was the most spiritual of the great psychologists. For him, the unconscious was like a deep, vast sea upon which we are all afloat in our separate boats of consciousness. This sea, the collective unconscious, was populated near its surface by universal characters who we catch glimpses of in stories and tales that span the world. These characters, or archetypes, are thus universal. I have been fortunate enough to bump into them in my own practice. Below are two pictures, created by consumers in an Art-from-Within session that represent on the left, the Magician, on the right, the Trickster.
These images are, unsurprisingly, from a study on credit cards. These kinds of ideas, and his liking for guided fantasy, (which we have adapted and use as creative visualisation in groups), have made Jung very popular with marketing types. Who would not want to capture the Heroic or Mother Earth aspects of a brand to give it more appeal to deep motives in us all? At a deeper level, I suspect that many practitioners enjoy this framework as it allows for deeper meanings and less mechanical approaches to understanding our topics.
In our conscious lives, another of Jung’s great models has found a home in modern organisational psychology. Many managers or team members have used Myers Briggs (MBTI) to get a reading of their preferences in perception based on Jung’s ideas: I reproduce a simple version of the model here:
For Jung, daily life was a question of seeking balance between the four functions: Thinking, Feeling, Intuition and Sensation. No one function can be allowed too much dominance in any of us without its opposite number seeking expression, if only in a roundabout and sometimes destructive manner. We are all given all of these ‘cards’ in our deck – and we must play (use) them or they will play us!
You can download a pdf of this post here: Psychology on a Page 2: Jung
The cartoon shows the three Primary Representation Systems from NLP; vision, hearing and feeling.
There was a great deal of excitement about NLP, right from its origins in 1979. It appeared to offer not only some interesting and original ideas, but most of all an access to techniques which anyone, with a little training could use to create ‘magic’.
Magic was a core idea in NLP used to describe the fact that certain therapy practitioners could accomplish more in terms of transformation and change than others. These therapists’ seemed able to do magic, but Richard Bandler and John Grinder argued that their processes could be broken down, modelled and copied and then would work for anyone who applied them appropriately. Expert therapists modeled in the early days of NLP were Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, Virginia Satir, founder of family therapy and the hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson.
Essentially NLP is a set of tools for breaking down, analysing and copying successful processes for change. In addition, it included some ideas about the links between language (including body language) and underlying feelings, values and motives. In particular, NLP challenged three common events in language; distortions, deletions and generalisations. It tackled these by asking the speaker to be specific about how they had come about and thus recovering the deletions, specifying the generalisations and straightening out the distortions. From these interventions, new insights emerged.
Another central idea of NLP is ‘the map is not the territory’ which argues that each of us only ever operates on the basis of our internal representation of the world (our ‘map’) and not the world itself (‘the territory’). This resonates with the idea expressed in ‘Freud on a Page’ (see Blog Archive), that the internal forces always dominate the external representations. We thus limit, distort and impoverish our capabilities by our use of a map that is unable to express the full possibilities and potentialities available – because it is coloured by deletions, generalisations and distortions.
A third core idea of NLP is that of the Primary Representation System. This refers to our major senses and the role each plays in forming our ‘map’ of the world. Each of us builds this ‘map’ using the five senses, visual (V), auditory (A), kinaesthetic (K), the primary three and olfactory (O), and gustatory (G) in secondary place. The idea is that each of us favours a single modality of sensory inputs and thus our ‘maps’ are made of internal pictures (V), sounds/dialogue (A) or feelings (K). These preferences were believed to be reflected in each person’s choice of ‘predicates’ (“I see…” (V), “I hear…”(A), “I feel…”K). NLP theorists believed that eye movements were indicative of which representational system was being used, as shown in the cartoon at the top of the post. Visual representations were signalled by eyes upwards to the left or right, auditory by eyes moving across on the central level, and kinaesthetic by eyes downwards. An interesting simple test is to sustain a downwards look and notice how difficult it is to stop feelings from welling up!
So far so good. So popular and teachable did NLP seem that within a couple of years a whole host of practitioner organisations offering ‘Practitioner’ and ‘Master Practitioner’ courses had sprung up and many people enrolled in these. Business became excited by the potential of NLP to guide and empower change.
However, some serious scientific analysts were finding it hard to establish empirical evidence for the efficacy of NLP. Experimenters have found little evidence of a stable trait in use of predicates and that subjects tended to change their predicates according to the nature of the perceptual tasks they were given. In other experiments they found, that ‘K’ predicates far outweighed all others in groups of subjects. Once again, we must be careful to use what is practical and useful from NLP without seeing it as a miracle application that can do anything.
One memorable and highly useful acronym from NLP has remained with me since the early days when I was a student of Robert Dilts and David Gordon on their first UK visits.
It is Match>Pace>Lead
I still find this technique of matching people, joining them at their pace using their body language and verbal style a brilliant way to lead people towards challenging or unfamiliar tasks. You need to be careful to match, not mock – if you are spotted mimicking people too crudely they can feel you are mocking them!
Too soon I have reached the end of my page – indeed, this one runs to two pages – so I will post more on NLP soon, particularly on the technique of reframing which we have used successfully to revitalise brands, services, corporate and institutional reputations. You will find a pdf of this post here:
One of the things I see most often is the need to see reality and tell the truth about it. There is enough pretending going on already! Here I tackle boredom as a phenomenon that researchers will encounter…even though it may be difficult to admit it!
Some of you may remember the Psychology of the Royal Wedding post (26/04/2011) in which I predicted a shorter train to Kate’s dress (right) and lots of mentions of Diana (wrong).
What I missed is the close relationship between this real marriage and the great loves of Fairy Tale romance. If you follow these posts you will find more and more evidence of the influence of the unconscious mind on everyday life – and here, as you can see from the photo comparisons below, there has been a great cross-fertilisation, whether deliberate or not, between fairy tales and life.
You can see the resemblance of Kate and her prince to fictional characters in the top images, but no fairy tale is complete without its ‘fools’ and wicked villains and if you remember I was wondering in the earlier post who might fill the role of Joker?
Unfortunately, it seems to have fallen to Beatrice and Eugenie in their rather bizarre costumes & hats. Some observant wag has matched them with the Ugly Sisters from a Cinderella cartoon to emphasise the point!
If we look a little deeper, there is a real misfortune behind the jokes. Lady Sarah Ferguson, mother of Beatrice and Eugenie was not invited to the wedding and spoke of her disappointment on the Oprah show. Once the doyen of the Royal Family, at least in the eyes of the media, Fergie appears now only to embarrass or irritate them & is cast in the British media as a wicked exploiter of her minutes in the spotlight. She adds her name to two other noticeable exclusions from the wedding guest list: Blair & Brown.
I am indebted to my friend Owen Stevens for bringing these images to my attention.
We set out on the Easter weekend with high hopes. We had no idea that Staycationing (taking a holiday in the UK for overseas readers) would prove such a dire experience. What happened? What went wrong?
To be honest we had become so used to holidaying in Italy that we had forgotten about the English and the Rules of Englishness. Why does this matter? Well first we need to remind ourselves of Kate Fox’s brilliant summary of these rules in her book, ‘Watching the English’ (2004):
The key thing to remember is the quality of ‘social unease’ that clings to the English when they are thrown together – whether amongst familiars or strangers.
It’s hard not to feel awkward in English company. If you look at the diagram you’ll see at the centre that ‘awkward’ is the way you’re expected to feel. So the first experience we had, on meeting our Bed &Breakfast hosts – who were perfectly nice – was a feeling of timidity, awkwardness and the need to pretend to be comfortable, even though the accommodation was far from uplifting: small poky spaces, kettles and electric points that didn’t work, a barren and utilitarian character that didn’t invite warmth or conviviality.
Even that was not fundamentally the issue: the point is that once under the thrall of awkwardness there is little opportunity or invitation to establish the boundaries of the deal. Were we invited/allowed to walk/sit in their garden? Did the eggs on sale in the porch apply to us – or were ours free, and if so, how many? They made us a fresh loaf which was nice, but we are currently not eating wheat/grains, so the loaf was useless. They didn’t ask us what, if anything we would like to make our stay more pleasant! We were left feeling constantly on edge.
This is a real problem with what I’ll call civilian as opposed to professional service. Ordinary folk trying to serve strangers tend to imagine what they would like in similar circumstances, do that for you and call it service. As a recipient you are left, having to resort to moderation, humour and pretending to like what has been done to you (rather than for you).
Inevitably you feel hacked off and resort to complaining the minute your hosts’ backs are turned. Oh to have been Americans who would have helped themselves to all the eggs, tramped all over the garden with their cameras, while lobbing a twangy “Where’re y’all from?” at their hosts. Perhaps in another lifetime!
An excellent description of one reason for lack of agility in organisations:
Here’s a quick version:
The boss says he’s coming over and asks some subordinate A to talk to him about X. A cancels a series of meetings to devote time to making an impressive powerpoint presentation about X.
In fact, A asks his near subordinates B, C and D to prepare some stuff for him on the subject.
B, C and D then basically replicate A’s behaviour, cancelling their own meetings and interfering with the lives of E/F/G, H/I/J and K/L/M.
Depending on the size of the organisation, rinse and repeat through various layers.
Do you have any cookery books covered in creases and stains, where some pages are untouched while others fall out when you open the book or are missing altogether?
I do, and so was touched and delighted when someone invented one page, laminated recipe cards in ring-binders that you could stand up in the kitchen as you cooked.
‘Psychology on a Page’ is my version of cookery cards for facilitators and insight-seekers who want to have quick access to great ideas & theories without wading through 200+ pages or a long course.
The first, ‘Freud on a page’ launches next week.
We haven’t got the laminates yet, but if you like these we could collect them together and publish them in a ring binder, complete with piccys and stuff!
Let me know if they’re useful!