Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on February 2, 2014

A favorite theme in my life at present is the idea that certain conceptual complexes are basically tools, and, specifically, tools for the mind. The alphabet, Roberts’ Rules of Order, and other non-hardware procedures are tools too. There are major inventions, supporting inventions, and then techniques (mind-tools) for using these. Writing and reading are kinds of mind-tools, as are a wide range of other new concepts and techniques.

I don’t claim to have invented these tools. Most I simply advocate for, support their wise use, comment on technique. Publicizing them as tools, though, supports a world-view that recognizes that we are in a time when people are inventing, creating, innovating, refining, and this view point stands against blind traditionalism, and should be recognized as a kind of meta-tool. So here are some tools for the mind that I’ve been especially interested in:

1. Let’s recognize that role theory offers a user-friendly language for psychology. It draws upon the theatre, the concept of role, as a base metaphor. People “get” that we play many roles. What’s not so obvious is that we play roles at many levels of social complexity: the body-mind; within the mind; between individuals; in small groups; in larger groups; in society; as a human being; and between sometimes more than two levels.

2. Enactment that uses the body in action and experience—a kind of improvised drama—is also a useful way to bring together the exciting insights of semantics and the way that different people “mean” different things when they use certain words. These can be role played (in the form of “axiodrama”) so that these different meanings become explicit instead of implicit.

3. Sociometry is a method for making explicit our interpersonal preference, charting them so that we can review them, change them, become more explicitly conscious of how they fit. Sociometry is a major tool (but not the only one) to open the nascent field of “Social Depth Psychology.” This is an important frontier! The feelings about our social embeddedness are problematic, laced with feelings of shame, guilt, fears of hurting others, and generally left unconscious. As the world becomes more complex, it’s as important to learn to talk about such things as it was important to learn to talk about sex, contraception, and so forth seventy years ago.

4. Creativity is a theme that’s picking up steam, innovation, re-thinking, re-evaluating. The problem is that authorities often view their status as depending on being recognized as knowing what there is to know, knowing the truth. But the truth keeps changing, so the nature of authority needs to shift to residing in their capacity to encourage, learn, stimulate, question. This is a subtly disruptive shift, not of technology, but of the nature of knowledge.

5. Spirituality has been attached not to the unfolding of the mind, the social network, the body’s freedom, but to the packages of rules handed down hundreds or thousands of years ago, along with the elaborate rationalization for those rules. Yet new forms are emerging and people need help in feeling into what works to lift them. This may vary with their temperament and other individual variables. In the past, you were supposed to buy into your parents’ loyalties, but the field has become more subjective and individuated. The spiritual journey is a search, and different approaches may appeal to different people. There is room to expand our understanding of these dynamics.

6. Learning was more intellectual, more book-learning. But we are learning that learning is whole-body, and involves feelings and intuitions as well as rational mind. The arts may have an important role to play in helping people to find out what they need to learn. For some, drama; others, dance; yet others, poetry, or music, or any of the visual arts, architecture, design, sculpture, and so forth.

7-plus. Oh, I suspect I could add many more to this list. Many of these “mind-tools” that I’m promoting in my life and career have been substantially created or modified by others, and I feel privileged to advocate for them!  Enough for now.

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