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How to mend navigation: 1. How to mend * 2. Models of mending * 3. How to be a grown up * 4. Hold me tight * 5. Becoming vulnerable * 6. Emotional bids * 7. Constructive fights * 8. Exits from intimacy * 9. The answer
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Last edit of this page 26/04/2013
If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong
The map of the brain, however allegorically drawn, is a map of freedom. Richard Nelson Bolles
1.0 Mental Maps and other meta-cognitions
A mental map is like a shorthand version of the world, a container of assumptions and core beliefs, which represent the internal logic of our sensations, our perceptions and the interpretations we use to make meaning out of that information and of life events. These are events that are both within us and those that are around us. More on meta-cognitions.
Our senses may take in more than 11 million pieces of information a second and we are conscious of 40 bits of these, at the most. We simply cannot hold that much information in conscious mind.
The conscious mind inevitably becomes an interpreter of decisions already made, an observer of actions already begun rather than the driver of those decisions and action. The bulk of our decision making is out of conscious awareness, which lags our decisions by hundreds of milliseconds.
In that sense the opening quote may itself be wrong, since the sensory information about the ground beneath us is filtered by a ratio of 11 million to 40 bits of information. Those 40 bits are those our subconscious releases for conscious attention. They are the ones that tend to confirm our map of the world. We do not have access to all the unconscious information on which we base our decisions.
A map may explain or rationalise our decisions to ourselves after the event. Mental maps facilitate recurrence of the familiar, for better and for worse.
For example denial is a mental map. It is a popular map that restricts our experience of harmful events, whose impact would be obvious to anyone without a map of their world constricted by denial. Blame is a related map. Denial co-opts forgetting in order to create the appearance of a seamless world.
As an example, think about how we deal with our mortality. Death and dying are probably the most edited experiences in our culture.
Cultural beliefs such as a denial of vulnerability or denial of injustice; cultural distrust of superiority, and beliefs about helplessness, all have collective power. They rely for their effect on private or cultural assumptions that are rarely tested by our mind. More on mind.
Presuppositions exist in every statement we speak, in every action we perform. They may not be part of our core beliefs, but they exist to enable interpretation of the external world. A quick way to elicit conscious awareness of anyone's presuppositions is to expose the person to a context in which their presuppositions are not shared by others. Source
A person "maps" some accepted social definition of reality onto his or her experience and then acts as if that map reflects his or her experience. Or else feels terribly oppressed and unseen, if the personal experience is very different from the "mapped" pseudo-experience. r d laing
2.0 Maps and intimacy
People are most alike in their feelings and least alike in their thinking. Mary Pipher
In an ultimate sense there are no facts, only our story, our interpretation of events. But if someone is driving a truck through your life it is a good idea to get out of the way before asking if the driver is okay, what their map is telling them and what their story is about.
When we explore the cognitive map our boss, friend or lover has of our relationship, we can discover extraordinary differences in the facts that we record to depict shared experiences. It may not even have been a truck in their map of the devastation.
We often differ in how we frame experience. You can feel gob smacked when you realise it's not just one scene or three that differ but the whole movie may be entirely different.
People make and break relationships on the basis of their map of themselves in a relationship. This is true of strategic relationships as well as intimate ones.
This map is the one of our expectations of how we are and how the other might be in a relationship. The map comprises external cues to intimacy - such as either feeling heard to the very core of oneself or feeling silenced. It is built from inner cues to our sensations, feelings and thoughts. These are interpreted to mean warm, safe, cold or distant for instance.
Our map may include sharing our map of the relationship with the other. Their map may not include sharing their map. When there is a power differential, how we map power will filter their and our experience of shared mapping.
2.1 No map
A map is both a shorthand of the territory and a filter.
Knowing the map our partner, sibling or work mate follows helps us understand where they are coming from when they surprise us and when they don't. Not knowing their map leaves us wondering where are they coming from or if indeed they are coming from anywhere.
Being without a map is novel - little is prefigured and we may discover things we have not met. Even though we may have travelled the landscape many times before. The start of every relationship can be like that. If we keep our inner maps of each other fresh and alive, our experience will also enliven us.
If they get tired and stale, we may come to believe the relationship or situation or job is the stale thing rather than our map.
When we get hurt in a relationship, we tend to freeze the map at that point, with all its valid and invalid presuppositions.
Following a stroke, some people develop Capgras's Syndrome. A lack of internal feeling associated with seeing a familiar face causes them to believe their partner, for example, has been removed. Their mind struggles to deal with the obvious information to the contrary and many start to confabulate that their partner has been replaced by the imposter in front of them. They invent a new map of their feelings as the old one no longer represents their experience.
A related syndrome is Cotard's where the stroke victim believes themselves or others who are visibly alive are in fact dead.
Neuroplasticity shows that everything can be re-mapped in the brain, even catastrophic loss of feeling and mobility following a massive brain injury. The blind can be taught to 'see' with an electrode patch on their tongue. More on neuroplasticity.
2.2 Map of mapping
Some relationships have in built a capacity for constructing a map about their process of mapping. This is meta-mapping.
It is process orientated. The fierce conversation that it requires, enables each to work out how they managed to get it so right and so wrong. As a result it is bit like taking the map out of the freezer and building a better one.
Some maps, however, just have subliminal and unexamined instructions for tearing up the relationship when the map is wrong or the person using it gets hurt. Worse, some have instructions for tearing up the territory when the ground differs from the map.
We are what we think and with those thoughts we create the world. There are always other maps that are yet to be unmasked, other neural networks for our mind to travel on and create a different world.
2.3 Cues to mapping
When a person accesses their inner map, their eyes tend move in directions indicating in what modality and time frame the knowledge is drawn from. The NLP model has systematised this to a degree. More articles on NLP.
Inner maps change with experience. Maps go out of date, can be incomplete and self-limiting.
Presuppositions are ideas we take for granted. They may be re-framed and re-imprinted by deliberate sleight of mind and in the accidental awakening of an epiphany.
Here as an example, is an NLP re-frame of allergic reactions.
If one can do that with allergies, imagine what else can change with a different frame around it. Some maps just wrap around us like a hard hat or helmet, giving us sensations of being wrapped up and tightly closed in.
Try this experiment: imagine with all your senses that kind of map. Sense it unwrapping from behind the head, hear the Velcro tearing away as it comes free in your hands. Feels the texture of the map. Flatten it out, shrink it down or expand it and form a picture frame around it. One that fits. Put the framed picture high on a wall opposite you. Stand back and consider the map in its new frame. What's the sensation in your body now?
2.4 Mapping and story
To be a person is to have a story to tell. Isak Dinesen
We construct meaning when we tell our life story. We use story to influence people and keep ourselves on track. A typology of stories is a map of stories. Here are six story types used for influence: Who I Am Stories; Why I Am Here Stories; My Vision Story; Teaching Stories; Values in Action Stories and 'I Know what you are Thinking' Stories (a popular marital story). There are the Nation stories (save the world), victim stories (irreparably damaged) and perpetrator stories which have shrunken or restricted world views.
A story is a consequence of the map of our life. Though the key events in that story may not change, over time the conclusions we draw from them can. This occurs because of the observer's experience.
Story is relational. Relationships and aging can change our life story and build a new narrative. New links in the brain are formed and this leads to changed sensations when thinking about past and critical life events. This forms an altered mental map, through which new experiences are then filtered.
When there is no change in a story of our life over many years, we may be carrying it in a disabling way. This is very clear in the difference between one that carries their traumatic story lightly and one that carries it heavily - with an almost life and death grip on its meaning to them.
2.5 Mapping and trauma
Every remedy is a desperate remedy. Every cure is a miraculous cure. G. K. Chesterton
Healing of traumatic injury and its offspring, complicated traumatic grief, require extensive re-mapping, re-telling of story and neuroplasticity. The very act of doing this with the body in mind, begins to stimulate growth of more neurons and build new neural pathways around the sites where traumatic memory had become locked or frozen.
Some of the energy or emotional content of frozen traumatic memories, may be spontaneously released by real or symbolic events that resonate with it - like a car backfiring or our partner telling a 'white lie'. This explosion of affect far in excess of that called up by the actual event before us, is called a flashback. These can make it hard to deal with the real event in our normal way.
It is a painful reliving of past events in both body and mind. It slams up against our unreconstructed map of our old world, where once we were safe inside our own skin. The very idea that a symbolic event could completely throw us was unimaginable and we might even have scoffed at others who were getting upset over 'nothing'.
Losing our story of how our life was and and how it would have been but for the trauma, is another aspect of the grief.
Re-writing our life story including the changes wrought by trauma is healing when the body's sensory motor map of the trauma and its consequences are embraced. Hakomi body centred therapy and EMD*R assist that process.
3.0 Examples of mental maps on site:
- A map of happiness.
- The principle of obliquity.
- The paranoid blame game.
- Viktor Frankl: stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as being questioned by life
- Sheldon Kopp: You only get to keep what you give away.
- Zen: If you stop moving to become still, This stillness always moves.
- Mencken: Truth has a harshness that alarms.
- What is the map of, 'I am not happy'. Start by illustrating the sentence 'the man is NOT planting the tree' It's cheating to use a circle with a slash through it.
- Don't believe everything you think.
4. Some other views of maps:
- Beginning from our earliest living moments, each of us constructs what can be referred to as a mental "map of the world." A map of the world is like a mental road map of how someone views the world. This mental map serves as an interface between what we are exposed to in the physical world, and how we internally evaluate that information. It provides a context and a reference point for understanding that external information. All incoming information is filtered through our mental map and categorized according to our conscious and subconscious ideas about the world and what we consider our place in it to be. This mental map is not intrinsically static, but it can be fluid and change shape if someone is exposed to a sufficient influence. Typically, the influence necessary to alter one's mental map is an event of life-- shattering intensity, such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, or imprisonment. However, events of a lesser intensity can distort it. A good definition from a strange source: O'Briens Map of the World
- The 'wisest' and most 'compassionate' maps are those which make available the widest and richest number of choices, as opposed to being the most "real" or "accurate". From NLP patterns.
- Just enough theory - an outline of personality mapping, particularly read Gottman's Sound Marital House Method near the bottom of that page.
- Tim Hallbom in "Beliefs: Pathways to Health and Well-Being" related a study of 100 "cancer survivors" in hopes of finding out what these survivors had in common. The interview could find no common pattern in the treatment received by these people. Different people received different treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, nutrition programs, surgery, spiritual healing, etc. However, there was one thing that these survivors all shared: they all believed that the method of treatment they were getting was going to work for them. The belief, not the treatment, made the difference. Quoted from lucid experience
- My next favourite notion for approaching the acquisition of urban knowledge comes from a college course, Geography of the Mind, in which we dealt with "cognitive maps." These are the mental maps — always under revision — of their environments that individuals store in their brains that may or may not overlap with reality. Our maps become filled out and customized by the quantity and quality of the interactions we have with our surroundings. Actively negotiating a car through the city streets, for instance, yields more information for our maps than does being the passenger. The character of the information we gather using the public transit system supplies details for our personal grids unavailable to motorists. And the pace of walking, combined with the greater exposure to the stimuli of the street, gives those who go by foot the maximum advantage in their atlas-making that's not so pedestrian after all. An obsessive-compulsive walker like me can run with an idea like this — it propels the fact-finding in my heroic efforts to keep pace with the city around me. I walk and know, walk and know, walk and know. While it's presumably better for one's mental maps to correspond as closely as possible to the actual world, there's certainly a subjective element to these maps. One way to think about the quality of our maps (though I still like the base of "more is better") may be to consider how well our own maps meet the requirements of our lives. And if our map in general or portions of our maps don't necessarily jibe with reality? Then we're constructing our very own stories of our places — venturing into the mythological realm that is an important foundation of any great city. Thus, I survey every nook and cranny, retaining valuable particulars at times and, otherwise, spinning fantastic webs. Retrieved 23/04/05 from thecommonspace.org
- Feedback and self-disclosure with active listening skills build a relationship map. A map of that process is the Johari Window and a list of questions to jog the memory. More on Johari here and here.
- Further tools for mapping: observe, filter, colour, assume, conclude, believe, act.
- Mental models using systems thinking
- A change management tool, 'People consciously and unconsciously process their experiences in accord with preexisting views (or filters) of reality'
- General semantics formulated by Alfred Korzybski in 1933 'Science and Sanity' proposed: 'We live in a continually-changing, process-oriented world, much of which we have no means of directly observing or experiencing. What we do experience is therefore partial and incomplete; we abstract only a small portion of what’s there - and there is always more. Different people abstract differently from their own individual experiences, based on their backgrounds, capabilities, interests, biases, etc. As we become more conscious of this abstracting process, we learn how to become more tolerant and accepting of our own - and others - limitations and potentialities. We recognize the distinctions between the nonverbal world in which we sense and experience, and our verbal world in which we use symbols and language to talk about what we sense and experience. The methods of a scientific approach provide us with a basis for evaluating and modifying our attitudes, behaviours and beliefs. The benefits that come from practicing general semantics are to achieve a greater degree of appropriate adjustment to the events of our daily lives, and a lesser degree of maladjustment. In other words, we learn how to better integrate the world "out there" with the world "in here"
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