Friday, 30 July 2010

Disassembling the network of assumptive implication (or how to make life easier)

How to disassemble or deconstruct the “network of meaning” surrounding a given stuck situation.

We live inside a network of “assumptive implication”, what we could call a “network of meaning”. In this network of meaning, any given thought is associated via a “this means” or “this implies” relationship with other thoughts. ThoughtA implies or means ThoughtB, B implies or means C, C implies or means D, etcetera, etecetra, ad infinitum. I have written in A->B, B->C, C->D in the previous sentence but there are also of course multiple cross linkages. A implies B, C, D, E, etc. and B implies D,F,H, etc. and C implies A,G,K etc. This set of thoughts together with their linking relationships forms something like a network or a web. This web or network is what I am referring to when I say we live inside a “network of meaning” or a “network of assumptive implication.” Any given issue or problem or stuck situation that we are working on could be said to be EMBEDDED inside such a network of meaning / network of assumptive implication.

The reason I am calling it ASSUMPTIVE implication is because ordinarily the relationship A means B NEVER GETS CHALLENGED. Although it may be a more or less reasonable assertion that A means B (maybe A REALLY DOES mean B), the fact that in our initial way of thinking A simply DOES mean B and it does so without question, means that the validity of the assertion is not open to being tested. Because of this we are unable to see any possible view of the world in which A does not mean B, and so we are prevented from being able to see all the many possible alternative ways of seeing the problem we are working on, and restricted to only being able to see the problem in ONE FIXED WAY (one fixed and quite probably rather restricted way). Could we allow ourselves to consider the possibility that: Actually A does not necessarily imply B – could that be possible? Actually B does not necessarily imply C – could that be possible? Actually C does not necessarily imply D – could that be possible?

In other words, it may be worth considering the possibility that we are blind to the assumptions that are embedded in our structure of implication. These A means B assumptions are so habitual that we barely even notice them. They are like "water for the fish". The structure of meaning that we are swimming in is so natural to us that the possibility that there could be other ways of putting this network of thoughts together, the idea that there might be new thoughts that could be added to the network that could have a transformational impact, is almost impossible to see any validity in.

We tend to think that we are thinking earnestly about the problems we are trying to grapple with, but our patterns of "thinking" are so transparent to ourselves, so habitual, that very often we do not even hear ourselves thinking some of the thoughts that are fundamentally shaping the way the world is appearing to us. From the perspective of our experience we don't even think that the brush off by the girl we fancy MEANS we're deluded about our chances. We simply experience the consequences (eg. the emotional state) that result from never doubting the absolute fact of that being the truth.

For example: I want to by a car, but I don’t have any money to do so. Not having any money MEANS I cannot buy the car I want to buy. So now we stop for a moment and isolate the first clause (thought) from the second clause (thought). The first clause (A) is: “I don’t have any money” The second clause (B) is: “I cannot buy a car” Lets imagine that without my ever questioning this, in my network of assumptive implication, I take it for granted that A means B. However does A really mean B? Possibly it doesn’t. Possibly I could borrow some money. In fact in many places car salesmen are so keen to sell cars that they can arrange finance agreements to pay for the cars they are selling.

The point of this example is not whether it’s good financial sense for me to buy a car or not buy a car, nor which one, nor how to pay for it, the point is that a SINGLE STRAND within a network of assumptive implication (network of meaning), when pushed on even just a little bit turns out to be less fixed than it was being assumed to be. It turns out that A does not necessarily mean B, but I have been assuming that A does mean B without even noticing that I was making that assumption. Inside of my web of meaning, my network of assumptive implication, it is so obvious that A means B, that it never even occurs to me that this is something that is open to question.

So if we were to take every relationship strand in my network, every Thought1 means Thought2 etc. and start to open up the possibility that Thought1 does not mean Thought2, all kinds of actions that I was hitherto blind to start to become apparent.

The network of meaning that the problem I am working on is embedded in can start to be seen for what it is. What becomes apparent is that I haven’t actually been working on the problem I thought I was working on at all. I have largely been unable to work on the real problem because of all the constraints imposed on me by the network of meaning through which I have been viewing myself and the circumstances of the problem.

What is needed therefore, is a methodology by which we can start to disassemble or deconstruct this web of meaning that we as individuals and groups and communities have in place, and hold outside of the realm of being open to question so far that we can’t even see it as being a matter of our own assumption. (Instead we imbue the world out there as being constructed in that way.)

What would such a methodology look like? How can we start to pull apart this network of meaning?

The first step is to ISOLATE the thoughts that go to make up clauses A and B.

We constantly fail to notice that A does not necessarily mean B in part because we are not even noticing that we are thinking A and B. So the first step to deconstructing the network of meaning, is to identify and isolate the thoughts that we are having. Which thoughts should we isolate in this way? I would recommend to start out by taking any thought that comes. The isolation of some thoughts may have more impact than others, but which thoughts are going to provide the most new freedom of action is not easy to predict ahead of going through the process. Some thoughts that appear to be empowering, such thoughts as those we think of as “good thoughts”, may turn out to be restricting our actions in ways we had never appreciated. “I’m a kind and loving person”, may turn out to MEAN, “I can under no circumstances ever get angry, even when I get a ridiculous speeding ticket for doing 31 mph in a 30 zone”. Again please don’t get hooked by my examples. I’m not advocating either getting angry or not getting angry. Neither of these. What I am advocating is that where we are having a problem with something, we could start to deconstruct the network of meaning inside which the problem is embedded.

The “this MEANS that” relationship has become so hard wired in our thinking processes that we are failing to even notice that it is happening, that it is shaping the view we have of any given problem, and that consequentially it is constraining any possible action we can see that we could take about that problem or project.

The isolation of this entire collection of thoughts allows us to start to disassemble this “NETWORK OF MEANING”. The validity of any A means B relationship can in this way be easily challenged, and re-evaluated so as to be much more rigorously tested and reliable, rather than this whole set of meaning relationships going passed us as though they could not possibly be untrue.

Here are some more examples of A Means B type thought relationships:

If I try to stop taking my anti-depressant drugs and then decide I can’t cope without them, that MEANS I’m a failure. If I take an exam and get a bad mark, that MEANS I’m stupid and I’m never going to amount to anything. If I try to chat up a girl and she brushes me off disdainfully, that MEANS I’m not attractive (or it MEANS she’s a bitch, or it MEANS I forgot to put on deodorant etcetra, etcetra) Incidentally, for some men being brushed off disdainfully MEANS “game on”… and I’m not advocating that meaning either!

In each of these examples there are only 2 thoughts connected together by a “MEANS relationship”, but in our thinking process there is a whole NETWORK of thoughts which are connected together in all directions in this same way. When we get to work on a problem in our lives, it is initially EMBEDDED inside a whole network of assumed A MEANS B relationships (where A and B are two thoughts which in fact don’t necessarily have an A MEANS B relationship).

Sometimes implications may be more or less valid. But many implications may in fact be not at all valid. By isolating thought A and thought B and C, D, E, F etc, it allows us to uncover the whole network of assumed meaning that we have not previously been even questioning the validity of.

In this way we become able to DISASSEMBLE THE ENTIRE NETWORK OF MEANING inside of which a problem is EMBEDDED.

The accomplishment of this process allows for unprecedented freedoms to take actions that we have previously been completely blind to the possibility of.

No comments: