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Models: the active view, part 2

posted by Joshua on January 11, 2012 in Awareness, Evolutionary Psychology, Models, Nature, Visualization
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[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Having seen an overview of the active view, let’s look at it in practice. Let’s take a passive view from a post a few days ago — how you perceive a dog based on your beliefs and expectations — and make it active.

Example 1

First let’s look at the usual way of seeing something in your environment, a dog. Say you grew up with a pet bulldog. When you see another, you might consider it cuddly, adorable, playful, and friendly. I illustrate the situation here by grouping those properties with the dog.

Active model (1)
Note that if someone else thinks the dog is mean you disagree with each other on what you think of as objective reality. But if you disagree it can’t be objective, or you both think “I’m right and you’re wrong” — a recipe for argument.

Now let’s look at the situation with the passive view of models, that says that those properties aren’t properties of the dog, but are independent of it. This view gives you more flexibility if, for example, someone disagrees with you.

Active model (2)
Since you don’t think the dog itself is adorable, if someone disagrees with you, you can agree on objective reality while disagreeing on your opinions of it.

Now let’s look at the active view, which credits you with the opinions and perceptions. As with the passive view, if someone disagrees with you on the dog’s cuddliness, you don’t disagree on objective reality.

Moreover, by taking responsibility for how you perceive the world, you enable yourself to do something about your perception. If you want to change how you perceive the world, you can, which you couldn’t if you ascribed those properties to the dog.

Active model (3)Example 2

Let’s look at another case, this time making things more active and adding a twist. Say you go to a party and it doesn’t seem fun. In the traditional view, you might say the party is lame, as illustrated here.

Active model (4)The passive view might say the party just is, leaving aside value judgments. As illustrated below, you don’t trap yourself into believing the party is inherently lame. At least if you couldn’t leave the party, your self-talk wouldn’t sabotage your potential for enjoyment.

Active model (5)We can go one step further. By taking responsibility for your perception, you group the properties with yourself, as illustrated below. This time I added a twist beyond the dog example. I didn’t just illustrate you thinking the party was lame. I had you actively change your thoughts about the party to improve your life.

Active model (6)Note that I didn’t just change the thoughts to the opposite, like “this party is fun” or “this party is not lame.” I’ll write more about how to choose effective self-talk to improve your life in a later post. For now I’ll mention that when you don’t like a thought, choosing a new thought exactly opposite to the old one often creates too much internal conflict to displace it. I recommend choosing a new thought based on the principle “don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.”

In this case, that principle gives you a belief that empowers yourself to do something about your situation.

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