Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Psychological Panarchy

Perplexed by the inadequacy of visualising trichotomy dynamics in two dimensional graphs, I have begun modeling some of the adaptive cycles for psychosystems as 3D models. Yes, warning science content and nerd alert, ... yet in essence this seeing in many ways affects us all.

In examining the feeling of vertigo from following the contours of the spatial dynamics of the phases of conservation, release, reorganisation and exploitation in the adaptive cycle, I had a deep feeling of deja vu. Where had I seen the 3D adaptive cycle previously?

Then it occurred to me. In the writings of psychologist Clare Graves he describes the four phase cycle of psychological development, not of individuals, but of populations when looked at through a system ecologists eyes. Speaking in 1977 he describes the adaptive cycle of psychological growth in human society as follows:

"Overall, psychological development can be seen as a complex wave like phenomenon. But development does not occur in the smooth flowing manner suggested by Exhibit VIII. It is more a spurt-like, plateau-like, more a progressive, steady state, regressive movement in which certain demarcation points can be identified in the flowing process. As systems of personality and culture come and go with changes in psychological time and alterations in psychological space, four demarcation points can easily be distinguished. This progressive, steady state, regressive development and the four demarcation points are shown in Exhibit IX." (Graves, C. 2005, p. 178)

He goes on to describe how 'anxiety and rigid functioning' accompany the crisis that occurs following a period of adequate coping with the problems of existence [conservation], with regression in using older ways for newer problems then leading to 'fixation and pathology' [release], creating dissonance and new insights which have to overcome existing conditions in the existential space [reorganization], before the removal of those barriers leads to rapid movement and a quantum leap to the next steady state [exploitation].

Here is psychological panarchy described thirty years prior to its naming. To see a description of psychological multi-state resilience, in a systemic population model, in four phases, as a hierarchical open system of complexity, preceding the publication of Buzz Holling's pioneering work in ecological systems by some years, affirms the significance of this early and innovative research work.

Who would think that this understanding might have been lost to us, or that were it not for the 35 years of ongoing inspirational research work by the resilience theorists, we might not have even understood its profound significance for our own emergence.

All we can do at this point is marvel at what they together saw and continue to ask, now that the cyclical nature of natural systems (including human thought) are disclosed, what is it we must do ...?

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