Closed / Open

Closed                                  -                      Open
Left hemisphere                   -                      Right hemisphere
Solid                                     -                      Liquid
Mono                                    -                      Poly
Certain                                 -                      Uncertain
Committed                           -                      Uncommitted
Known                                  -                      Unknown
Answer                                 -                      Question
Fact                                       -                      Fiction
Old                                        -                       New
Is                                           -                      Could be
Actual                                    -                      Potential
Repetition                            -                       Innovation
Conservation                       -                       Liberation
Limited                                 -                       Unlimited 
Serious                                  -                      Playful
Adult                                     -                       Child
Senex                                     -                      Puer
Rigid                                     -                       Flexible
Converge                                -                      Diverge
Order                                      -                      Chaos

Go too far in one direction and you freeze into a statue; too far in the other and you thaw into a puddle.

The teacher-student encounter runs parallel to an inner tension between the states of being a knowledgeable adult and an unknowing child.

In every adult there is a child who constantly leads us on to new things.

The adult's knowledge makes him rigid and inaccessible to innovation.

The unknowing child's irrational experimentation, his naive openness, must be retained as a living potential in every adult if he is to remain emotionally alive.  

Thus the adult is never completely grown up; if he is to be somewhat healthy psychically, he must always keep a certain childlike unknowingness.

One often meets teachers who seem to have lost every trace of childishness, who have even fewer childish traits then the average healthy adult. Such teachers have become "only-teachers," who confront unknowing children almost as their enemy. They complain that children know nothing and do not wish to learn; their nerves are torn by their students' childishness and lack of self-control.

For this kind of teacher children are the Other, that which he himself wishes never to be.

A dynamic teacher must have a certain childishness in himself, just as a doctor must have a vital
relationship to the pole of illness.

He must not only transmit knowledge but also awaken a thirst for knowledge in the children, but this he can only do so if the knowledge-hungry, spontaneous child is still alive within him.

When [the teacher's childishness is repressed and projected onto the pupils] learning progress is blocked. The children remain children and the knowing adult is no longer constellated in them ... Children are his enemies, representing the internally split pole of the archetype, whose reunification is attempted through power.

[Adolf Guggenb├╝hl-Craig]
Power In The Helping Professions, p.104-6

Premature Cognitive Commitments

[One way] that we become mindless is by forming a mindset when we first encounter something and then clinging to it when we reencounter that same thing. Because such mindsets form before we do much reflection, we call them premature cognitive commitments.

When we accept an impression or a piece of information at face value, with no reason to think critically about it, perhaps because it seems irrelevant, that impression settles unobtrusively into our minds until a similar signal from the outside world calls it up again. At that next time it may no longer be irrelevant, but most of us don't reconsider what we mindlessly accepted earlier.

The mindless individual is committed to one predetermined use of the information, and other possible uses or applications are not explored.

When our minds are set on one thing or on one way of doing things, mindlessly determined in the past, we blot out intuition and miss much of the present world around us.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.22, 118

Learning what to ignore is critical for effective psychological functioning—it would be simply overwhelming to process the full stream of information available to our senses as we make our way through the world.

So we cull through this information for relevant details, screening out everything else. The problem is, the screened-out information might be useful later, but by then we are slow to realize its significance, to unlearn its irrelevance.

This process can be modeled in the laboratory by preexposing participants to seemingly unimportant stimuli that later form the basis of a learning task. For the average person, this preexposure stifles subsequent learning—the critical stimulus has been rendered “irrelevant” and fails to penetrate awareness. Not so, however, for those high in openness, who are less susceptible to latent inhibition.

This again demonstrates a more inclusive mode of thinking—a “leaky” cognitive system, if you will—that lets in information that others filter out [...] Open people see more possibilities in even the most mundane of objects.

According to personality theorists, openness reflects a greater “breadth, depth, and permeability of consciousness” and propensity to “cognitively explore” both abstract information (ideas and arguments) and sensory information (sights and sounds).

[Luke Smillie]
'Openness to Experience: The Gates of the Mind'

That’s what people can do that a computer can’t - see similarities, similes, metaphors […] What we can do is parallel processing [and] patterns.

[Creativity is] networks that have wider expanses that connect to a broader number of neurons […] [A creative individual has] networks that are spreading far wider than in some other individual […] literally making connections that another individual does not.

Picasso had a broader network as to what could constitute a face. A broader network […] is more divergent.

[Robert Sapolsky]
'22. Emergence and Complexity'

Just as mindlessness is the rigid reliance on old categories, mindfulness means the continual creation of new ones.

Categorizing and recategorizing, labeling and relabeling as one masters the world are processes natural to children. They are adaptive and inevitable part of surviving in this world. Freud recognized the importance of creation and mastery in childhood:

Should we not look for the first traces of imaginative activity as early in childhood? The child's best-loved and most intense occupation is with his play or games. Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or rather, re-arranges the things of the world in a new way which pleases him?

The child's serious re-creation can become the adult's playful recreation.

As adults, however, we become reluctant to create new categories [...] our outcome orientation tends to deaden a playful approach.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.63, 64

Any archetype includes opposite elements, e.g. therapist/patient, healer/healed.

If [...] a therapist defines herself or himself as a "healthy person without ailment," this archetype gets split away and the therapist becomes just a therapist and the patient just a patient.

Sadly, the patient then loses the opportunity of healing the self through the functioning of the healer archetype.

In order to prevent such a splitting off of the archetype, the therapist first has to recognize the patient that exists within herself or himself.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.98

In most educational settings, the "facts" of the world are presented as unconditional truths, when they might better be seen as probability statements that are true in some contexts but not in others.

Children are usually taught "this is a pen," "this is a rose," "this is a car." It is assumed that the pen must be recognized as a pen so that a person can get on with the business of writing. It is also considered useful for the child to form the category "pen."

But consider an alternative: What happens if we instruct the child that "this could be a pen"? This conditional statement, simple as it seems, is a radical departure from telling the child "this is a pen."

What if a number of ordinary household objects were introduced to a child in a conditional way: "This could be a screwdriver, a fork, a sheet, a magnifying glass"? Would that child be more fit for survival on a desert island? Or imagine the impact of a divorce on a child taught initially taught "a family is a mother, a father, and a child" versus "a family could be ...."

Some may argue that to teach children about the world unconditionally is to make them insecure. Will children taught "it depends" grow up to be insecure adults? Or will they be more confident in a world of change than those of us brought up with absolutes?

Even in the most minor and ordinary details of our lives, we are locked in by the unconditional way we learn in childhood. We pick up rules before we have a chance to question them.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.120, 124, 125

OPEN: potential for more complex level functioning

- healthiest form with most possibilities for adjustment
- history and capacities conductive to movement
- Open state thinking changes as conditions/realities change
- deals effectively with barriers
- doesn't present as sharp a picture of the level as Closed does

ARRESTED: caught by barriers in self/situation

- possibility for change only if barriers are overcome
- may lack insights that explain what is happening
- will require more dissonance be created to spark change
- makes excuses and rationalizes the status quo

CLOSED: blocked by biopsychosocial capacities

- may lack neurological equipment or necessary intelligences
- historic traumas may have triggered closure
- unable to recognize barriers, much less overcome them
- threatened by change and fights to stay put or else

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p.77

By 'insight' we mean there is an understanding of (1) what went wrong with the previous system and why, as well as (2) what resources are now available for handling the problems better. Until people have a rationale for understanding why the prior system was embraced initially and why it was eventually undermined, lasting change into the next order is fitful. Insight keeps the old problems in focus and clarifies the new ones.

Different patterns and models, as well as step-by-step processes for implementing them, are essential to moving into a new system. These alternative scenarios must be active in the collective consciousness before they can be considered. Too often they are guarded in the minds of an elite few 'planners' or 'decision makers.'

People need mental pictures of what things might be like for them in their own real Life Conditions, not for some distant Hollywood stars or textbook case studies.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p. 84

When the idea of altering our opinions, expanding them, or god forbid, abandoning them feels like suicide, we’re in real trouble.

We’re in an emergency where we lost sight of the plot. We forgot how big the world is and how big we are. We don’t have to be our opinions – we only have to be human.

[Andrew W.K.]
Andrew WK: why I'm making a radio show on Glenn Beck's network

Hegel deals with a sequence of logical categories: being, becoming, one, many, essence, existence, cause, effect, universal, mechanism, and "life". Each is examined in turn and made to reveal its own inadequacies and internal tensions. Each category is made to generate another more promising one which in its turn will be subject to the same kind of scrutiny.

Hegel calls this dynamic aspect of his thinking the power of "negation".

It is by means of this "negativity" of thought that the static (or habitual) becomes discarded or dissolved, made fluid and adaptable, and recovers its eagerness to push on towards "the whole."

Dialectical thinking derives its dynamic of negation from its ability to reveal "contradictions" within almost any category or identity.

[Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze]
'Hegel for Beginners'

In Rogers’ view, a therapy based on the notion of preserving the client’s personal self is misguided. So is a therapy based on the notion of preserving the counselor’s personal self.

It would be better to focus on the moment of experience which we share with our client, finding in it the invitation to be new rather than to go on repeating our past moments of experience the way a rock does.

[…] it is the openness of awareness to what exists in the present moment that is a key condition for the emergence of creativity.

For counselors following Rogers’ or Whitehead’s thinking each new moment is a moment of creation in which we and our client may either allow ourselves to be drawn towards the goal of beauty and complexity and become more than what we have been, or we allow ourselves to be trapped by past habits and reactions into repeating ourselves once more.

[Bernie Neville]
‘What Kind of Universe? Rogers, Whitehead and Transformative Process’, Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, Volume 6, Number 4,  p. 282-3

“What is familiar is what we are used to; and what we are used to is most difficult to ‘know’ - that is, to see as a problem; that is, to see as strange and distant, as ‘outside us’.”

The difficulty is not so much in reconstructing the interpretation as in becoming explicitly aware of what we have taken for granted in the first place. Once we have done this, we have seen it as the product of an interpretation; and we can see it as such only on the basis of a further interpretation on our own part. Second, [Nietzsche's 'free spirits'] know that in producing new views they inevitably change their own situation and thus make further interpretations necessary; these interpretations will in turn create still other new situations.

They can thus accept the contingency of their views when that becomes necessary. 

A “noble” will is one, as Sarah Kofman writes, “which, though capable of affirming one perspective over a long time is still distant enough from it to be able to change it and to see the world with 'other eyes'.”

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 72

It appears that pattern perception increases along with the concentration in the brain of the chemical dopamine […]

A higher concentration of dopamine appears to lower skepticism and result in greater vulnerability to pattern detection; an injection of L-dopa, a substance used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease, seems to increase such activity and lower’s one’s suspension of belief.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 67

Disasters do not follow preordained scripts. Even in situations where there is extensive disaster experience, those seeking to respond invariably confront unforeseen situations.

One counterproductive way of dealing with the unexpected is to adhere to plans and procedures even when they are ineffective or offer no guidance in the face of unfamiliar challenges. 

[Kathleen Tierney]
The Social Roots of Risk: Producing disasters, promoting resilience, p. 208

Show two groups of people a blurry image of a fire hydrant, blurry enough for them not to recognise what it is.

For one group, increase the resolution slowly, in ten steps. For the second, do it faster, in five steps. Stop at a point where both groups have been presented an identical image and ask each of them to identify what they see. The members of the group that saw fewer intermediate steps are likely to recognise the hydrant much faster.

Moral? The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will formulate along the way, and the worse off they will be. They see more random noise and mistake it for information.

[…] the more detailed knowledge one gets of empirical reality, the more one will see the noise (i.e., the anecdote) and mistake it for actual information. Remember that we are swayed by the sensational. Listening to the news on the radio every hour is far worse for you than reading a weekly magazine, because the longer interval allows information to be filtered a bit.

The problem is that our ideas are sticky: once we produce a theory, we are not likely to change our minds - so those who delay developing their theories are better off. 

When you develop your opinions on the basis of weak evidence, you will have difficulty interpreting subsequent information that contradicts these opinions, even if this new information is obviously more accurate.

Two mechanisms are at play here: […] confirmation bias […] and belief perseverance, the tendency not to reverse opinions you already have. Remember that we treat ideas like possessions, and it will be hard for us to part with them.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 144

At the broadest level of trait description, therefore, variability in human personality appears to reflect restraint and engagement.

Stability appears to be associated with refraining from a variety of behaviors associated with disruptive impulses (such as drug use and reactive aggression), whereas Plasticity appears to be associated with engaging in a variety of behaviors associated with approach behavior and exploration (such as creative expression and attending social events) [...] behaviors consistent with an underlying exploratory drive.

These results are consistent with the theory that the metatraits reflect serotonergically mediated self-regulation and constraint on the one hand and dopaminergically mediated exploration and engagement on the other.

In particular, some of the processes underlying these traits may best be understood in terms of the different systems that are being restrained or regulated in each case. Process models that are consistent with this view include those linking Agreeableness to the inhibition of interpersonal aggression, Conscientiousness with the inhibition of distraction, and Emotional Stability with the inhibition of negative affect.

Stability appears to be reflected most strongly in restraint from drug use and hostility and in the absence of disrupted sleep. The association of Stability with stable sleep is consistent with the finding that Stability is associated with circadian timing, such that people higher in Stability tend to be ‘‘morning people’’ with circadian rhythms more strongly entrained to the daily light–dark cycle.

[Jacob B. Hirsh, Colin DeYoung, and Jordan B. Peterson]
'Metatraits of the big five differentially predict engagement and restraint of behavior', p. 11-13

Taken together, existing work suggests that political conservatism reflects a greater tendency to seek structure, to avoid ambiguity, changes to the status quo, and novelty. By this account, political liberalism represents greater comfort with lack of structure, new experiences, and novel information.

Given ideological differences in open versus closed styles of information processing, moral concern might follow a similar pattern.

In prioritizing closure, order, and stability, conservatives should express concern toward smaller, more well-defined, and less permeable social circles (relative to broader ones). In prioritizing openness, tolerance for ambiguity, and desire for change, liberals should express concern toward larger, less well-defined, and more permeable social circles (relative to smaller ones).

[Jonathan Haidt]
‘Ideological differences in the expanse of the moral circle’, p.2

Rather than a dichotomous chicken-or-egg question (does ideology cause differences in concern, or do differences in concern cause ideology?), the relations between ideology and ambit of concern are likely a complex interplay across development involving interactions between genetic and environmental factors.

Both one’s ambit of concern and political ideology are likely preceded by basic temperamental differences demonstrated by research in developmental psychology and political science.

Although again we cannot fully establish causality, we believe these perceptual preferences for tightness versus looseness reflect basic differences in information processing (desire for closure and structure versus desire for openness), which in turn drive preferences for tighter versus looser social circles.

In this way, our work is similar to work showing that left–right ideological differences manifest in basic information processing differences in orientation toward appetitive versus aversive stimuli and exploration versus non-exploration toward novel stimuli (even when these stimuli are devoid of social meaning).

Our work also demonstrates specific perceptual differences and connects these more fundamental information processing differences to social preferences, moral foundations, and moral expansiveness broadly.

[Jonathan Haidt]
‘Ideological differences in the expanse of the moral circle’, p.8

Jonathan Haidt […] found that of the five major moral foundations, conservatives are balanced in all five whereas liberals really only care about one or two.

The left can’t grasp why the right cares about loyalty any more than you can grasp why an autistic kid cares that his train is pointed the wrong way around—you and the liberal live in discrete moral worlds.

[Imperium Press]
‘The Epistemic Divorce’, Imperium Press, Substack

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