We move on to the fourth part of our human dimensions landscape : the Internal Dimensions. Each dimension is introduced, related to existing scientific disciplines and portrayed by potential questions it may entail to properly assess and address the situation at hand.
Our psyche is a vast and crowded universe, ruled by a messy democracy where everyone gets to have their say, us included. It is filled with resources, some well-known, others well hidden. Some of the figures and images that inhabit it are well liked, or even revered, while others are distrusted, or even banished. It is the land where ideas hatch and grow, where feelings bloom or decay, where sense is lost and found. It is a toolbox with a whimsical tendency and a taste for irony. As we travel through it to get a good look at the mindscape, we should bear in mind that highways are useful and efficient, but the satnav is not always as reliable as advertised. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with wandering off track as long as we keep our feet on the ground. This introductory metaphor can be somewhat confusing but it makes an important point : our mind is not always as clear, composed and structured as we would like it to be, and this is actually a good thing.
Cognitive refers to the individual’s ability to reason and process information. Cognitive ability is separated in two categories : fluid ability and crystallised ability. Fluid ability encompasses all processes within the individual’s mind that capture information, manipulate it, and combine it together : finding the right piece of data quickly, creating abstract objects in the mind’s eye, memorising with both speed and accuracy. Crystallized ability encompasses all forms of knowledge that the individual holds: names, theories, models, memories, pretty much anything that is learned through life. In other words, crystallised ability represents the contents of the mind and fluid ability represents the processes that run through it. Interestingly, fluid ability tends to be quite fixed as the individual cannot continually improve their ability to process information once adulthood is reached: for instance one can rarely go above memorizing an oral sequence of 7 numbers. Similarly, crystallised ability continuously expands as the individual acquires more and more knowledge through time. Though these processes and abilities are similar in nature for all people, every individual has their own way of using them and combining them. This perspective is best explored by cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence study and cognitive sciences in general.
What sequence of processes does the individual usually use to acquire and manipulate information? Could this sequence be altered? What would the consequences of this alteration be?
How does the individual access the knowledge they hold? Are there some parts of their general knowledge that have been neglected? How could these domains still be of use for current endeavours?
Does the individual reflect upon the way they process the world around them and the world inside their mind? How could such a reflection help to broaden or deepen their perspective?
Affective refers to the individual’s ability to work with their feelings and emotions. Feelings and emotions are not always under the individual’s control. They can be triggered by specific people or situations, or even occur out of the blue. They can colour judgement, hasten or hinder reasoning. The individual may seek ways to experience more positive feelings and emotions which are seen as beneficial for their functioning, as well as they may seek to reject negative feelings and emotions which are seen as nefarious, but either way, they may not always achieve these goals. Because of their unpredictable nature, it is tempting to perceive feelings and emotions as obstacles standing in the way of the efficient functioning of the individual’s mind. Yet, emotions and feelings are essential sources of energy for any undertaking carried out by the individual and valuable sources of information to help the individual gather a clearer sense of who they are and how they function. Emotions and feelings can be confusing, exacerbating, numbing, but if the individual takes the time to scratch below their surface and put them into perspective, then they can give a different picture of the individual’s personality and motives. This perspective is best explored by clinical psychology and psychiatry.
How does the individual reacts to strong emotions and feelings? Do they enhance them or do they repress them?
Does the individual seek emotions and feelings or do they attempt to avoid them? How is that translated in the way they function?
Does the individual reflect upon the nature of their emotions and feelings and the reasons why they may distort or colour their perceptions of themselves and others?
Symbolic refers to the individual’s ability to seek and create meaning. It is natural to look for a sense of purpose when the individual sees the world, themselves, what they are and what they do. Such a sense of purpose cannot necessarily be rationally defined or circumscribed, but the individual nevertheless seeks to find it and experience it. As such, they can perceive their actions, their endeavours, as having a meaningful nature, a symbolic nature. Symbols are signs whose meaning can be easily yet never fully grasped by the individual. They carry meaning for everyone, yet they can be understood in many different ways. In that sense, within the individual, a symbol can mean different things at different levels, depending on how they are looking at it. An individual may carry out a project because of the meaningful impact it has on the economy, on the community, on their own personal vision of the world, on the expectations of their family, on the legacy of their ancestry. Cognition, emotion and imagination all play a part in understanding these manifold meanings. Whether the individual looks at their own creations or the creations of the world surrounding them, symbols and meaning can be found in all places. What it demands of the individual is the willingness to respect for rational and irrational processes within themselves as both sides are essential to grasping meaning and making something tangible and valuable out of it. This perspective is best explored by humanistic and psychodynamic psychology, philosophy, and arts .
Does the individual considers what they perceive and what they achieve as meaningful?
How does the individual use their imagination and creativity?
How aware is the individual of the manifold meanings that are carried by their words and their works, both for themselves and for other people?
And so we can see that our mind is a complex system filled with unexpected meanings, feelings and talents. We know to a certain extent what works for us, what we are good at and what we appreciate in life and in people, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for that. Our psyche always has more to offer, provided we give it a bit of time, space and liberty.
Next are coming the Interactional Dimensions.