OUR UNCONSCIOUS MAP OF SOCIAL REALITY DETERMINES WHO WE BELIEVE OURSELVES TO BE. WITH THE SOCIAL PANORAMA MODEL, WE CAN ANALYSE AND ADJUST THAT MAP.
We are social creatures, so our life is full of people. In order to navigate successfully among them we need a representation of humanity that tells us who people are and how we fit among them. We need to recognise unique characteristics that identify individuals, and we also need a way of representing our relationships with the people who surround us. The question that is answered by the Social Panorama model is; “How do we represent interpersonal relationships?”
2004, twenty years of experimentation have led me to only one possible conclusion: We unconsciously represent our relationships in a three-dimensional map.
We are forced by our anatomy, in particular our senses and neurology, to manufacture a representation of reality. This starts in the womb. The essence of this process is generalisation; successions of sensory impressions are reduced to schematic representations in our memory. We draw general conclusions from the many and varied experiences and arrive at assumptions, certainties, logical consequences and beliefs. We base our image of reality on these generalisations. We need this mental model of the world in order to function, but we manufacture it ourselves and it is not perfect. It represents reality in a way that is distorted, over- generalised and limited. This also applies, to a certain extent, to our model of the social part of reality.
First of all, we see real flesh-and-blood people – with all their specific details, unique characteristics and changeability – as physical objects in the space around us and we reduce their enormous complexity to a system of abstractions. It is possible that the variety, subtleties, and dynamism that people actually possess is beyond our capacity to store, but, more importantly, these qualities would make it more difficult for us to be able, instantly, to determine our relationship with them. If we were to store their reality in our memory, then the result would be too complex and too subtle for us to be able to determine our position in relation to them in the instantaneous way we need in daily life. In most interactions we need to know where we stand and what is expected of us. Therefore, we reduce others to simple diagrams that we place in our mental space. In other words, every relevant person is represented as at least a direction and a height in our mental space. In modern art and children’s drawings we see, what may be the sort of images of people, that we keep in our memory. In this way we create a landscape full of representations of people – a social panorama.
The ability to differentiate between flesh-and-blood people and their mental representations (that we call ‘personifications’) is essential for working with the social panorama model.