What is that like?
Ancient philosophers knew it and modern ones developed the idea:
We don't have direct access to reality.
We perceive an extremely small part of it using our limited and unreliable senses. Then we interpret that based on our cultural context, past experience, the vocabulary we wield and even our needs and wants.
Here's Lisa Feldman Barrett talking about her book "How Emotions are Made" in Wired:
"If you think about it from a brain's standpoint, it's trapped in a dark, silent box called your skull, and has no access to the causes of the sensations it receives. [...] There’s one other thing it can use, and that’s past experience. The idea is that your brain is constantly predicting what sensory inputs to expect and what action to take, based on past experience. Then it uses the incoming input to either confirm its prediction, or change it."
Do you agree?
If you do, then one way to start mapping this mess is to notice what words we use to think and talk about something. If you dig into it even a little bit you start to notice an abundance of metaphors that describe what something is like rather than directly describing it in a complete and accurate way (which would be impossible using language). Research suggests that the density of metaphors can typically reach as high as six metaphors a minute.
One way to discover and examine these metaphors in ourselves and others is called Clean Language:
The basic idea is to listen carefuly, highlight the exact words someone is using to describe the issue at hand and ask some carefully selected questions that gently guide the speakers attention but do NOT pollute the inquiry with the mental models, preferences or interests of the listener. Learn more from Judy Rees here: What is Clean Language?
As the picture above illustrates a clash of metaphors used to describe something can add fuel to a smouldering conflict and turn it into a raging fire.
What metaphors do you use to describe your work and life?
When you experience peak success at work: what is that like?
What kind of ______ is that ______?
Is there anything else about that ______?
Hit reply and let me know!
PS. If you're ready for a more challenging reflection: Recall a difficult conversation you had recently. What metaphors did the other person use? Did they clash with yours? If a similar situation happens again: is there a way to use this realization to de-escalate or even transform the conflict into an opportunity?