Arrested development mapped out

Previously I've explored seven possible explanations for classroom teachers avoiding professional development. I've also considered how the "appearance of avoidance" could be misleading if the teachers are getting transformed by giving to their students. It's also possible there is no problem if their minds are closed in a state of flow and unconscious competence. Here I'll explore a psychological component of real professional stagnation and burnout: arrested development.

When we pause from our activities to explore our minds, we find there is a large terrain of thinkable thoughts within us. We observe that we can "go there", "think that through" or "explore that possibility in some depth". Within this familiar territory, we are rational and logical. We make sense to others if we share our thoughts from this region. We have confidence in these thoughts which allows us to think them through calmly and clearly. We are effective, reflective practitioners.

Beyond this realm, we become agitated when we go there. We've had experiences with this thinking getting us into the trouble we were trying to avoid. Our thoughts are frantic, unsettled and unclear. We obviously lack confidence in these lines of reasoning and dread going into these regions. We don't make sense when we blurt these thoughts out to others. We appear irrational, desperate and defensive. We go there when our hot button gets pushed, our identity gets threatened or a hidden self-betrayal gets exposed by others. We feel possessed, out of control and dangerous to ourselves.

We can also go "off the map" in our minds -- into a region of unthinkable thoughts. When we go beyond our irrational thoughts, we go blank. We are in the dark, lost or bewildered. We're speechless if we try to say what we're thinking. We've entered the realm of our emotional baggage. We have moved onto undifferentiated ground. We cannot think our way through this region because it embodies no distinctions to think with.

Arrested development is the result of living with this condition. We find our thinkable thoughts are surrounded by irrational impulses and a blank region beyond that. We choose to play it safe and stay within the familiar region of reliable, thinkable thoughts. Myths and fairy tales begin here. Nemo is hanging out with his Dad. Frodo is staying in the Shire. Harry Potter is enduring the Dursleys. If the protagonists suffered from arrested development, their story would end here. No venturing into unknowns, no leaving the comfort zone, no exploring the dangerous void. (to be continued...)

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