Baggage as a cognitive hierarchy

The clearer I get in my own mind about the complexity of our emotional baggage, the more I can use "baggage" as a lens to see other phenomena. The conceptual structure of baggage gives me a frame of reference, a new set of questions and a different outlook to consider other puzzling issues. One of those issues is hierarchical organizations that have served as impediments to educational reform, pillars of the old economy and obstacles to PLE's (personal learning environments).

I first saw through this lens how bureaucrats appear to have more emotional baggage than entrepreneurs, free lancers, cultural creatives and self starters. Their baggage makes the top-down authority structure appealing to them. Their blockage to being more self expressive, creative and resourceful would find a home in large organizations where conformity gets rewarded and incompetence gets overlooked.

Then, I later realized that our emotional baggage is also structured in hierarchical form. The baggage in our minds appears a microcosm of the large hierarchies that employ thousands of people as government agencies, public utilities and multinational corporations.. Their parallel form at dramatically different scales resembles fractal structures and shards of holographic plates. The pattern at a small scale repeats itself at a much larger scale with more nuanced detail.

This suggests that employment experiences in hierarchies would feel very congruent, comforting and meaningful to those of us with a commensurate amount of emotional baggage. Their matching luggage with each other also explains the enduring compatibility among the employees seeking lifetime tenure, their tolerance for the internal office politics and the gratuitous respect shown to higher ups. Those of us bloggers, visionaries and entrepreneurs who find fault with most hierarchies don't carry the right kind and amount of emotional baggage to silence our misgivings, blind ourselves to the shortcomings of hierarchies or accept the working conditions as normal.

So then, how does emotional baggage resemble hierarchies in its cognitive structure?
  1. The half of our baggage (that I've characterized as a lid we try not to flip or the clever prediction we make to disguise our baggage) provides top-down authority over the other half. There is no listening to our dark side or any expecting to learn from our pain. The lid sits over the problematic urges with executive control, strict oversight and rigid enforcement of standards for respectability. There is no bottom-up communication, suggestion boxes or focus groups in our minds to address our unresolved issues, emotions and urges.
  2. Baggage is self-serving, self-preserving and self contained like hierarchies. It does not serve others as customers, valued relationships or significant constituencies. Dealing with other's baggage is like fighting city hall, getting shuttled around between departments or getting buried in paperwork when trying to file a complaint. Responsiveness to others is unavailable from baggage or stagnant bureaucracies.
  3. The light side of baggage resembles a policy enforcement framework. There are lots of loop holes and hiding places for the dark side to lurk undetected. The only trouble comes when the lowly side sticks it's neck out, rocks the boat, calls attention to itself or raises a ruckus. So long as the dark side takes a "don't ask- don't tell", "no news is good news" and a "limited to a strictly need to know" approach, the lid stays on the hornet's nest of lurking hostilities. Nothing ever gets resolved. Every issue that goes into committee never comes out as a decision, change or clarification.

By seeing emotional baggage structured as hierarchies like this, yet another approach to its resolution becomes clear. Baggage requires internal, two-way communication to get resolved. Authority over the under dogs needs to be weakened by the validation of those lacking in authority. The big head needs to be sensitive to the little fingertips that appear from a distance to over-react, misconstrue and whine about troublesome issues. Centralized power needs to get reconfigured as distributed control to handle varying situations. The baggage needs to be flattened in order to tie into horizontal spaces, outreach efforts and connectivity with responsive communities of practice.

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