I'm becoming increasingly fond of spatial metaphors to communicate to those for whom reading comprehension is a diminishing skill set. On page six of Cognition in the Wild, Edwin Hutchins describes journeys through three spaces he explores in this book: physical, social and cognitive. Tis possibility captured my imagination when I read the first chapter last week. But something did not sit right with me. I wondered why there were not four spaces instead of three. I wondered if a fourth space was beyond the cognitive or below the physical space.
This morning I realized what was bugging me about the book's characterization of a physical, social and cognitive spaces. It parsed out thinking as a separate space, rather than convey how thinking differs in the different spaces. It also omits an emotional space where patterns of behavioral economics and emotional baggage would operate. Making revisions to accommodate these insights, I came up with a taxonomy of four spaces later this morning: emotional, physical, social and paradoxical.
Emotional space cannot handle the physical space. When in this emotional space, we are in denial, delusional and distorting the facts. We substitute what-if for what-is in ways that those in other spaces perceive as paranoid, grandiose and otherwise unrealistic. We're consumed by uncontrollable urges that demonstrate how little "emotional intelligence" and self control we possess. Our thinking comes from our limbic system which keeps things extremely simple. Networks in this space connect us psychically where dark intentions instantly succeed at finding prey at the perfect time and circumstance to interrupt their activities, abuse them in some way or exploit their vulnerabilities.
Physical space cannot handle social space, but it does overrule the emotional space on occasion. Physical evidence becomes impossible to ignore or dispute. We face what-is and dismiss what-if. This space supports our thinking logically, linearly and rationally with our left side of the neocortex. We prone to over think everything in this space with our new found power over what goes on in our emotional space. We identify with our bodies, appearances and physical abilities. Networks in this space are comprised of physical connections, conduits, paths and/or wires.
Social space cannot handle the remaining paradoxical space while transcending the physical and emotional spaces. Social connections, relations and exchanges redefine how to live. We become insightful about others' interests, concerned with their well-being and sensitive to their issues. Our thinking is far more empathetic, creative and open to new possibilities. We revisit what-if questions as ways to improve what-is without paranoia. Social networks connect us with a diversity of potential experiences and resources.
Paradoxical space can handle all the other spaces. We become vastly aware of patterns and processes underlying what appears in the other spaces. We experience being in those spaces while coming from a very different place. We see so much we react less to what's undesired and accept more as it is. We experience more joy and peace of mind as thinking is no longer required. The networks in this space are nodeless, connecting unknowns, mysteries and empty places for us to explore and fill with our expansive presence.