I’m going to stick my neck out here.
I’m going to tell you — without any empirical data — that people filter data according to what is useful and valuable to them AND they overcome those filters in ways that can only be described as learning. But here’s the catch: learning is not entirely voluntary. Learning is simultaneously unreflective, unconscious, and involuntary AND reflective, conscious and voluntary. Learning is both completely intentional AND completely instinctual.
So… what’s going on here? … Is this a nature – nurture discussion? … Well, yes … and no. Let me explain.
Freud constructed an energy model to “explain” the operation of our instincts. He gave that model four parts: source, aim, impetus and object. The source is the originating need, the aim is the reduction of the need, the impetus is the motivating force and the object is the means which realizes the aim’s reduction. He laid out all of that out as his explanation for instinctual behavior. Unlearned. Involuntary. Unconscious.
Of course, what Freud constructed is model. It describes the various instinctual parts from the outside. Source, aim, impetus, and object are the various pieces that an observer might assume about the operation of an instinct.
But what happens if the energy model is turned into an endowment model? What happens if Freud’s description is more about the endowments which operationalize an instinct? What happens when the four parts of an instinct become separate and distinct endowments? If an endowment harnesses a drive and turns it into a capacity, can we learn how to reset the drive?
Indulge me…. I’m going borrow Stephen Covey’s human endowment model to make my point.
If I were to describe Freud’s model in terms of human endowments, this is what I would have:
- The “source” would be creative imagination. Every need we generate must be internally created — out of nothing. Of course, we are attached to a biological apparatus, but the sheer variety of needs (both learned and instinctual) speaks to some underlying creative endowment. Creative imagination endows us with the ability to express needs, purposes, and goals – both voluntarily and involuntarily.
- The “aim” would be conscience. Our aim is the reciprocal image that conscience creates to insure that we are met. Because we draw energy and vitality from life, a reciprocal image which “sees” our needs being satisfied is always generated. Conscience creates the underlying belief that as long as we live — our needs will be met. The “aim” is our belief. The “aim” is the reciprocal energy which puts “need satisfaction” within reach. Conscience is the endowment which attaches us TO the world. It places us into the world so we can deeply trust and believe that we are not alone. Conscience is the endowment that guarantees we are met.
- The “impetus” would be independent will. When we stand energetically motivated, engaged and ready, we demonstrate the endowment of independent will. We give expression to our needs by putting ourselves completely into them with integrity and authenticity. Independent will is the endowment that puts us in motion.
- Lastly, the “object” would be awareness. The “means” which realizes an aim is not the object itself – rather it is our awareness of it. So awareness is the endowment that puts the “end” to our change efforts; it completes the energy “circuit” that looks for satisfaction.
Interestingly, you might “theorize” that there two types awareness – 1. involuntary awareness (which corresponds to an instinctual or unconscious awareness); and 2. voluntary awareness (which corresponds to a learned form of self-awareness).
It seems to me that the “nature” and “nurture” argument is really the difference between instinctual versus intentional learning.
With instinctual learning, awareness is unreflective, unconscious, and involuntary. We use creative imagination, conscience, independent will, and awareness without completely knowing what we are doing. We are unconsciously driven. With this type of learning, our endowments are indirect and weakly harnessed.
With intentional learning, awareness is reflective, conscious and voluntary. We use creative imagination, conscience, independent well, and self-awareness, to master ourselves and our environments. With intentional learning, the “circuit” of learning is more closely geared to what we experience and how that experience impacts us. With this type of learning, our endowments are direct and fully harnessed. We master ourselves and our environments by exploiting the leverage points which each endowment offers.
Our mindset has a lot to do with what our awareness brings to us. We filter data according to what is useful and valuable to us AND we overcome our filters only by making better use of our endowments. And that IS the central idea inside an adaptive transformation: by making the most our endowments, we use the best of nature and nurture to be more fully present in the world.
Thanks for listening!