Looking at people’s stress and anguish, the conflict between societies and how the environment gets maltreated, it seems that the human ability of mentally embracing, being aware of a global collective as a species did not keep pace with the globalization of the world. Is there a lack of a kind of mentality (respectively, awareness) in the sense of how populations connect themselves to a broader context like all humanity?
Transcending the narrow world of the ego
It appears challenging to bridge between individual and collective levels of reasoning. However, the feeling of interconnectedness is essential in contributing to health and well-being. Indeed, research findings suggest that psychological well-being is dependent upon one’s connection to a broader, even widely anonymous social scope that comes with a sense of meaning in life. Carl Jung spoke about different parts of the self that transcend the ‘ego’ self and that these need to be integrated to complete a harmonious inner self. The power of imagination can overcome an inflexible ego-centered mind. Imagination is also required to imagine future events, which constitutes (besides recalling matters of the past) a part of the ability to mentally ‘travel in time’. If people don’t imagine the future, their sense of self, and the perceived agency diminishes.
The social and temporal dimensions of awareness
Moreover, it is a person’s relation to the social world and time that can determine his or her meaning-making. In other words, it is a core construct of beliefs in these dimensions that forms a so-called ‘worldview’. ‘Sensemaking on a worldview level’ and ‘mental schemas’ are appropriate related terms at the cognitive level to determine what one is aware of. Hence, awareness seems to be linked to such mental schemas as they help to understand how people self-reflect on their socio-temporal worldviews.
Reflecting on one’s worldview
Worldviews are arrangements of beliefs used to create meaning of one’s experience of reality. From a cognitive perspective, worldviews involve ‘thinking systems’ including intricate patterns of thoughts and beliefs that integrate as an interactive whole. Beliefs are mental constellations that stand for relationships between categories, which determine how one experiences (i.e., is aware of) the world. For example, social worldview schemas would represent an individual’s beliefs about the social world. To mentally build a worldview, the abilities to learn and imagine, all of which require reflection, are essential. And humans do reflect on the continuum of time, a mental process that involves thinking about the past, present, and future.
Meaning-making through awareness about one’s socio-temporal scope of thinking
Accordingly, what results from combining thinking about social relations and time, is a socio-temporal matrix (see Figure 1) that can be used a framework to identify and visualize worldviews, and that can facilitate the exploration of psychological effects related to a person’s meaning-making and well-being based on their socio-temporal scope of awareness.
Socio-temporal worldview schemas
The nine fields of the matrix can be used to inquire about socio-temporal mental schemas, which means the scope and configuration of a person’s awareness. An individual’s worldview schema is expected to consist of a specific set of matrix fields, depending on whether one’s belief system emphasizes certain socio-temporal mental states over others. For example, one may emphasize other-related extra-past (e.g., socio-cultural upbringing), behave in an inter-present, rather relationship-dominated way, while focusing, however, on a self-oriented intra-future. Such a socio-temporal mental worldview schema might link to specific meanings as, for example, a more independent (i.e., denoted by the intra-past instead of an inter- or extra-past) and other-oriented (i.e., depicted as the extra-future rather than an inter- or intra-future) cognitive socio-temporal worldview preference.
A tool for self-reflection
In that sense, the socio-temporal matrix provides for a tool, respectively a mental map to support the navigation of socio-temporal worldviews, which, again, represents the scope and configuration of one’s awareness. The matrix has proven to be useful for self-reflection and fostering awareness about oneself and others.
[This article was also published together with other authors at the ‘Skilled Helpers Collaborative’: tinyurl.com/dsja4q4h]
Transitions can be defined as “change from one form to another.” In physical life, change is inevitable. So, we (and all matter) constantly change. Our body that we occupied only a few years ago does not contain the same atoms anymore and might look quite different. All real estate erodes. Paradoxically, it’s that unstable matter that we shortsightedly consider as “real.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call “real” what actually is stable and doesn’t change, even in the long run? Isn’t, therefore, our soul more likely our real self?
The problem is that most people solely identify with their fragile bodily existence and not with their eternal spiritual being. We theoretically know that at some point in time, we’ll lose our stuff, and we’ll have to die. Because we tend to deny this for most of the time to satisfy the desire for stable security, change is rejected as well.
Seeing ourselves as spiritual beings solves the problem in that we get a real glimpse of everlasting life, even beyond our earthly journey. Therefore, I argue, this is the one big change we have to accomplish for a fulfilled life: to expect significant material losses and be ready to die during a lifetime to access our real self as divine beings.
What does it take to trigger such change? As explained before, we must, involuntarily or voluntarily, face loss and death. That’s why for many only major life events bring the necessary interruption in their protected sense of stable identity that leads to personal growth. Asking people about the reasons for their major transformations in life usually comes with narratives about some painful (because unexpected) material losses like, for example, losing a beloved one, losing one’s job, or health by getting sick.
Once awakened to this realization, going through change is still challenging. Social comparison and related peer pressure represent an essential factor for not wanting to change, respectively, to remain fitting in. I believe it is still very uncommon to live a spiritual understanding of life. It is popular to post spiritual quotes and be part of religious communities, but the courage to break away from the pursuit of status, prestige, wealth and material security is rare. The illusion that one can protect oneself against inevitable aging, loss and death with material things is too great.
It’s even difficult life situations, victimhood, and (relative) poverty that people defend against change. Research finds that people often justify the existing social system even when this comes at personal and collective costs. System Justification Theory posits that authoritarian ideologies and cultures, respectively ‘cultures of justification,’ which can also appear through inequalities in wealth in so-called democratic societies, motivate the often-unconscious belief of inferiority most strongly among individuals of underprivileged groups. What role a person takes in society seems less critical to her/him than a stable (and therefore seemingly secure) identification with whatever role.
In summary, it can be said that people with a worldview of an identity that seeks stability and security, regardless of its quality, prevent themselves (and others) from changing. In this way, they deny themselves access to their real selves, the spiritual self, and sooner or later they will be devastated if changes happen anyway, let alone regret not having thought about it earlier and changed voluntarily.
You get an understanding and compassionate ear here, but the most significant benefit lies in permitting me to offend you. First of all, if I didn’t dare to offend, I couldn’t be honest. Being offended offers a real-world check outside of one’s comfort zone. Second, if I solely entertained you, I’d waste your time distracting from the real work to be done. I will, however, offend you with substance, so you can accomplish getting very clear on your worldview / identity: Who are you really beyond social conditioning? What would you stand for if you had the self-confidence to overcome social pressure? Why are you here as a complete human being beyond economic considerations? Also, the feeling of being offended is a warning indicator that is showing you where to look within yourself for unresolved issues.
I may offend people, but I also make it easy for them to forgive me. You’re not alone; my content and approaches contain wisdom that offends quite everyone. I love people in general (not only the proximate ones who flatter me), and that’s why I care to offend you too. To be genuinely kind means to have the courage to offend. Of course, people like sugar. But shall I, therefore, feed them with more of what is not suitable for health? I’ve learned that if I love myself, I have the courage to allow me to get offended (which doesn’t mean to let me abuse, though).
If we feel offended without being able to forgive the offender, we actually say to disagree with the Right of Freedom of Expression. By instilling more fear, people become more susceptible to being offended without the willingness to forgive. And that’s how the freedom of expression gets strategically undermined by authoritarian systems. Today people are brought to be offended by others just breathing (we can even see it by people wearing masks;-)). It’s more important than ever to stand up for the right to offend, which is implicitly part of the Right of Freedom of Expression. So, have the courage to use the right to offend “sacred” symbols (who says they are sacred?), offend emotions and feelings, offend countries, governments, organizations, as well as political parties, religions, and traditions, and cultures.
Living in a comfort-seeking and fear-based materialistic society, my humanistic approach rejecting salvation-seeking from extrospection is offending people, of course. For me, however, respecting people doesn’t mean accepting their illnesses, victim roles, and unfulfilled potential.If we respected such unhealthy limitations, we’d offend humanity (and life, or god, as you like) as a whole. Indeed, many people live life in the offense to life itself as they put material goods over life. Yes, we justify our physical survival (which in our society doesn’t have much to do with survival rather than with a decadent luxury lifestyle) by not assuming responsibility for the many who suffer hunger, exploitation, and abuse.
I deliberately combine the science of psychology, the wisdom of philosophy and the intuition of art. Art is often very well suited to insulting people, challenging them and opening them up to creative and self-reflective thinking. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to offend or hurt someone who doesn’t care. This is the reason why people often have no interest in the artistic (or spiritual).
Group thinking inhibits critical thinking in favor of a wider human community. For example, religions proclaim to spread unconditional love and the universal truth of their respective God, but feel offended by other religions that believe in another God, who in turn should represent the same unconditional love and absolute truth according to these others. That’s the big lie of hypocrites on both sides. Such belief systems do base on exclusivity to offer fearful people the seeming security of belonging, which, however, they nevertheless never experience (therefore their defensive attitude). But there is a more inclusive way to feel more satisfyingly human. Learn to love truly! Love is the opposite of fear. If you’ve learned to get offended, you’ve learned to love. Love is hard to offend; a heart full of love doesn’t get irritated and offended irrevocably; it doesn’t see the world in terms of threats against one’s ego-assumed superiority, advantages, and privileges over others. Instead, strongminds who dare to seek being offended, not for hate but growth purposes, can find what humans actually are looking for: actualizing themselves through meaningful change toward their best self (which can’t be measured by material success alone, to make that clear once more).
You may have enough “friends” who will tell you what you want to hear and who are happy that you are unsuccessful (because it justifies their own stagnation). If I can’t offend you, I haven’t done my work of serving you decisively. With this in mind, thank you for allowing us to offend each other, not with style, but with substance for learning opportunities for our personal growth, individually and as a human collective.
This article is about the fascinating science of mental schemas and worldviews and how they relate to a person’s meaning and well-being. You can try out the related self-reflection tool, an exciting psycho-philosophical adventure, at www.mathias-sager.com.
Globalization has caused people to travel and migrate, buy products across borders, and inform themselves through global media. This strongly influences people’s identity and their psychological construction of the world (Reese, Rosenmann, & McGarty, 2015). It’s also a person’s internal system of meaning-making, respectively worldview that determines the scope and quality of capacities like the empathy one experiences (Nelems, 2017). Worldviews also help to interpret the world meaningfully, which allows us to better handle suffering (Yang, Liu, Sullivan, & Pan, 2016). Consequently, any investigation on how worldviews influence meaning/understanding seeks to derive insights that are beneficial for the individual well-being and the common good alike.
Worldviews are arrangements of beliefs used to create meaning of one’s experience of reality (Koltko-Rivera, 2004). From a cognitive perspective, worldviews involve ‘thinking systems’ including intricate patterns of thoughts and beliefs that integrate as an interactive whole (Davis, & Stroink, 2016). Beliefs are mental constellations that stand for relationships between categories, which determine how one experiences the world (Chen, Fok, Bond, & Matsumoto, 2006). For example, social worldview schemas would represent an individual’s beliefs about the social world (Sibley, & Duckitt, 2009). To mentally build a worldview, the abilities to learn and imagine, all of which require reflection, are essential (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). And humans do reflect on the continuum of time, a mental process that involves thinking about the past, present, and future (Vannucci, Peagatti, Chiorri, & Brugger, 2019).
The before-mentioned schematic concepts of beliefs can be called ‘meaning frameworks’ (Taves et al., 2018). Such a meaning framework is presented by Friedman (2018), who mentions two fundamental dimensions related to worldview, which are space and time. Neuroimaging research agrees that psychological orientation bases on the relationship between one’s behavior and the aspects of space, time, and people (Peer, Salomon, Goldberg, Blanke, & Arzy, 2015). Van Dijk and Withagen (2016) state that learning, specifically, meaning-making requires contextualization and a broadening of both the spatial and temporal scope of the individual.
Regarding the above-mentioned social dimension (Peer et al., 2015), the intra-personal, inter-personal, and extra-personal factors have been found to influence human perception, experience, and the capacity to manage life areas such as risks (Jayasuriya, Whittaker, Halim, & Matineau, 2012). Intra-personal means the thoughts and beliefs related to the individual herself (Jayasuriya et al., 2012). A definition of inter-personal comes from those thoughts and beliefs, which are related to personal interactions with others (Jayasuriya et al., 2012). Extra-personal can be defined as a social scope that goes beyond the direct interaction with others (Jayasuriya et al., 2012). Extra-personal beliefs are related to long-term interests such as social needs that surpass intra- and inter-personal benefits (Sternberg, Reznitskaya, & Jarvin, 2007). They can comprise social relationships beyond group memberships, i.e., being a member of the whole human species (Leary, Tipsord, & Tate, 2008).
Vannucci et al. (2019) mention that the temporal dimension of reflective thought is dependent on spatial context (i.e., including places close and far, the world, and the cosmos), but these researchers do not specifically focus the interpersonal, respectively social component of context. Similarly, Sullivan, Stewart, and Diefendorf (2015) see time and space as the critical variables for human cognition. Still, their model fails to consider the impact of the social dimension on perception too. To clarify the construction of worldviews, novel Socio-Temporal Mental Schema Analysis (STMSA) tool, on the other hand, is specifying ‘spatial’ as the ‘social’ attributes of the intra-, inter-, and extra-personal.
Nilsson (2014a) suggests that a person’s worldview, i.e., the schema through which the world is experienced, influences one’s well-being. Cloninger’s ‘unity of being’ represents a model of a coherent self-concept that consists of the self, others, and the world as a whole and has an impact on the degree of self-reliance, hope, the ability to cope, compassion, and cooperativeness (Garcia & Rosenberg, 2016). In that sense, the socio-temporal matrix (see Figure 1) researched, validated and developed as a framework to identify and visualize worldviews, can facilitate the exploration of similar possible psychological effects related to a person’s meaning-making and well-being through socio-temporal worldviews. Therefore, it is to understand individuals’ socio-temporal worldview ontology through introspective information gathering (Nilsson, 2014b).
Figure 1. The socio-temporal matrix of worldview schemas
The novel socio-temporal matrix is derived as described in the following and as visualized by Figure 1. On the x-axis of the model, there are three variables of the temporal dimension. More specifically, this horizontal axis partitions itself, in the order from left to right, into the ‘past,’ ‘present,’ and ‘future.’ The vertical y-axis of the matrix contains the three variables of the social dimension. Starting from the intersection with the horizontal axis, which represents time as explained, the first third of the vertical line (y-axis) shall be labeled ‘intra-’ that is short for ‘intra-personal. The next, middle part of the vertical axis becomes ‘inter-,‘which stands for the ‘inter-personal’ scope. The third and uppermost vertical section is the ‘extra-,‘ which signifies ‘extra-personal.’ Similar to a coordinate system, through these two tripartite grid lines, a matrix can be formed (see Figure 1). When using the vertical and horizontal axis’ labels in the same manner as the numerical coordinates of a map, or the letters and numbers of a chessboard, it is possible to identify and navigate the three times three – in total nine – fields of the matrix (see Figure 1).
The nine fields of the matrix will be used to inquire about socio-temporal mental schemas. An individual’s worldview schema is expected to consist of a specific set of matrix fields, depending on whether one’s belief system emphasizes certain socio-temporal mental states over others. For example, one may emphasize other-related extra-past (e.g., socio-cultural upbringing), behave in an inter-present, rather relationship-dominated way, while focusing, however, on a self-oriented intra-future. Such a socio-temporal mental worldview schema might link to specific meanings as, for example, a more independent (i.e., denoted by the intra-past instead of an inter- or extra-past) and other-oriented (i.e., depicted as the extra-future rather than an inter- or intra-future) cognitive socio-temporal worldview preference.
Socio-temporal schema constellations are expected to emerge from combinations of meaningful and often frequented social and temporal aspects within the socio-temporal matrix. The novel Socio-Temporal Mental Schemas Analysis (STMSA) tool investigates users’ worldviews based on their related schema constellations. The results can serve the users’ as a mental map to support the navigation of socio-temporal worldviews. As such, the matrix proves to be useful for self-reflection and fostering awareness about oneself and others.
Chen, S. X., Fok, H. K., Bond, M. H., & Matsumoto, D. (2006). Personality and beliefs about the world revisited: Expanding the nomological network of social axioms. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(2), 201–211
Davis, A. C., & Stroink, M. L. (2016). The Relationship between Systems Thinking and the New Ecological Paradigm. Systems Research & Behavioral Science, 33(4), 575–586.
Friedman, H. L. (2018). Transpersonal psychology as a heterodox approach to psychological science: Focus on the construct of self-expansiveness and its measure. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6(1), 230–242.
Garcia, D., & Rosenberg, P. (2016). Out of Flatland: The Role of the Notion of a Worldview in the Science of Well-being.
Jayasuriya, R., Whittaker, M., Halim, G., & Matineau, T. (2012). Rural health workers and their work environment: the role of inter-personal factors on job satisfaction of nurses in rural Papua New Guinea. BMC Health Services Research, 12, 156.
Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330(6006), 932
Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2004). The Psychology of Worldviews. Review of General Psychology, 8(1), 3–58.
Leary, M. R., Tipsord, J. M., & Tate, E. B. (2008). Allo-inclusive identity: Incorporating the social and natural worlds into one’s sense of self. In H. A.Wayment & J. J.Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego (pp. 137–147). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 10.
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Nilsson, A. (2014a). A non-reductive science of personality, character, and well-being must take the person’s worldview into account. Frontiers in Psychology.
Nilsson, A. (2014b). Personality psychology as the integrative study of traits and worldviews. New Ideas in Psychology, 18.
Peer, M., Salomon, R., Goldberg, I., Blanke, O., & Arzy, S. (2015). Brain system for mental orientation in space, time, and person. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 11072–11077.
Reese, G., Rosenmann, A., & McGarty, C. (2015). Globalisation and global concern: Developing a social psychology of human responses to global challenges. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 45(7), 799-805.
Sibley, C., & Duckitt, J. (2009). Big-Five Personality, Social Worldviews, and Ideological Attitudes: Further Tests of a Dual Process Cognitive-Motivational Model. Journal of Social Psychology, 149(5), 545–561.
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The Socio-Temporal Mental Schema Analysis (STMSA) and its awareness intelligence properties
It’s online now: The novel Self-reflection Tool STMSA. It offers a simple yet holistic approach to explore one’s mental world. The tool’s matrix-organized systematic allows to navigate thought preferences, which indicate mental schema constellations that can explain personality tendencies and related psychological properties. Want to deepen your insight, expand your horizon, and harmonize thought patterns for increased thriving, meaning, and well-being?
Die sozio-zeitliche mentale Schemaanalyse (STMSA) und ihre Eigenschaften der Bewusstseinsintelligenz
Es ist jetzt online: Das neuartige Selbstreflexions-Tool STMSA. Es bietet einen einfachen, aber ganzheitlichen Ansatz, um die eigene mentale Welt zu erkunden. Die matrixorganisierte Systematik des Tools ermöglicht das Navigieren von Gedankenpräferenzen, die auf mentale Schemakonstellationen hinweisen, welche wiederum Persönlichkeitstendenzen und damit verbundene psychologische Eigenschaften erklären können. Möchtest du deine Einsichten vertiefen, deinen Horizont erweitern und Gedankenmuster harmonisieren, um mehr Erfolg, Sinnhaftigkeit und Wohlbefinden zu erzielen?
Probiere es kostenlos unter www.mathias-sager.com aus (verfügbar auf Englisch und Deutsch).