by Michael Mallows
know the world through our senses. Without sensibility no object would
be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought.
Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are
blind . . . the understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think
nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise.
Critique of pure reason, Immanuel Kant
is no accident . . .
is everybody’s. Knowledge is information we have made our own.
Intelligence is the ability to make sense of information and knowledge - and to
use it. Intuition is knowledge and information instantaneously
it may be born from happenstance and coincidence, wisdom is the consciously
chosen, intelligent and appropriate use of information, intuition
and knowledge combined.
own preferred definition is: appropriate
behaviour here and now in the longer term context of
desired outcomes and relationships.
Discernment, Acumen, Sense, Reason, Understanding,
might be useful synonyms. The shorter English Dictionary suggests Quickness
of Mental Apprehension, Sagacity, Superior Understanding and more.
However, I don’t just mean dictionary
definitions or similes, I am asking what quality or attribute does an individual
possess that manifests as intelligence?
popular, and regrettable, definition is the equation of intelligence with the
storage and retrieval of information from the brain. There is a radio quiz in
which contestants are required to recall information about obscure or obvious
events and people. If somebody ‘guesses’ rather than knows the answer, they
get a round of applause - which I’ve never quite understood. The overall
winner each year gets the sobriquet ‘Brain of Britain’. This proves the old
adage and the new nonsense “I
remember therefore I’m smart”.
of our institutions, our examination systems, our measures of (intellectual)
merit indicate little more than an ability to regurgitate facts and figures for
the delectation or disapproval of those with the power to award
too often, because such people can, like anyone else, confuse their own map with
the territory, they award higher marks or greater reward to like minded people
who think the way they do. This cloning results in a bland mediocrity,
which is dull or, worse, can lead to xenophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms
of bias and bigotry.
people with letters after their name do not function intelligently because they
(appear to) lack the ability to adapt to diverse situations, alternative
perspectives, novel ideas or different maps. If ‘old’ means lack of
movement, many relatively young BAs are honorary OAPs in that they are suffering
from psycho-sclerosis, i.e. a hardening of the attitudes.
for example, racism or sexism. How does an intelligent person cling
fiercely to outmoded beliefs and attitudes which discount and diminish other
people on the basis of pigmentation or genitalia? Certainly not, to my mind, by
functioning intelligently or appropriately, unless it be appropriate to their
impaired thinking processes.
‘reasons’, if examined closely, will often reveal deep psychological
insecurity and intellectual laziness, anxiety or neurosis, but they will seldom
allow, or perhaps are no longer capable of engaging intelligently in a rational,
logical, detached examination of their ultimately ridiculous, and often
dangerous thinking. Only when the consequences of their limitations cause them,
or those around them, enough distress might they seek help or guidance.
we do not see the world the way it is but the way we are. Projection, as Gestalt
therapists define it, is the process of seeing in others the feelings, fears and
fantasies that we find it difficult to admit or examine in ourselves. When we
believe or fantasize that others are afraid, aggressive, malicious or whatever,
chances are that we are projecting uncomfortable or unresolved aspects of our
I feel most pissed by those very attitudes and
behaviours in others, I am reminded of my capacity for unkind and
unthinking prejudice (is that a tautology?), of narrow mindedness, vicious
sparks and petty meanness. Being aware of it, and since I started taking
responsibility for my internal state rather than blaming other people, I can act
autonomously and make
new choices. Choices that are
consistent with the kind of person I would like to be. I don’t always make
wise choices, but I make intelligent decisions more often than I used to.
Or do I . . . ?
cannot have knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself,
coupled with projection, makes it hardly surprising that we behave as if we are
more restricted and less creative than we might be.
order to restrict the world to our personal map, to find (create) evidence
(proof) that our map is the territory, we must build and maintain certain
filters. To filter the world, to sort it into categories, is a necessary part of
human functioning and thinking
processes. Some of our filters (beliefs, values, interpretations) however, do
not serve us well, or we don’t serve them intelligently.
what passionate tenacity we cling to Certainty! When we are sure, absolutely
sure, we often think, feel and behave as if we have knowledge and wisdom when in
fact we may have little more than (mis)information.
indication of intelligence is the ability to make intellectual comparisons. The
ability to reason This is like That, is one marvelous human trait
that has served us well over the centuries, enabling us to evolve into the
magnificent creature you see represented in your mirror.
OR ARCHAIC BEHAVIOURS
brain, making untold zillions of connections and comparisons moment by moment,
adapts the organism for which it is responsible in the best way it can for
survival, health and growth. The
brain is always intelligent. Even when the mind feeds it misinformation it will
do the best it can, making the best choice in its perception and interpretation
of the circumstances.
an individual level, the mimetic infant learns to walk, talk, reason, moralise
and philosophise by observing the world around them. Children need and want to
adapt to the adult world. They must because survival, literally and
metaphorically, depends on adaptation.
grown ups I meet, perhaps most, possibly all, act out archaic and
redundant behaviours as if fighting for survival. On a psychological level, it
must seem to them as if they are actually being threatened when, say, a women
has authority and power, or when a black
person moves into the neighbourhood, or somebody ‘flaunts’ their sexual
orientation, or when differing views are expressed.
what deep insecurities do we seek to diminish other people’s sense of self? To
dim the light of their reasoning? To shout them down, shut them up,
make ourselves Right so that they, or their ideas, will be left out of
have long been aware of the problems ensuing from an inability to make suitable
comparisons or metaphors. Many of my individual or corporate clients have
created repetitive and predictable patterns and they are not easily going to
allow new experiences or ideas to change their world view.
treat kindness or generosity as suspicious or threatening. Anger, for others, is
fearsome (their own as well as other people’s). Affection or sympathy is seen
as weak or dubious. They affirm their maps, rebuild the ramparts, over and over,
as if they are always fighting the same war. In a way, of course, that is
exactly what they are doing, just as the racist or the MCP, is constantly
recreating a limiting world map from a limited perspective or imagination.
without imagination often lack compassion.
Incapable of seeing the world from any perceptual position but their own,
they are unable to empathise. They
fit the world into their map by excluding what doesn’t fit, by creating self
fulfilling prophecies or negative hallucinations. This narrowing down of
experience hampers their ability to metaphorise, to compare This with That,
or to create space for future pacing differences in terms of life experiences
(536-470BC) said, We both step and do not step into the same rivers; we both
are and are not.
Gestalt admonition is: Don’t try to push the river.
valid indicator of intelligence is the ability to function appropriately in
diverse circumstances. What is it that makes us do the same things over and over
when it is so obvious that repetition serves neither our best intended outcomes
nor our potential growth?
is it? A combination of context and environment (I am constrained by
this situation), of behavioural patterns (so I must do what
I’ve always done. . . ), our capabilities
( . . . don’t expect me to
learn new tricks), beliefs (I’ll get my needs met or avoid pain
if . . .), and values (this is the way it ought to be done!),
along with a (fragile? rigid?) sense of identity (this is the sort of
person I am and you can’t expect
me to change), and relationships (I want people to accept me as I
In my work as a training consultant and as a therapist I convey the message that we have choice and capacity for change on all of these levels. We need to make those choices consciously, responsibly, flexibly and creatively if we are going to develop and grow as intelligent beings in life enhancing relationships. When we give in to the fight/flight promptings of the old brain, the hypothalamus, we decommission the neocortex and often diminish the quality of life and relationships. Is that wise?
is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better
to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or
the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their
side of the question.
John Stuart Mill
Michael Mallows is a Management Consultant, Group Worker, Therapist, Supervisor, Adoption Consultant, Coach and Mentor, also an Author, Lyricist, Public Speaker, Team Builder and Workshop Presenter.
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