Life is interaction. No organism exists in and of itself or could survive without interacting with its environment. Human beings are, of course, no exception to this rule. In fact, as we are a social animal, we are more dependent on interaction than just for the basic necessities of survival. Much of our interactions happen at an implicit level.
How babies know
The phrase “implicit relational knowing” was first used to describe the way babies “know” how to watch and respond to their mothers. This is an implicit learning process, as opposed to cognitive learning. By extension, the phrase also refers to the way we implicitly update our database of experiences throughout life.
This is a new model of how human beings learn, make meaning and act. It is consistent with the “bottom-up” orientation brought about by the neuroscience findings of the past two decades. This is in contrast to the old, “top-down” cognitive models.
This model directly applies to clinical practice. Logic alone is usually not enough to bring about therapeutic change. What makes therapy effective is that it provides an experience that moves people to change.
The healing experience is intersubjective. That is, the therapist is aware of not being an all-knowing, objective observer. The therapist is a fellow human being, subject to the vagaries of the human condition. As the implicit relational knowing of client and therapist intersect, there is the opportunity to explore ways of relating and making meaning.
While explanations can be a useful part of the therapeutic process, much of the learning occurs at an implicit level. How this learning is integrated has more to do with mindfulness than with didactic explanations divorced from the experiential feel of experience.
To become more mindful, it helps to have an open mind. But it also helps to direct our attention in specific directions. Not in a dogmatic way, expecting observation to confirm our biases. But as a starting point for an active inquiry. Directing our attention in specific directions gives us entry points to start engaging with what we observe.
This is the spirit in which I suggest that we navigate the complexities of the Relational Implicit through the following entry points :
– embodied experience: the Somatic Implicit;
– intersubjective experience: the Shared Implicit;
– the myths and self-evident truths that bind us together: the Collective Implicit.
In addition to the links above, you can read more about these three concepts in the article on Polarized Mind & Relational Implicit.