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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
Improved Problem Solving for a Multi-Polar World
Summary by ChatGPT: The essay by Joseph Dillard proposes a methodology called "triangulation" for improved problem solving in a rapidly changing multi-polar world. This approach integrates objective authority, personal judgment, and intrasocial perspectives to navigate complex issues. Dillard highlights the growing global shift away from a US-centric economy, emphasizing the need for better problem-solving strategies amidst global challenges such as geopolitical tensions and technological advancements. The triangulation method is presented as a way to obtain diverse input essential for addressing multifaceted problems, and is seen as crucial for individuals, corporations, and nations to adapt to emerging global dynamics.
While most approaches to problem solving rely on objective authorities and one's own judgment, triangulation adds the interviewing of imaginal alternative perspectives. While imaginary elements are generally considered subjective delusions, there is reason to believe that methodologies exist that allow them to generate helpful recommendations for a wide variety of life problems. The efficacy of these recommendations can be empirically validated.
The world needs improved methods of problem solving
While the outlines of our common geopolitical future are becoming clearer, what impact will it have on humanity's ability to solve its many problems? China and Russia are leading a growing global turn away from a US controlled world economy. Trade in local currencies is expanding and the dollar's proportion of international trade is quickly diminishing. Loans by China increase as those by the IMF and World Bank decrease. The ability of the West to control political events in Africa, Asia, India, the Middle East, and Latin America is weakening. Sanctions on Russia and China, attempts to both punish them and prevent their rise, have instead increased their autonomy, resilience, strengthened their economies, and reduced their vulnerability to foreign manipulation. Russia has succeeded in bleeding the EU and US white in Ukraine, with neither capable of continuing to send significant amounts of weapons. NATO countries show no prospect of being able to counter Russia militarily, due to de-industrialization that grows worse every year. Organizations like BRICS, the SCO, and the EAEU are expanding rapidly, uniting and integrating the global majority. Manifested politically as the struggle between Western liberalism and financial capitalism, on the one hand, and socialism/communism on the other, one might suspect that Marx would be pleased with the current turn in the fortunes of the world.
While futurists and others focus on the quickly dawning high-tech world of artificial intelligence and automation as well as crises such as worker displacement, immigration, over-population, censorship, governmental breakdowns, global warming, and the threat of nuclear war, a fundamental question is, “With the advent of a multi-polar world, will humanity succeed in developing strategies of problem solving that are sufficient to the enormity of the issues it faces?
Examples of ineffective and effective geopolitical problem solving
It appears that the global majority has learned from the west what to do if you want to not solve problems but rather make them worse: 1) Double down on what doesn't work out of a commitment to some pre-rational ideology; 2) Privatize public goods, placing them in the care of those who put profit over human services. Privatization cuts out unprofitable but necessary transportation, medicine, education, and industry while having no financial incentive to maintain surpluses that are absolutely essential when crises occur. 3) Minimize accountability in order to maximize profit. 4) Privatize the financial system so that controlling elites make it serve their priorities rather than those of the public. 5) Maintain the trappings of democracy so that the public provides consent for a non-accountable system that works against their interests. 6) Focus on competition and winning rather than on cooperation. 7) Ignore any slide toward class disenfranchisement and control by non-accountable oligarchs, whether unelected bureaucrats, lobbyists, or suborned media and corporate leadership. Identifying such pitfalls is much easier than turning down bribes or selling out to interests that protect or advance your own position at the expense of others. This suborning of problem solving has proven to be as common in the chambers of the “best and brightest” elites of the First World as they have been in the weak and vulnerable governments of the Global South.
China has demonstrated its ability to buck this prevailing global trend of problem creation rather than problem solving by lifting some 800 million citizens out of profound poverty in forty years, a feat unparalleled in human history, by creating public infrastructure, education, and health care that are outstanding, and maintaining a system of governance that consistently garners extremely high levels of public trust. China has shown what any society can do quickly when it has 1) a governmental structure conducive to long-term goal setting based on broadly held public interests, 2) a citizenry that believes in hard work, meritocracy, and which places collective welfare and that of future generations over personal interests and desires, 3) the opportunity to evolve largely free from foreign exploitation, and 4) takes a highly pragmatic, non-ideological approach to problem solving. As a culture and society, China has clearly developed a highly successful model of problem solving. Yet here is the question: Now that the Chinese have created a prosperous and well-ordered society, will they fall into the same complacency, indulgence, and self-sabotage that typifies the ongoing collapse of the West?
Triangulation as an improved method of problem solving
Going forward, nations, corporations, and individuals will be forced by the increasing complexity of human organization and the multiplication of unexpected but critical consequences of human behavior to continuously seek out improved methods of problem solving. Triangulation is one such method. It represents a model of problem solving that accesses three radically different but essential sources of input regarding the issues and challenges humans and their nation-states face, whatever their etiology or impact in our lives. This methodology, which involves consulting objective authority, personal judgment, and intrasocial perspectives, will gain prominence in our rapidly unfolding multi-polar world because those who use it will demonstrate developmental, organizational, and personal advantages over those who do not.
Consulting external authorities
We have recently experienced a revolutionary expansion of consultation with external authority, the first of these three varieties of problem solving, in the advent of chatbots. Consultation with artificial intelligence as an aid to problem solving is an example of consulting objective authority, the first of the three legs of triangulation as an approach to problem solving:. We learn and solve problems based on sources of objective authority from the time we are born. Gravity, heat and cold are physical, sensory examples of objective authority. Even though hunger is one of many interior and somatic sensations, it too provides an objectivity that drives feeling, thought, and action. Other sources of objective authority include parents, teachers, books, leaders, employers, and peers.
For many problems, objective authority is the only source we need to consult for successful problem solving. To make a meal we need only follow a recipe; to earn a salary and possibly a promotion we need only follow our job description. In fact, there are entire schools of thought that hold that most barriers to personal and human progress boil down to a failure to follow external authority figures, to accept government leadership, or Jesus as your savior, or Buddha as the source of your path to enlightenment. However, most people eventually conclude that putting their fate in the hands of some external authority, regardless of how wise, compassionate, or well-intentioned it may be, is unlikely to generate sustained personal satisfaction and inner peace. This is because external authorities have their own understandings and priorities that may or may not resonate with what works for us in our own lives.
Consulting personal judgment
Consequently, many people recognize the need for a supplement to consulting objective authority, and that consulting their own personal judgment, which is the second leg of a triangulating approach to problem solving. “Personal judgment” is meant here to refer to more than just trusting your own judgment. It may or may not embrace rationality, conscience, intuition, the “truth of one's heart,” wisdom, compassion, and inner knowingness. All of these sources of authority in decision making differ from the first category in that they are profoundly subjective and represent our own needs and purposes and inner promptings as opposed to those of our parents, employers, culture, or government.
Either by nature or in reaction to limitations or life misdirection imposed by external authorities, some people choose to run their lives by a personal judgment to problem solving. It has been concisely summed up by Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” However, problems arise when your “self” is ignorant, stupid, reactive, or well-intentioned but naive. You can be true to an identity that is hopelessly lost in ideology, drama, or dogma, or that is simply brain dead. We also create problems for ourselves rather than solve them when we think we are being true to ourselves when we are actually following the scripted injunctions of our parents and society, which we have internalized as the bedrock of our conscience. Still, in spite of such factors, it is clear that we make better, more satisfying decisions when we combine the recommendations of external authorities and our own personal judgment.
Limitations and weakness of problem solving based on consulting objective authority and personal judgment
While the combination of these two common and widely used approaches to problem solving can indeed effectively address a wide variety of life problems and may prove sufficient in a large number of life circumstances, it has important limitations and weaknesses. First, these two sources of problem solving generate a polar duality, setting up a potential conflict between exterior-objective and interior-subjective sources of problem solving. Instead of using both to complement each other, they can be reactive to the point of dismissing each other, generating polarities of materialism/atheism/objectivity and idealism/spirituality/subjectivity. Also, reliance on only these two forms of problem solving can easily generate a blindness to both problems and solutions that lie outside their areas of competency, often because there are unrecognized personal, familial, and socio-cultural factors that collude to sabotage suggested solutions. Relying on either external authority or personal judgment or both, can build confidence which is then shattered when one or both are unsuccessful at dealing with an important life problem. When confidence is destroyed it can be difficult to pick oneself up and try again, or to risk failure, or combat a descent into an existential crisis, fatalism or nihilism.
Consulting intrasocial perspectives
These are reasons why humanity needs and will eventually evolve into a recognition of the need for the third leg of triangulation: accessing subjective sources of objectivity as a form of intrasocial problem solving. “Intrasocial” means “interior social,” and refers to collectives of perspectives that exist subjectively but which present perspectives that are objective in relation to our own. As such, these perspectives are different from “personal judgment,” the voice of conscience, intuition, or inner knowingness, in that they are not perspectives held by the self, nor are they based on being true to oneself. Their relative autonomy makes it nonsensical to reduce them to self-aspects or elements of our “personal or collective unconscious.” They are more accurately viewed as emerging potentials of indefinite ontology. That is, they exist on a continuum between absolute objectivity and complete subjectivity. They may attain 99% of either objectivity or subjectivity, but their nature and reality is never reducible completely to one or the other. For example, Marian apparitions experienced by hundreds at Fatima or visitations by deceased relatives in dreams have the feel and beingness of objective realities, but they retain elements of personal and collective subjectivity. On the other hand, if you interview elements from a post-traumatic stress disorder nightmare, which are subjective replays of some objective life event, you will discover that they are neither completely subjective nor completely objective. They exist in an indeterminate interdependent experiential reality that defies dualistic reductionisms.
To conclude that such obviously subjective self-creations are functionally autonomous and objectively not-self flies in the face of personal judgment waking assumptions and cognitive biases that we rely upon to separate reality from delusion. However, the efficacy of therapies that suspend this distinction, such as Jungian active imagination, shadow work, psychodrama, gestalt, and various forms of “parts” work point toward this recognition, but never quite get there, because they are not phenomenological. That is, they fail to table assumptions regarding the subordination of these perspectives to a conscious, subconscious, collective, or superconscious self.
Advantages for problem solving demonstrated by intrasocial perspectives
The advantage of consulting such perspectives not simply in therapy but more broadly in problem solving of all sorts, is that they are innate yet relatively non-scripted. That is, intrasocial perspectives know us at least as well as we know ourselves because they are to a great extent parts of ourselves. At the same time, because they are imaginary, they do not need to eat, die, compete, earn money, gain status, please others, or involve themselves with pursuing the Maslovian needs or Wilberian relational exchanges that most of us attend to, most of the time. The consequence of this fundamental paradox is that the perspectives on our life issues and problems provided by intrasocial perspectives, when interviewed, are relatively detached and objective.
In addition, intrasocial perspectives represent emerging potentials. That is, they are personifications of reframings of our life experience in ways that are attempting to be born into our awareness and to manifest in our waking lives. They represent broader patterns of life coherence and harmony simply because they are less invested in assumptions and identities that filter and limit our creativity and potential. As such, when interviewed intrasocial perspectives agree with each other, they tend to point toward a hypothesized personal and collective “life compass” that is always somewhere in the future, like the North Star for celestial navigation. This life compass is not teleological or purposeful because it arises out of chaos and entropy. While is not “spiritual” because it is thoroughly naturalistic, mundane, secular, and humanistic, it contains and can manifest potentials that are experienced as spiritual. Instrasocial perspectives are powerfully transformational and neither materialistic or atheistic. While these perspectives may indeed be philosophical in their solutions to our problems they have not been found to be invested in any particular approach to life other than becoming more awake and aware. The more we dissolve our investments in external authority, our life scripting, and our sense of self the more influential this third approach to problem solving becomes in our decision making processes. The more humanity outgrows its need to protect its identity, the more secure and less fearful it becomes, the more likely it is to become open to vast opportunities of problem solving that present themselves as the self thins and becomes multi-perspectival.
Why consultation of intrasocial perspectives is rare
However, this is exactly why accessing intrasocial perspectives has largely been ignored and gone unrecognized in the history of human development as a means of problem solving. Survival has depended on obeying the overwhelming demands of external authorities, whether natural, cultural, or social. On the other hand, development of individuality has depended on learning to listen to our own subjective sense of truth and right in order to build confidence in that self, as the foundation for a healthy, functioning identity in the world. Therefore, the development of these two varieties of problem solving and reconciling their differences has historically been a major preoccupation of humans. While intrasocial perspectives appear in fiction, drama, art, and dream interpretation, as well as in various forms of therapy such as those mentioned above, it remains rare for them to be harnessed effectively as a means of problem solving.
Benefits of Consulting Intrasocial Perspectives
Accessing subjective sources of objectivity in the form of intrasocial perspectives and emerging potentials supplements the consultation of objective authority and personal judgment. It is not meant to replace them. While there are many life problems that can be solved without their input, there exist a number of important life problems and conditions that will become more important as humanity evolves which will greatly benefit from intrasocial problem solving. These include:
1) Accessing a balanced and authentic life path forward.
2) Accessing a collective or shared path forward based on mutual respect, cooperation, and collective benefit.
3) Reframing life issues and problems in ways that make sense and are realistic.
4) Outgrowing psychological geocentrism, the belief that the world revolves around us, our interests, needs, and feelings.
5) Outgrowing psychological heliocentrism, the belief that because we have experienced oneness with the universe that we know universal truth and what is good and right for everyone else.
6) Centering identity in a functional polycentrism. Polycentrism is like holography, in which any part of a picture contains and can replicate the whole.
7) Developing healthy de-personalization, or freedom from a personal investment in feelings, thoughts, or behaviors.
8) Developing deep respect for all experience, including that considered imaginary or delusional.
9) As a consequence of attaining deepening life balance, developing greater inner peace conjoined with more effective practical engagement with the world.
10) Multi-perspectivalism, meaning increasing empathy with other perspectives.
11) A life more grounded in ethics in the form of respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy.
Limitations of intrasocial perspectives
It is important to note that interviewed emerging potentials are hardly savants. They are most likely to provide helpful reframings and recommendations in areas that are related to the context in which they arise. So, for example, interviewing a knife as the personification of “a stabbing pain in the back,” may provide helpful reframings and recommendations around the experience of back pain and its alleviation for one to operationalize and test, but it is less likely to say something interesting about say, murder or the solution to a calculus problem.
An empirical methodology
The most important aspect of triangulation is that it involves an injunctive methodology by which it can be tested in one's own life. The methodology demands that you do not take it on faith or on the strength of external authority, because those are only two legs of a three-legged approach to problem solving. Triangulation requires that you test its validity in your own life and determine its efficacy for yourself by using all three approaches in solving otherwise intractable problems.
There are multiple reasonable and noteworthy counter-arguments which need to be considered and respectfully addressed. Critics may well argue that relying on intrasocial perspectives introduces a high degree of subjectivity and personal bias into the problem-solving process. Since these perspectives are highly individual and not grounded in external authority or personal judgment, they might lead to inconsistent or unreliable solutions. This is why consulting intrasocial perspectives is one leg of a three-legged approach to problem solving. It is intentionally not grounded in external authority or personal judgment in order to balance the limitations intrinsic in both. Similarly, consultation of external authority and personal judgment are meant to balance the intrinsic limitations in intrasocial perspectives.
As a method of problem solving, triangulation addresses the criticism of a lack of empirical evidence by identifying itself as an injunctive practice to test in one's own life. This is what empirical methodologies do. They provide injunctions to follow and then validate by peers in the methodology. Turn your own problems into case studies and concrete evidence for or against triangulation.
While it is true that triangulation may be impractical or ineffective in highly complex and multifaceted problems, such as global economic crises or large-scale environmental issues, it may not be. It may prove to add perspectives and reframings of problems that generate consensus solutions that might not have been recognized previously. It may also provide a bigger picture that allows parties to some issue to see beyond their personal concerns and fears to embrace a broader, common good. Different cultures and societies may have vastly different intrasocial perspectives and worldviews and what works as a problem-solving approach in one cultural context may not be applicable or effective in another. This is why triangulation is an empirical methodology, to be tested in different contexts, allowing everyone to draw their own conclusions regarding its efficacy in different concrete circumstances.
The ethical and moral implications of triangulation are largely positive, meaning that it supports respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. When assumptions about the reality or delusional nature of an informational source are set aside in order to listen to its perspective and assess the validity of its recommendations we are demonstrating respect for that source. We are also treating it as we would want to be treated regarding having our own input regarding a particular problem respectfully listened to. We are also suspending conclusions regarding trustworthiness until recommendations are given fair testing in application. Then, if they do prove trustworthy, we do not extend global trustworthiness but limit it to those problems in which an interviewed intrasocial perspective has proven helpful. The process of setting aside ourselves and our identity in order to fully embody this or that intrasocial perspective is an act of empathy and a process that generates and evolves empathy in individuals.
While children naturally exhibit the ability to take and embody multiple alternative perspectives, as our sense of self develops control issues often accompany it. We forget or lose the ability to empathize out of a desire to maintain and grow a strong sense of identity. This can create a resistance to the process, since disidentification with ourselves and taking up some different and possibly quite foreign identity can awaken fears of dissociation or decompensation. However, in practice that is extremely unlikely. Over forty years of experimentation I have never witnessed dissociation or decompensation, even in people carrying diagnoses of schizophrenia. Still, some individuals will simply provide answers that reflect their own thoughts, preferences, and perspectives, indicating an inability or unwillingness to empathize or take on this or that intrasocial perspective. With such individuals, a lack of ability or willingness to disidentify from self and identify with this or that intrasocial perspective indicates that the methodology is unsuitable for them.
While on its surface, triangulation places significant importance on individual perspectives, potentially overshadowing the value of collective decision-making and consensus-building, because multiple perspectives can be consulted on the same issue, intrasocial perspectives are also intersocial, meaning “between” or interdependent with other perspectives, including your own. As such, it cultivates multi-perspectivalism, which is fundamental to collective decision making and to the development of a multi-polar world.
Examples of the application of consultation of intrasocial perspectives
There are several ways this third approach to problem solving can be used to great effect. If there is an anomalous event, like a dream you don't understand, an accident, illness, death, or serendipity, and the answers you get from objective authorities and/or your personal judgment are not satisfying, consulting intrasocial perspectives can help. If you are stressed or anxious, accessing intrasocial perspectives can be highly effective. If a group has made an important decision but you have concerns about its effectiveness or appropriateness, it will never hurt to consult multiple relatively non-invested intrasocial perspectives. At the very least, you will clarify your own doubts, resistances, and misgivings.
Integration of the process into everyday life is a matter of following interviewing protocols for life issues. These are a series of questions that are asked the personification of some aspect of a problem to be solved. Perhaps there is a diagnosis of cancer and one is struggling with the implications of that diagnosis. In addition to consulting doctors and other objective authorities, and consulting one's own personal judgment or intuition, one can interview various aspects of the problem as it exists in their understanding: the cancer cells, tissues being destroyed, the immune system, or take the perspective of involved medical professionals. The claim is not that one accesses the consciousness of bodily processes but that one looks at cancer from those perspectives, as they exist in one's own consciousness. Or perhaps you discover your spouse has been having multiple affairs. You can talk to them, the other parties involved, and other sources of objective authority, such as therapists. You can also rely on your own conscience and inner knowingness. In addition, if you use triangulation, you can take the perspective of the other parties involved and work through the interviewing process. Generally when one does so they find that their framing of a problem is not only altered but significantly broadened, with realistic, functional recommendations to test the trustworthiness of the information coming out of the interview. There is of course no guarantee of success that adopting triangulation will lead to improved problem-solving, but that is true for any problem-solving method. The only way to determine if triangulation is indeed an effective contribution to problem solving is to test it with one's own life problems.
Due to its innumerable strengths and the advantages they afford in problem solving and personal effectiveness, triangulation is likely to eventually become as common for humanity as it is now foreign. A multi-polar world is already generating a foundation which is conducive to the discovery and widespread adoption of triangulation. Access to a life in harmony with personal and collective life compass can and will improve individual and collective problem solving, opening up realistic solutions to problems that at present seem daunting if not overwhelming. These include the challenges of figuring out what to do about the advent of an artificial intelligence that is far smarter than we are, or how to escape the inertia of the family scripting that was essential to our upbringing, or how to escape from the sense of our individual and autonomous self that we developed as we sorted through our scripting, grew in confidence, and accessed transformative mystical experiences of oneness with All. Will China also lead the way in the development of triangulation or will some other culture and society do so? Because this process is innate it is part of the inheritance of humanity. It does not belong to any one philosophy, religion, region, race, culture, or society. Where and when it will bubble up into prominence in human experience is unknown, but because problem solving is a human capacity and need that will always be with us, the need for improved approaches to problem solving will remain a priority into the far future of humanity.
As the world transitions from neocolonialism built on military, financial, and informational hegemony to a multi-polar confederation of nations grounded in commercial agreements of mutual benefit, problems and the importance of superior approaches to problem solving won't go away. In an increasingly complex and interdependent world, pressures will mount to generate superior approaches to problem solving. One possible methodology is triangulation, the complementary consultation of objective authority, personal judgment, and intrasocial perspectives. While not necessary for the solving of many problems, there are others, particularly those in which we are so subjectively invested that no realistic alternates appear to exist, where triangulation can reduce misunderstanding, save time, effort, and years of missteps. A multi-polar world will require new, better tools to problem solve the age old challenge of integrating the social macrocosm with the personal microcosm, the objective and subjective, the “real” waking state and the delusional states of dreaming and imagination.