Home Societal / Political Community The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships V: Coherence

The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships V: Coherence

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It seems that deep, significant personal and collective learning, in particular, involves a balance between support and challenge. Challenge occurs in the process of engaging an issue. Support often means the provision of physical, emotional, social, or intellectual resources. Challenge is added in small manageable increments at a speed with which the learner is able to cope. The learning environment can be engaged in a full-blown sanctuary, or it can be created in a mini sanctuary in which the full demands of the new learning are not yet applied.

Most importantly, sanctuary is a place where failure can occur—and where learning from this failure can also take place. Sanctuary provides safety. It allows important learning to enter. Publicly identified sanctuaries—places and times labeled as sanctuaries—provide the circumstances in which certain kinds of deeper learning, healing, integrating, meaning-making, and self-communication can take place. One could argue that all learning takes places in some sort of sanctuary-based setting, and that the most important integrative and developmental learning we do as adults occurs both in settings that are embedded in our immediate, mundane world and in sanctuary settings that are to be found away from our mundane world.

Introverts and Sanctuary

For Introverts, a sanctuary can serve as a refuge from the dominant Extraverted world. They want a personal space in which to process their experiences and feelings carefully and deeply. (Laney, 2002, p. 127) This is particularly important if they are inundated with external relational demands. I found that I need to find “sanctuary” (even if it was just my hotel room) when working in Asia. This sanctuary was needed not just for my planning of the next day’s lecture or consultation, but also for reflection on what had occurred during the day that was just ending (cross-cultural learning is particularly intense for me – and I suspect it is for many people).

As Marti Laney (2002, p. 121) observes, introverts “need time to cogitate without the pressure to ‘do’ something.” Introverts often lean toward the slow thinking that is identified and described by Daniel Kahneman (2011). That is why they are often “left behind” in a group when important (and pressing) decisions have to be made. Jay Forrester, the noted architect of System Dynamics (who was probably an Introvert) put it this way: “don’t just do something. Stand there [thinking and calculating to arrive at often counter-intuitive conclusions].”   Like other Introverts I look forward to finding a sanctuary where I can just stand there.

Extraverts and Sanctuary

For Extraverts, a sanctuary can provide an occasion for slowing down and reflecting. They are accustomed to engaging in what Kahneman (2011) calls fast thinking. They readily make use of “rule-of-the-thumb “heuristics” and often do not take time to test their assumptions or the social constructions that are given to them by outside sources. Extraverts tend to rely on wisdom and insights coming from some outside resource (that might be all too confirming of dominant social constructions). Sanctuary provides an opportunity for Extraverts to “think for themselves.” The fast thinking that prevails in their life outside the sanctuary can be replaced with slow thinking and even a challenging of readily accepted social constructions.

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