Friday 14 January 2022

Where do we stand?...

Where do we stand, if we demolish all our assumptions or beliefs? 

We can't of course; but the question arises for me as I continue my study and practice of Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment. One of the powerful parts of this work is to help people to identify untrue assumptions that are blocking their thinking, and replacing them with true and liberating assumptions. 

An example I encountered was someone who had come across serious wrongdoing at work and said she didn't know what to do. I was puzzled, as whistle-blowing protocols were clear and she was in a role where she would have known that. However, I assumed (as Kline would advocate) that her thinking was blocked by an untrue assumption, and proceeded to investigate. On reflection, she thought that the assumption that was blocking her thinking was that if she were to blow the whistle, she would get the sack.
Now, the hypothesis in the Thinking Environment work is that it is only untrue assumptions that block our thinking. So I asked her if she thought that this was true. She said that it might be; and I had to agree. So we proceeded to look for the untrue assumption nested within that true assumption that was blocking her thinking. After some hard thinking and long silences, she identified it: she assumed that if she got the sack from this place, she would never work again. 

Once she had articulated that, she realised that it was untrue, and was able to experiment with a true and liberating assumption: that even if she got the sack from this place, she would be able to find another good and fulfilling role. And that unlocked her thinking: she was able to map out the path to take, and then to take it. So far, so good. 

But this questioning of assumptions can be infinitely regressive. 

Kline teaches that we can assess the truth of an assumption (which is crucial to this work) on the basis of facts and logic. But that, of course, rests on several assumptions. And so on. 

Consider this rather more complex case. A woman was talking about her life; she concluded that she would have more fun if she were to leave the man she was married to. The assumption that was blocking her thinking about how to do this was that she should stay with him. How does one assess such an assumption, using facts and logic? The number of facts and potential facts that might have a bearing on such a moral issue is almost infinite; and logic cannot answer with absolute finality questions about, for example, the impact of such a decision on their children. 

Finally, such moral decisions are philosophical ones: what philosophy do we choose to inform our decisions? Or, to put that another way, what assumptions are we going to take as bedrock?

So my view is that we can't proceed without assumptions; but it is important to be clear what those assumptions are, and why we are choosing to honour them. Otherwise, we risk sawing off the branch we are sitting on, and then where do we stand? (to mix my metaphors rather too graphically...) 


With thanks to Tbel Abuseridze for sharing photos on Unsplash

No comments:

Post a Comment