By Stuart Shanker
This article was published as part of Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg Volume 2, Issue 1 (2018)
Shanker, S. (2018). Editorial Reframe: The Journal of Self-Reg, 2(1), 4-5.
In Culture and Value, Wittgenstein expressed an idea that serves, not just as the motto, but indeed, the inspiration for the journal Reframed:
Philosophical problems are like weeds. Getting hold of the difficulty deep down is what is hard. Because if it is grasped near the surface it simply remains the difficulty it was. It has to be pulled out by the roots; and that involves our beginning to think about things in a new way. (Wittgenstein, 1984: 48).
When it comes to problems in psychology, however, our goal is not to pull out the roots but rather, to nourish them. Yet here too, it is “beginning to think about things in a new way” that makes it possible to see that there are roots to a problem, and then to set about grasping – in its cognitive sense – and strengthening them.
Thinking about things in a new way requires that we ask why a problem occurs, which might in turn require us to challenge established paradigms. It is quite striking how “asking why” on a paradigm that has exhausted its resources ends up in either a blank stare or an argumentum ad baculum (usually in the form of a curt rejection letter from an editor or a harsh review). But other than the “demise of the why’s,” are there other signs of when a paradigm is nearing its exhaustion point?
Richard Florida has done fascinating research on the social, economic, and demographic factors that predict a political revolution (Florida, 2011). A similar point can be made about paradigm revolutions. In psychology, we know that a paradigm is nearing its end when we start to see:
- increased polarization (and with this, more extreme language);
- growing use of ad hominem argumentation;
- law of diminishing returns (the same experiment, which has been repeated ad nauseam, is starting tolook tired);
- law of adhesion (viz., quick fixes are used to seal up the cracks in a theory); and
- settling for thinly disguised tautologies.
The last point is the sure sign that digging past this point is dysregulating. (To quote the inimitable David Crosby, “You can dig for diamonds in the dust; you can dig forever if you must; just don’t dig here.”) But that’s exactly what we do in Self-Reg: We start digging where others fear to tread.
In this issue we put theory into practice. In the first paper, Jennifer Brout, Roianne Ahn, and Madeline Appelbaum look at the impact of an infant’s over-sensitivity to sensory stimuli on co-regulation and the development of attachment. The standard paradigms used to test attachment (and if ever there were a paradigm that is looking a little tired it is the Strange Situation) are performed at a relatively late stage in an infant’s development. Digging deep into the sensory roots of problems in co-regulation not only enables us to see attachment problems in an entirely new light, but as the authors show, tailor our interventions accordingly.
In the next paper, Casey Burgess shows how addressing the autonomic states that underlie the behaviour and communication of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, rather than focusing on the behaviour itself, dramatically changes our understanding of ASD and, once again, our approach to intervention. Rather than trying to change or mold the child’s behaviour, we work on the roots of the problem by helping children engage more naturally with their social environments and thereby follow a more typical developmental trajectory.
Next, Stuart Shanker reframes the concept of high math anxiety (HMA), looking at the relationship between societal HMA and student HMA. His goal is to understand the roots of the cognitive stress that drives a child into HMA and thence either prevent this from happening using Self-Reg, or structure math interventions around Self-Reg when it has occurred.
The last paper is a call to action. Stefani Burosch presents an impassioned plea for educational transformation that is designed to support human flourishing through social justice and sustainability. She shows how the key is to leverage recent advances in neuroscience and psychophysiology in such a way as to nurture the roots of wellbeing at all levels of the ecological system.
In many ways, the journal Reframed is like a gardening catalogue: an advertisement to interested readers of the wonderful plants that can be grown from this new Self-Reg paradigm – but only if you’re prepared to get your hands dirty and start digging. And if this issue shows us anything it is just how important it is that we tend to the roots of a problem in order to nurture healthy growth.
What none of these authors mention, but is an obvious truth to everyone in the Self-Reg community, is that the gardener benefits every bit as much as the garden from all this hoeing and tilling.
Continue the Learning
Florida, R. (2011, March 1) Can data predict political revolutions? The Atlantic
Wittgenstein, L. (1984). Culture and Value. (P. Winch, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.