Whenever I act it feels like there are two people inside me.
One who reads the local news. I call him, Joey the local guy.
The other one reads books on history. I call him, Dr Stewart, the professor. Joey knows what's happening around, knows what’s important to me, and acts accordingly.
Dr Stewart, on the other hand, learns patterns in my behaviour, learns from the past what I should and shouldn’t do.
Joey is adept at learning new things from the outside, suggesting new behaviours.
Dr Stewart is adept at using my past to evaluate the current world. There’s so much we can learn from history, right?
This is the thing. Sometimes, Joey and Dr Stewart lock horns. They conflict. Yeah, there is one more thing — they don’t communicate in the same language.
Joey talks linguistically. He takes time but is easy to understand where he is coming from.
Dr Stewart talks to me in terms of emotions and visuals. He’s quick, but sometimes, I have no clue how he’s saying what he’s saying.
Researchers studying depression, propose a model that explains the cognitive process behind Joey and Dr Stewart.
Whenever we act, we do so based on what it means to us. While in common sense, we talk about this meaning as one thing, in reality, there are two meaning-making levels. Renowned cognitive and brain sciences researcher J.D. Teasdale talks about these two levels of meaning-making in his seminal research paper on metacognition and mindfulness.
“One level of meaning is propositional, corresponding to the kind of information that can be conveyed in a single sentence. The other, implicational, represent higher-order meaning derived from recurring patterns or themes.” — J.D.Teasling
For example, “Looks like I will fail in this test” is a propositional meaning-making, alias Joey. “You are a failure” is the implicational meaning-making, alias Dr Stewart.
Whenever we try to change our own behaviour, we focus a lot on Joey. We focus on the latest data from the world and ask Joey to learn them and practice. We ask Joey for his feedback. But this is the thing — during this whole time, Dr Stewart has been in the background observing all our actions.
Let’s say you want to speak lesser and listen more in social interactions. You talk to Joey, you tell him how much you need this, and why you need to do this. Joey is in line with you. He’s the guy who informed you to make this decision. You both agree to talk less and listen more. And then the next day, an opportunity becomes available, a friend comes to talk to you and bam — you talk more than you did before. You wonder what’s happening. Don't look anymore — Dr Stewart is at work.
Without interfacing with Dr Stewart, and without getting him to be part of the “behaviour change” conversation, whatever I and Joey decide on our own doesn’t work after some time. In fact, it's really exhausting. We both do all the hard work and Dr Stewart just pees all over us. Or that’s how it feels like.
Joey is the dough, Dr Stewart is the shape maker. No matter, how good the dough is, the shape maker decides how it turns out to be. The challenge is that — this shape maker has been shaped over years through trauma and experiences.
Emotional Processing — where we unearth deeply embedded emotions and process them with a contemporary understanding of the world, is key to affecting our implication meaning-making alias Dr Stewart. Teasdale defines effective emotional processing as ‘processing that leads to modification of the implicational level of meaning‘.
Mostly, Dr Stewart is subconscious, operating stealthily, and just delivers his judgements through emotions. How do I talk to him? The best strategy would be to have Dr Stewart communicate with Joey. While Joey is coming up with all these amazing things that can be done, we need to bring in Dr Stewart to give more information to Joey. Since Joey doesn’t have past accumulated experiences, this new information “about me” from Dr Stewart helps Joey come up with better strategies “for me”. He’s not regurgitating the same thing again and again. Everyone wins — especially me!
Without doing this and just focusing on Joey, all we are doing is affecting our propositional meaning-making which will have short term effects. In the long term, we will relapse on our new habits and behaviour. No wonder, the relapse rates with contemporary mental health solutions are so high!
At Konvos, we are building deeply interactive “inner exploration” experiences to enable your Emotional Processing. By using technology, we deliver byte sized emotional exploration experiences for individuals to interface with their Dr Stewart to affect their behaviour, actions, and emotions!
We are now hiring for our core team at Konvos. Holler at us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be part of this reality, the Konvos reality.