Or in more detail:
We are social creatures, so our lives are full of people. In order to navigate successfully among them we need a representation of humanity that tells us who people are and how we fit among them. We need to recognise the unique characteristics that identify individuals, and we also need a way of representing our relationships with for us relevant people. The question that the Social Panorama Model answers is; “How do humans represent interpersonal relationships?”
Twenty five years of clinical experiece and experimentation have led to one conclusion: We unconsciously represent our relationships in a three-dimensional map.
We are forced by our anatomy, in particular our senses and neurology, to manufacture a representation of reality. This starts in the womb. The essence of this process is that, sensory impressions are projected back by the brain in the same way as they were experienced. Since most of what we perceive is located around us, the brain projects the memories therof in about the same outward locations. We draw general conclusions from the many and varied experiences and arrive at assumptions, certainties, logical consequences and beliefs. We base our image of reality on these generalisations. We need this mental model of the world in order to function, but we manufacture it ourselves and it is not perfect. It represents reality in a way that is distorted, over-generalised and limited. This also applies, to a certain extent, to our model of the social part of reality.
First of all we see real flesh-and-blood people – with all their specific details, unique characteristics and changeability – as physical objects in the space around us and we reduce their enormous complexity to a system of abstractions. It is possible that the variety, subtleties and dynamism that people actually possess is beyond our capacity to store, but, more importantly, these qualities would make it more difficult for us to be able, instantly, to determine our relationship with them. If we were to store their reality in our memory, then the result would be too complex and too subtle for us to be able to determine our position in relation to them in the instantaneous way we need in daily life. In most interactions we need to know where we stand and what is expected of us. This is why we reduce others to simple diagrams that we place in our mental space. In other words, every relevant person is represented as at least a direction and a height in our mental space. In modern art and children’s drawings we see what may be the sort of images of people that we keep in our memory. In this way we create a landscape full of representations of people – a social panorama.
The ability to differentiate between flesh-and-blood people and their mental representations (that we call ‘personifications’) is essential for working with the social panorama model.
Learning is characterised by conscious and unconscious effort that eventually leads to automatic, unnoticed thought processes. In time, everything that has been learnt becomes unconscious. In particular, learning that is done in early youth – among which is how to interact with others – leads to a complete state of ‘unconscious competence’. This means that it is something that people experience as completely natural and ‘ordinary’. The Social Panorama model is an extraordinary confrontation with this inaccessible, automatic, high-speed, unconscious thought process. It allows us to discover that people are able to juggle with inter-personal relationships without any conscious awareness of the thought process involved. This is why we speak of ‘unconscious social cognition.’
Because their model of social reality is unconscious, most people do not realise that they constantly carry images of other people with them; that they have made them themselves and continue to do so and that they are constantly regrouping and changing them. People only become aware of this when they are introduced to the Social Panorama model. Previously they will have had various ‘magical’ explanations for the incomprehensible phenomena that come from that unconscious social cognition. As soon as they understand how it works an exciting world is opened up to them. Relationships are no longer uncontrollable phenomena, but the products of unconscious processes. Once they know about it, the social panorama seems natural to most people because they have been using it, albeit unconsciously, since early youth. It is the logical product of their early social development.
This model enables us to see how we assign ourselves a place among others. A place that often fails to offer us the best chances in life; and that often limits us. Once we understand this, we gain a choice that we didn’t have before. This insight will help us to change our social experience for the better, and it will also help us to help others do the same. The representation of social reality is an unconscious process. It is automatic and extremely fast. Images of others usually stay beneath the threshold of consciousness, which means that people know what they mean without actually being conscious of it. The exploratory techniques of the social panorama give people access to this unconscious level.
Sceptics have particular difficulty with the fact that unconscious representations cannot be measured. In order to work successfully with the social panorama, the coach or therapist has to overcome this resistance. For outsiders the social panorama often seems vague, but it is a fact that this vague carry-on determines a large part of their existence – their whole social life.
The Social Panorama model has its roots in the theory of social cognition, but NLP’s practical approach – in particular sub-modalities and parts – takes the idea far beyond theoretical debate.
Because almost all human problems have something to do with relationships (have social components), the social panorama model is almost universally applicable to personal development. Its systematic nature clarifies even the most complicated relational themes. It is an NLP instrument that can, in an often surprisingly simple way, be used to work with relationships with loved ones, friends, colleagues, children, parents, strangers, groups, teams, the deceased, ghosts and gods. It is also applicable in cases where self-worth and self-confidence are giving problems and it is a very useful approach when the subject is relationships between groups, tribes, peoples, political parties, departments and organisations.
For people with an NLP background this model supplies an additional set of tools. When they are combined with the NLP repertoire, they make their users a good deal more effective; people can often no longer imagine how they could have worked without the social panorama model.
The level of identity.
The concept of mental space plays a central part in the social panorama model. In practice this means that we project representations of other people around and in our bodies. Where we place them within this mental space determines the relational and emotional meaning of the relationship. The emotional influence of those images provides experiences like support and confrontation, power and helplessness, love, aversion, adoration, possession, togetherness and loneliness. Closeness, intimacy, status, servility, domination, antipathy, ambivalence and hate arise from giving people a particular distance, direction and height.
We experience ourselves in the middle of our social panorama and thus create our own positions and roles. The core of our self-concept is surrounded by a three-dimensional construction, in which we have determined who we are. When we want to change any of this, then we need first to look at our social landscape.