(Sm)Art : Emotional Systems

To a large degree, modern troubles in our systems of government, education, and well being have had a tendency towards, let’s call it, intermittency. The kinds of troubles your car mechanic hates to be asked to diagnose and fix!

Well, intermittency no more. The U.S. is speeding down an unknown road with a sea of dashboard warning lights aglow at sundown.

So what have we been doing? Avoiding unpredictability and, to justify underlying stupidity, scapegoating emotion.

Most of us interpret emotion as one if not the major source of human unpredictability. There’s been little incentive to view emotions as anything but irrational. Given cultural stories built within a framework of intermittency, emotion becomes a natural, albeit rudderless place to lay our pleasure, and our pain.

Add to that the physiologically supported, emotionally safe, often unconscious strategy of coping and, more often than not, we tolerate dysfunction and even carry on expecting more of the same.

Damned Emotional Well Being

I had an amusing discussion recently. My teenage son’s door is often closed. My daughter who is 8 is appropriately curious and affectionate toward her brother. This day, I was particularly keen to stay away from what might have been the same old, what a closed door might mean conversation we often have. Instead I said, “Let’s pretend we don’t know what’s behind the door.” I made a thinking noise. We began telling vignettes about what might be behind the door. Mythical creatures mostly. Then we got to the real nitty-gritty — was what we were imagining going to lead to avoidance or engagement?

Illuminating for me.

When a mystery is discussed with a sense of negative foreboding, the imagination also evokes a healthy layer of dread or avoidance (of the door itself).

How would you behave differently (in relation to the door), if the mystery were disclosed with a sense of positive anticipation and possible engagement? The answer to that question is the best measure of emotional well being I can think of.

Emotional well being is possible, though not so much when your reality model not only keeps doors to unseen mysteries shut (aided by reactive imagination) but nails a warning sign on them. “Beware emotions lurking within: unreliable, irrational, unpredictable.” All things that are the stuff of dirty bathwater on a bad day. On a good day, the same characteristics that make up much of the baby of creativity, innovation, and inspiration. We tend to forget the mystery of those.

When in Doubt, Stare at Art.

As we mature, dread and foreboding around closed doors disguises itself as wise cynicism. AKA tautologically rational intelligence. AKA too smart for one’s own good stupidity.

Beliefs built around the shut doors in life happen on an individual level. They also happen at organizational and cultural levels.

What would happen if we became curious about models in which emotions are not inherently dysfunctional? What too if we made room for emotionality to be present in the “experiences” of systems as well as individuals? Difficult to contextualize given current grounds for reality models.

It must be considered though because an endless parade of emotional work for individuals could never replace an existential articulation of both individuals and systems as having emotion-related behaviors that are predictable. The key is to understand that predictability, emotional or otherwise, need not be conceived only in terms of material outcomes. The intersection between meaningfulness and prediction is more important than exactness and prediction and can and should be grasped through relational structuring.

At present, reality models exclude emotionality for both individuals and systems. I suggest individuals’ emotions have an equivalent in existentially robust systems. They form feedback between self and other in terms of direction arising from abstraction.

Next, I needed a way to capture for you this kind of emotional intelligence, which is communicated in unique terms within ONT’s relational structuring. While the structure is tricky to intuit, the states of Being it incorporates are not. I took the core tension, focus and context states in ONT and applied colors and patterning to the structural parts to make art.

I call it (Sm)Art.