Life experience is very complex and diverse. So, how can a model that may have a practical use be created?
Obviously, this complexity needs to be somehow simplified without losing its essential elements. One way of doing this is to locate common denominators of our experience, the underlying
building blocks that life events are made of (for example, feelings, thinking, decision making, motivation, basic types of relationships etc.).
This has several advantages:
- First of all, there are a limited number of such basic areas (whereas there are an unlimited number of life situations and experiences that combine them), so it is manageable.
We cannot deal successfully with complex issues if their underlying components are not addressed. Take, for example, smoking. Developing this habit depends on many factors such as our
relationship to pleasure, self-discipline, susceptibility to influence, stability, gratification and so on. If there is just one weak link, it is unlikely that one can be in control of
- Finally, these basic areas enable endless combinations that can be applied in any situation, so everybody can use them in a way that fits his or her personality and circumstances.
Several criteria are used to locate these areas. They are all:
- Universal: they need to play a role in our lives regardless of culture, faith or gender, so that they are relevant to everybody.
- Irreducible: they cannot be reduced to each other. This helps with keeping their number manageable and avoiding overlaps.
- Transferable: the knowledge and skills associated with them can be applied in a wide range of situations.
These areas, of course, do not exist independently; they relate to each other. So, in addition, each of them must have its place within an overall structure – a map of the territory. The
following explanation of how such a map can be created may seem in some places a bit complicated, but it is worth persisting. Understanding the map will enable you to be more creative in
using it and to discover connections that are meaningful for you.
The amount of knowledge we have at our fingertips is amazing. You may know about evolution and creation, who won at Waterloo or figured out E=mc2, the names of footballers and
politicians, how to drive and use the computer… but how much do you know about the areas of life that make up your everyday experience? This is what you can find here: how to handle
emotions, make decisions, overcome fears, cope with challenges, communicate effectively, form and sustain relationships, and much more.
These materials provide practical knowledge about all basic areas of human life. These areas are also organised in a map that shows the relationships and connections among them (hence
the word ‘synthesis’ in the title).
Why do we need something like this?
We are all aware that we live in a time of rapid and sometimes dramatic changes. In the past, almost every aspect of daily existence was regulated by the extended family, the church,
even our neighbours. Life then was more restrictive, less tolerant of divergences and differences, and often hard, but it created some sense of security and predictability. Today, the
complex nature of our societies, greater cultural diversity, and pluralism of values have increased choice and allowed more freedom, but it has also added to personal responsibility,
insecurity, anxiety and confusion. Arguably, we have never had it better, and yet we don’t seem to cope all that well.
According to the World Health Organization, by 2020 depression is set to become the world’s most pervasive serious illness (more widespread than heart disease and cancer). Every 40
seconds somebody commits suicide and many more make an attempt. In the UK one in four visits to a doctor is due to a psychological problem (the most frequent reason after flu and cold).
Alcohol and drug misuse, as well as anti-social behaviour, are also widespread. This is not to say that we need knowledge and skills covered