Psychological Literacy


dumb instrument Dance | Ziyian Kwan

We have noted already that the default psychological protection against fear and anxiety is neurotic defense. It is a way of dealing with complexity by withdrawal from contact with the world and so not dealing with it at all. Persons of tomorrow, by contrast, embrace the world. They engage with their existential reality in a spirit of hope, courage, invention and play. Their engagement is conscious, in the moment, not rule-based or rehearsed. They are participants in events, not victims. They naturally practise what Harold Bridger called ‘the double task.’ They are able to retain the capacity to reflect on their actions even whilst in the midst of them (yet not be paralyzed by that awareness – like the athlete who ‘chokes’ through thinking too much). This capacity for self-awareness, for poise and grace in action, is widely regarded as the beginning of wisdom and of mastery. We call it psychological literacy – the capacity to reflect on one’s experience at a psychological level even whilst in the midst of it. This is the first protection against denial as a default response to overwhelm – and thus the pathway to learning and growth.

– Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century by Graham Leicester, Maureen O’Hara

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