Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Finding the Personal Community of Thought and Feeling in Our Own Self

Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Finding the Personal Community of Thought and Feeling in Our Own Self

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William Bergquist Ph.D. and Kevin Weitz, Psy.D.

We are ourselves a rich source of expertise regarding many matters. While we don’t always fully appreciate this expertise and often distort or make poor use of this personal expertise, it is there for our use – thanks to our capacity to process at multiples in our brain at the same time, and thanks to the recent expansion in the human brain of an advanced mental processing system (the prefrontal cortex).

Put simply, we host a community of thoughts and feelings that resides in our own psyche. It is often not fully known or appreciated by us—yet it must be known and accessed if we are to be effective personally in addressing the challenges (and crises of expertise) that are to be found in mid-21st Century life. We must be discerning, thoughtful consumers of existing expertise and must find the expertise within our own base of knowledge. I propose that this personal base of knowledge is subtly guiding the decisions we make regarding expertise being offered, as well as ways in which we engage our own expertise in solving the major issues that are emerging in mid-21st Century life.

Michael Polanyi (1969) the Nobel-prize winning scientist (turned philosopher) distinguishes between that which we are attending to (what we focus on) and that which we are attending from (the position we are taking when pointing to and focusing on something else). Typically, we are aware of that to which we are attending but are unaware (or at least care little about) that from which we are attending.

For Polanyi, the attending from dimension is critical to our understanding of the true nature of knowledge. Specially, we can never study the source of our attention—for at that point it becomes the focus of our attention. We are now attending from somewhere else and this somewhere else itself can never be objectively studied. In other words, there is ultimately no such thing as objectivity and dispassionate analysis. There is always the passion, bias and purpose to be found in the position from which we are attending. The tidy distinction between science and art is shattered.

We would suggest that each of us is often attending from several internal sources of expertise when we are making choices, when we are expressing our opinion about something, and when we are seeking fully to understand how another person is seeing and living in the world. Put succinctly, we believe that each of us is attending from diverse sources of expertise whenever we are seeking to be conscious and intentional in our thinking and decision-making. This process of conscious and intentional thought is based in what Daniel Kahneman (2011) identifies as Slow Thinking. By contrast, there is something that Kahneman calls Fast Thinking. This is the often habitual and bias-laden thinking that takes very little time or energy. It borrows uncritically from the uncritical and often biased expertise that dominate our society.

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