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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Personal Sources of Expertise

We can trace out some implications regarding the nature of and access to personal expertise, given this brief foray into the three tiers of mental functioning in the human brain. On the positive side, there are abundant sources of expertise to be found inside our own psyche. It seems that each of us is working on multiple levels of mental and emotional processing at the same time. We have only to choose which level and which content that will receive our attention at any one time. On the negative side, we are vulnerable to leakage between the levels. This can, in turn, lead to major, unacknowledged distortion in the personal expertise we find in our multi-tiered psyche.

The distortion is likely to be particularly great if the leakage comes from one of the lower tiers to one of the higher tiers. While the lower tiers are filled with wisdom that has accumulated over many generations, they are also filled with the ghosts, goblins and biases of our personal past and, potentially, our collective past. We might find, for example, that our suspicions about the motives of a colleague might relate more to his physical appearance or tone of voice than to any actual actions they have taken. We might be recollecting the style and sound of an unscrupulous uncle from our childhood. Conversely, the way in which we always seem to be wounded when leaving meetings with a seemingly “nice” colleague might be worth our reflections. Are we the “victim” of psychological “razor cuts” inflicted by the subtle humor and indirect “put-downs” of this colleague? Sometimes, we need to pay attention to these skillfully inflicted wounds. Ultimately, we are the “experts” of our own personal fears and wounds.

As a result, we must attend to all the burners on our mental stove. Otherwise, the dish on one of the burners could be burned and our meal could be ruined. Moving away from our metaphor, we could find that we are receiving bad advice if we do not acknowledge that the sources of expertise coming from each of the three tiers may be influencing what we are receiving from any one source. We must look for biases, untested assumptions and other distortions of reality. In other words, we must think “slowly” when accessing personal expertise.


Given the multiple tiers from which we can derive personal expertise—and given the leakage from one tier to another, we are required to be discerning in our selection of a specific source of expertise and in the way in which we make use of this expertise. We borrow the concept of Discernment from the mystics of Medieval Europe. While these mystics (usually of Christian persuasion) were gifted in picking up messages from God, they also were picking up messages from Satin. Their task was to determine (discern) what comes from “God” and what from Satin. This was quite a challenging task—but it was critical if the religious advice being delivered by these mystics was to be of benefit to Christian worshippers.

We reintroduce the insights regarding unconscious life that Carl Jung (2013) offers us. He provides us with the opportunity to learn from one of the other unconscious psychic functions that he identified. This is the Shadow. Jungians suggest that the Shadow serves as a counter-function to our Persona (the mask that enables us to appear competent and compassionate). It is our Shadow that can serve as a jokester (forcing us to stumble, bumble and simply appear to be a fool). It is our Shadow that does the hard work of deflating our ego (when it grows too big). This is not only the only psychic service being provided by the Shadow—though it is the service receiving the greatest attention (and is often a great source of annoyance and embarrassment for us).

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