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A Professional Introduction to Emergence (2006)

A Letter to Personality Theorist, Dr. Lawrence A. Pervin

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Like many theoretical circles, the professional circle of personality theorists is very small, and very closed. And as Dr. Pervin reminded me in his reply to this letter, no one new gets even a cursory look unless their work parallels what is currently believed; Trait Theory, and Social Cognitive Theory. Even knowing this, my desire to help the children in the world often overrides my fear I'll be rejected and so, I recently sent the following letter to Dr. Lawrence Pervin, a man whose work I very much admire.

Dear Dr. Pervin,

Please forgive my frank boldness. I know of no other way to convey to you my story.

My name is Steven Paglierani and I am a personality theorist. Over the past decade, I have written a theory of personality which I believe satisfies many of your “Handbook of Personality” top ten issues. In addition, I believe this theory meets many of David Magnusson's criteria for being holistically interactive. Unfortunately, I am also totally unknown. Moreover, without an introduction from a recognized expert, my work will, in all likelihood, remain unknown. This is why I am writing to you.

Why you? To be bluntly honest, I have very much enjoyed reading your writings. What you write is clear, concise, and fair. At the same time, you reveal your own opinions. In the world of academic writings, I find this combination rare.

In addition, my theories have much in common with Janet and Freud. Thus, reading what you wrote about Charcot and his students makes me think you could appreciate what I've discovered more than most.

I am also hoping that after a life time of teaching personality theory, that something fresh might pique your interest.

What about my work is fresh? To begin with, I call my work, “Emergence.” What is Emergence and what makes it different? Actually, Emergence mirrors the work of many of the Nineteenth Century theorists, in that it is three separate but integrated theoretical systems; a theory of the mind (the container), a theory of personality (the content), and a therapy (the change agent). How do these three systems fit together?

In the case of the theory of the mind, I use a previously unmapped criteria; the visual intensity of what is on the screen of the mind, to map, in three dimensions, the various states of human consciousness. Within this mostly chaotic data then, I have discovered four significant fractal patterns of visual intensity. Together, these four patterns reveal the actual nature of a broad range of human conditions, things as diverse as the variances between psychopathologies, all the way to the very essence of learning and discovery itself. The word “emergence” represents the moments in which we make these discoveries.

From these maps of the mind, I have discovered a number of things about the nature of personality, including that we do not have an unconscious at birth. Rather, the unconscious develops, in discrete stages, in a sequence recognizable in all humans.

I have also learned that psychological injury can be empirically quantified. Along with psychological healing as well.

In addition, I have discovered that the X, Y, and Z dimensions represented within these visual maps can be rescripted into a simple, three variable algebraic formula capable of describing pretty much every identifiable pattern of human behavior, from falling in and out of love, to getting fired and discovering relativity. Not coincidentally, this formula, M=I(T), is directly analogous to Einstein's E=MC2.

Next is the personality theory.

Here, I believe I have created a truly integrated theory of personality, a system which includes and explains not only what I have discovered, but also much of what previous theorists have posited. Moreover, this theory easily meets the requirements for a personality theory. [1] It posits a complete system of personality, including a comprehensive etiology and system of motivation; [2] it generates reliable, predictive data regarding human behavior, and does so in far greater proportions than previous theories; [3] it offers incredible numbers of new possibilities for research, all with potential practical applications and; [4] it recognizes the good in all previous theories and looks to incorporate this good into the theory at large; in essence, augmenting rather than competing with prior theorists.

On what is this system based? For one thing, on an assumption I made similar to that which Freud made; that the laws which govern human nature must mirror those which govern the world in which we live; the laws of physics. For another, that Pierre Janet was correct in his assumptions about the true nature of the mind; that heightened states of consciousness actually do allow us access to structures within our minds very similar to his “automatisms” and “fixed ideas.” And for another, that much of what William James wrote about personality was indeed accurate, including his criteria that for a theory to be true, it must be useful. Which brings me to the third system, the therapy.

In the case of the therapy, then, I believe I have created a thoroughly pragmatic system of theory and practice. And while this therapy stems entirely from the above two systems, even with the substantial differences between these three systems, each integrates into, and substantiates, the other two. Moreover, this integration occurs, for the most part, free from Block's “jingle” and “jangle” fallacies, as well as from circular logic.

How does this therapy work? To begin with, I have discovered a way to empirically teach both subjects and observers to use the visual intensity of what is on the screen of their minds to improve the objective quality of the data they perceive by at least a magnitude. I also teach them to focus on when their minds go blank, rather than on recalling or discovering some particular historical data. Why? Because it turns out Charcot was right. The mind does have seemingly inexplicable amnesias and gaps in memory. Understanding these gaps then is the key to doing therapy. What makes me so certain? Because one of the four fractal, visual intensity patterns I discovered is, in essence, the experience which wounds our psyches. Moreover, it turns out that the three part sequence of experience which creates these gaps simply mirrors the sequence of events we experience in the moment of birth.

Thus, voiced in theory of the mind terms, this sequence is [1] hyperawareness (being in an elevated state of consciousness), [2] being startled (abruptly exceeding one's capacity for being in this elevated state of consciousness), and [3] going into shock (becoming psychologically unconscious). Voiced in theory of personality terms, this sequence is [1] the “pre birth” experience of connection (mother and baby), [2] the “instant of birth” experience of aloneness (the moment of physical separation), and [3] the “post birth” experience of need. Finally, voiced as a therapy, this sequence is [1] the experience of witnessing a visually intense scene on the screen of the mind, [2] the experience of abruptly exceeding one's capacity for visual intensity on the screen of one's mind, and [3] the experience of suddenly having one's screen of the mind go blank.

How is knowing this sequence useful?

It turns out that being startled while in the state of hyperawareness is what creates these permanent blank spots in the mind. In a way, this process very much mirrors what how iron gets magnetized in the presence of a rapidly collapsing magnetic field.

What happens to these blank spots then? We fill them in with logical but inane explanations for “what and why we could not see what happened”; for instance, that we chose to repress something painful. Human beings cannot “choose” to repress anything. We simple re-experience previously shocking events in ways that empty the screen of our minds, and an empty mind cannot experience choices.

Of course, we could also say these gaps function very much like circuit breakers for our suffering, in that once our ability to visually witness gets blown, in effect, we can no longer consciously experience pain.

So what do we gain from knowing all this though? We gain the ability to approach Bandura's agentic view of personality, in that we, in theory, get to choose things which exist all along on paper but which we ordinarily cannot choose as we ordinarily cannot see these choices. These gaps prevent us from seeing them.

As for why we no one has embraced this view as of yet, it turns out, it is against our natures to see these gaps. Why? Basically, because we by nature use logic to bridge these visual gaps. This, in fact, is why most logic-based therapies, at best, help people only temporarily. Why? Because it is not our logic which gets wounded. It is our ability to visualize on the screen of the mind, which prevents us from seeing our choices.

All this said, so how does this therapy fare with regard to James' test; that for a theory to be true, it must be useful? Here, I will take my lead from Drew Westen's wonderful essay on Psychoanalytic Approaches to Personality and break into an anecdote.

Some years back, a friend and former boss, Brian, called to ask for my advice. He was retiring from his life long career as the manager of a Fortune Five Hundred accounting department, having worked in and around numbers for some thirty years. He was also in his mid-fifties and told me, he was simply too young to just retire. He, in fact, admitted that he longed for a career about which he could feel as enthused as I feel. In this spirit, he asked if we could meet for lunch.

On the day of the lunch, as I drove to meet him, I thought back on what I knew about Brian. I remembered him as one of the most talented managers I had ever worked for. This, in fact, had always puzzled me. You see, Brian never advanced very far, this despite many opportunities. Outwardly, he simply lacked the confidence, something I had never understood.

That day, we met in a very fancy restaurant; quiet, classy, and calm. No surprise as Brian is a reserved and quiet man. Then during lunch, I asked Brian if he would be willing to try to visualize his life five years into the future.

At one point then, I asked him if he could visualize his planner in five years. The year then was 2000, which made the imagined year 2005. To my surprise, Brian could not visualize the number 2005. I then asked him to visualize the details of his planner; the cover, the color, the texture, and so on. All this he could easily see. Hours, days, meetings, etc. Everything except for the year; 2005.
At this point, I was stumped.

Finally, I tried an Emergence therapy technique; I had him picture these years in rapid succession, beginning with what he could see; the year 2000. And on his third try, this conservative, never cries in public fellow broke down in tears as the wounding scene emerged. He then blurted out what had been his last thought before being startled. He said, “I didn't' know what direction to make the hat on the five.”

Could this have been his whole problem? Had Brian been reliving a startling failure from first grade; that he could not remember how to write a five? Had he, in fact, been wounded by his own startling thought, that he could not remember how to write a five?

The answer? Yes. How can I be so sure? Simple. Brian's lack of confidence had kept him, for thirty years, in a low level manager's job. Moreover, prior to this scene emerging, Brain had no idea this event had even happened, let alone that this single startling instant had crippled his confidence in and around numbers. Even so, that one emergence changed his whole sense of confidence. You see, Brian now works as a financial planner, this with no further input from me or from anyone else.

Does it sound like I am jumping to conclusions, that it can not possibly be this simple? Believe me, I know what this sounds like. Even so, having practiced this therapy for more than ten years now, and based on literally thousands of clinical instances wherein these kinds of life changing events have occurred, it seems, the potential may be unlimited. I have, in fact, helped many people to permanently heal a wide variety of things, from life long learning disabilities to crippling phobias. I have also helped a bunch of people who were unable to feel confident in and around numbers. In each case, they had trouble visualizing one of the ten digits.

Please know, I, in no way, am implying that it is always this simple, nor that my theories have no limits. In fact, at this point, I feel I must again apologize, as I realize how arrogant all this must sound. If so, please forgive me. In truth, I am doing my best to put into words what is surely an overwhelming amount of information. The obvious question, though, is, if these theories are really as valuable as I say they are, then why am I unknown?

My answer? In part, because I have chosen to spend the last twenty years trying to help people rather than trying to get published. I am also a rather shy person, although I doubt my letter to you would even hint at this shyness. I have also been rather insecure in my ability to present what I've discovered, especially with regard to the reactions of others to my obviously bold claims. As you might imagine, most of my prior attempts have lead to painful recriminations.

In some small way, though, I have also been successful. For one thing, I have a web site wherein I've published the equivalent of some ten thousand written pages. Weekly, people visit from some sixty countries, and we average six hundred to a thousand people a day.

Over the past ten years, I've also had a small school, wherein I and my fellow Emergence practitioners have been trying to find ways to present and use these theories. The result?

Using our theory of personality, we have developed a series of very simple personality assessment instruments which, in less than half an hour, can quite accurately match students to teachers, and people to careers. In one sense, these tests resemble Jung's typology, albeit, they reveal far more pragmatic detail.

You could also call these instruments, “progressively unfolding trait assessments.” However, unlike the reductionist outcomes typical to some trait theorists' tests, our assessments lead to in excess of four thousand recognizable patterns, all remarkably predictive. More important, most people can learn to administer and interpret these tests even after a single day of training.

Then there is what we have discovered about the nature of personality and learning disabilities, for instance, that there is a developmental etiology from which they come. We, in fact, expect pilot programs in “conscious reading” to be in place in two schools by the fall, one in New York, and one in Connecticut. In one of these schools, a teacher has been using Emergence for some four years now, to great acclaim. In the other, one teacher has been training with me for several years now, and another began recently.

Yet a third area of personality we have made gains in is finance. In this case, we have used our theories to develop a paper instrument we call, the Bernie Book. This simple booklet manages to visually bypass peoples' injuries in and around money, while at the same time, helping people to find out “where their money goes.” Useful? A number of the country's largest financial institutions think so, and have been negotiating to license these books from us for more than a year now. Here again, like our personality tests, this instrument requires but a few hours of training. Hopefully, these negotiations will lead to our being able to fund a real school.

As for my opening statement regarding my reasons for writing to you, if, by now, I haven't sent you over the edge with what probably sounds like a bad commercial, I'd like to tell you what I am actually asking for. Very simply, I am asking for a chance to talk to you in whatever way possible. In truth, these theories are best presented in person. Thus, I would be quite willing to travel to you. However, you've obviously never even heard of me. Thus, I would be willing to do whatever you see fit in order to earn this conversation with you. I sincerely would.

Lastly, I would like to relate to you a personal story that I believe represents the heart of what I have been trying to tell you. One of my closest friends, Lauren, is a young therapist with whom I frequently discuss my work. She has two sons, Jacob, who is seven, and Max, who is four.

Recently, Lauren was cornered by Jacob's Hebrew school teacher as she picked her son up from class. The teacher told Lauren that Jacob had been teaching the class that day about “ones,” “twos,” “threes,” and “fours,” and that Pharaoh was a “one.”

Now I know these words mean nothing to you, at least in the context of a personality theory. However, to Jacob, who has been taught these words since he was little, they explain the essence of selflessness and narcissism.

Jacob is seven. Yet he understands one of the most important concepts in my whole theory of personality. Further, he, on his own, felt motivated to teach what he knew to his whole Hebrew class. Not simply as a parrot of my words; he and I rarely see each other. Rather, he actually grasped the meaning himself and felt it worth telling others about. And at age seven, he was teaching others about personality.

If a seven year old can grasp the good in what I have discovered, then perhaps my theories truly do meet James' requirement for being true. And useful. I very much hope you will give me a chance to present these ideas to you.


Steven Paglierani

P. S. And as if I have not overwhelmed you enough, I enclose one of the manuals we use in my school. Know it is more meant to provoke new thoughts about personality than as a final reference for anything. In truth, it is more like one of Da Vinci's sketch books than a text on personality.

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