Chapter 7 Somatic-Linguistic Practices (SLP)

In this final chapter, I present a selection of concrete methods for working with sensory templates, which I call Somatic-Linguistic practices, because they are based on somatic awareness and attention to language. The practices can be used in conjunction with art-based methods and spiritual-based methods – or on their own.

The aim of these practices is to change how we view the sensorimotor states we experience when engaging with managerial problems. Rather than seeing these sensorimotor states as effects the problematic situation has on us, we can see them as sensory templates we (automatically and unconsciously) call forth as a way to represent and comprehend the problematic situation. Rather than seeing the sensorimotor states as caused by an independently existing problem/phenomenon, we can see them as sensory templates we use as tools to enable and support particular kinds of action.

When Becky (chapter four) felt burdened by the problem of raising the moral in the customer service department was exhausting, it was not because the problem was a heavy thing, but because she used the sensorimotor experience of rolling a heavy boulder up a mountain to metaphorically represent the problem and enable her to act – however inefficiently. When Dorothy felt burdened by the task of generating sales for the children theatre, it was not because the situation was heavy, but because she used the sensorimotor experience of pulling a cart alone to metaphorically represent the situation and enable a course of action – which again was inefficient. When Helena and Ira felt split in relation to their problems, it was not because the situation was pulling her in two directions, but because she used the sensorimotor experience of forces pulling in opposing directions to metaphorically represent the problem. Once again, doing so enabled them to act, but not to act efficiently. That feeling exhausted, burdened, and split were not states caused by the problem, was evident in that all these managers were able to change the state. That the states were, in fact, tools for enabling actions was evident in that the new states enabled better courses of action. Furthermore, we saw how believing that the states were caused by the situation (that is by other people’s actions) generated emotions of anger, frustration, animosity, impatience, arrogance, and a range of other vices, which vanished once the sensory template the managers used to comprehend the situation changed.

When we stop thinking about problems as self-existing things, we also change the way we hear and respond to managers’ statements about their problems. I once worked with a manager who spoke about how stressful it was for her to deal with social media. She felt she always had too many balls in the air, that they were too heavy and moving to fast for her to catch and that she constantly dropped them. Another manager, who worked in a public sector organization, said that he needed to push everyone in the department to run faster, due to recent cuts in resources. Anna from chapter four initially said that she needed to make people in the management team march to the same beat and Becky said that she felt working with the customer service department was uphill. Such statements are not passive descriptions of what the problems are like or of what the problems make the managers feel. They are descriptions of the sensorimotor states the managers actively (although unconsciously) call forth in their act of comprehending their problem. Calling forth these sensorimotor states is the managers’ first action related to the problem – it is their first sculpturing of the problem (chapter five). Mobilizing these sensorimotor states is a way of preparing themselves for engaging with the problem and the choice will determine which questions the managers are likely to ask about the situation and what further actions they are likely to engage in.

The reason it appears to us as if the situation is causing the sensory states is that the process of summoning up these sensorimotor states as tools to engage with the situation is automatic and unconscious. Because we automatically evoke the same sensorimotor experience every time we meet a particular kind of situation, but are unaware of doing so, it appears as if the situation is the cause of the sensory states.

Becoming aware of which sensory templates we use, enables us to evaluate these. This is essential to increasing manager efficiency. Becoming aware that we use sensory templates, enables us to see that the sensorimotor states involved are not properties of an independently existing problem, but are, in fact, they are one’s own doing. This is essential to increasing managers’ virtue.

The practices are divided in three main groups. The first group of practices aims at making managers aware of the sensory templates they are currently using to represent and engage with organizational reality. I have already mentioned some of these in chapter four, when I described the warm-up exercises, I used in my doctoral research. These practices support managers in noticing how some sensations they experience are tools they use to act rather than properties of (abstracts) self-existing objects. These practices can open up for solving seemingly unsolvable problems by changing sensory template as described in chapter four.

The second group of practices aims at making managers aware that all their actions and desires are ultimately reaching for states of happiness, wellbeing and satisfaction and that these states are not created by any actions, but are, in fact, that which is already present to us before we engage in any action. Through these practices we can experience how we, through our own acts of reaching for happiness, loose sight of it. Realizing this over and over again, can teach us to move into action while maintaining our awareness of the state of profound wellbeing that exists always before any action.

The third group of practices aims at integrating the realizations we have from the second group of practices into more and more of our conceptual system and thus make it the fundamental understanding embedded in more and more of our actions. This can be done, by grounding our understanding of any abstract concept (positive or negative) in the experience of the state of wellbeing we feel before any action.

It is worth cautioning that the practices described here are not easy. It is best to learn them under the guidance of someone who knows them well. Furthermore, it is very important to be thoroughly acquainted with them through own practice before teaching them to others. Finally, it is important to know that these practices can bring up difficult psychological states and it is, therefore, good to have therapeutic training and practice when using these practices as teacher/facilitator, so as to be equipped to handle such situations. This being said, engaging with these practices in the right environment is both deeply transformative – and fun.