Sunday, February 15, 2009
KURT LEWIN'S: LIFE SPACE
What do you include in your field of perception and action? If you're lucky, to some degree your life space is determined by you. For others, it's largely determined by your environment and the people you're in association with.
Life space includes:
The places where you physically go, the people and events that occur there, and your feelings about the place and people. One part of this is the places you inhabit every day, or at least regularly. Another part is places you've been to, but go only very occasionally or may never go back to again.
Your vicarious life-space (my term, not Lewin's), includes the world you travel into through reading, movies, TV, what other people say, etc.
Then there is also your own personal mental life space--the places you habit in your mind, your fantasy world, etc. This was of great concern to Jung, although he did not use this term for it, but of less interest to Lewin who was most interested in our social world.
you're planning what to do tomorrow, your life-space is not the room you're in now but the place where you expect to be tomorrow. Your present locomotion in that expected environment involves deciding on one course of action rather than another, as a result of vectors that impel you in one or another direction.
The person and the psychological environment are divided into regions that undergo differentiation. Regions are connected when a person can perform a locomotion between them. Locomotion includes any kind of approach or withdrawal--even looking at a pretty object or away from an ugly one, or listening to liked music and avoiding disliked or uninteresting music. They are said to be connected when communication can take place between them. The region that lies just outside the life-space is the foreign hull. The person is a differentiated region in the life space, set apart from the psychological environment by a boundary. A barrier may block the locomotion called for by vectors. A barrier exerts no force until force is exerted on it. Then it may yield, or resist strongly. How rigid it is you can find out only by exploration. You may have a plan that another person doesn't like, but you don't know how strongly he'll resist your carrying it out until you try. An impassible barrier is likely to acquire a negative valence and may lead to cursing or attacking it.
An awakened need is a state of tension, a readiness for action but without specific direction. When a suitable object is found, it acquires positive valence, and a vector then directs locomotion toward the object. Excessive tension may blur the person's perception of the environment, so that he doesn't find a suitable object to reduce the tension.
(I sometimes do an activity in which people have big sheets of paper and draw their own physical life-spaces, complete with an indication of how they feel in each place. Then each person explains his or her drawing to half-a-dozen or so others. This tends to give group members an understanding of the others that they might never have had otherwise.)
Your perception of yourself and your relationship with yourself shifts as your life-space shifts.
How do you go about changing your life-space when you do so? If you're a member of a group, your life-space as a member of the group is a developmental process of some kind.
A limitation of Lewin's method of diagramming the life space was difficulty representing B's life space as a factor operating in A's life-space.