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The challenge of developing coping strategies is not confined to governments, corporations or other collectivities, at whatever level of society. Strategic thinking is common to both collectivities and individuals (Theobald, 1992). The "ordinary person", in fact every individual of whatever social class, tends to be attentive, whether consciously or unconsciously, to the development of coping strategies. Authors, gurus, lecture circuits and talk shows do much to purvey particular coping strategies. They are a subject of bar and cocktail discussion. Many, like diets, have their moment of being in fashion and then continue to appeal to smaller constituencies. Diets, namely methods of coping with physical health, do in fact provide a useful metaphor for understanding the sociology of coping strategies.
This article is not concerned with how any particular coping strategy is advocated and used. Of greater interest is the emergence of a sense that no single coping strategy can be relied upon under all circumstances. From this perspective a person, or a corporate body, needs to be able to draw upon a variety of such strategies -- switching between them as circumstances demand. The difficulty is that this posture is effectively sensitive to a higher level of complexity. Communicating and comprehending the set of strategic options then becomes a significant challenge.
The tendency is to describe such strategies, whether individually or as a set, in metaphoric terms. When described in this way, the conceptual framework can be marketed as a proprietary product. Society is faced with a situation in which access to insights on the best ways of coping, and especially the means through which they are described and disseminated, are increasingly restricted to those who are willing or able to pay. Coping strategies are increasingly subject to copyright as intellectual property. As growth opportunities are developed and consolidated in the tertiary sector, such constraints on the use of coping strategies could prove increasingly incapacitating for society.
This article follows from work on governance through metaphor (UIA, 1991) and on the identification of some 8,000 strategies employed by international organizations (UIA, 1986)
"Coping consists of efforts, both action oriented and intra psychic, to manage (i.e. master, tolerate, reduce, minimize) environmental and internal demands and conflicts." (Lazarus and Launier, 1978, p. 311)This builds on an earlier formulation of coping as:
"... the problem-solving efforts made by an individual when the demands he faces are highly relevant to his welfare (that is a situation of considerable jeopardy or promise), and when these demands tax his adaptive resources." (Lazarus, Averill and Opton, 1974)Frydenberg and Lewis point out that the first definition is comprehensive in that it addresses the cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of the coping process. The definitions recognize both the stressful aspects of emotion and the possibility of potential fulfillment or gratification. They also recognize that the adaptive outcome is uncertain so that the limits of the person's adaptive skills are approached.
The 66 original items were developed to 80 and subjected to 5- and 9-factor groupings by Frydenberg and Lewis (1990, 1991b) leading subsequently (1991c) to the production of 18 scales of adolescent coping:
Using the 18 scales, the authors are able to produce profiles of coping for individuals giving rise to the notion of a "coping repertoire". It remains to be determined exactly what mix of strategies constitutes a healthy, as opposed to an unhealthy, repertoire. As some of the gender- based differences in profiles appear to suggest, it may prove simplistic to stigmatize certain non-problem-oriented strategies as inappropriate in any healthy repertoire (1991a).
Some examples from this perspective are:
1. Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI): This method developed by Ned Herrmann in 1977 is based on Roger Sperry's left-brain/right-brain model and Paul MacLean's triune brain model. The HBDI survey can define, identify, and statistically measure preferences and distinctions in the major thinking styles attributed to the four quadrants of the two top brains: the limbic system and the neocortex. It gives rise to profiles with respect to the following:
2. Frames of mind: Harvard educator Howard Gardner has identified seven recognizable and different ways of processing information which he calls multiple intelligences. They are:
3. Work-related values: Geert Hofstede (1980), on the basis of extensive surveys within a large multinational corporation, explored differences in thinking and social action that exist between members of 40 different modern nations. He isolated four main dimensions on which country cultures differ with respect to work-related values:
5. Axes of bias: Philosopher W T Jones has explored the axes of bias which pre-determine the pattern of debates, especially those through which academics "cope" with controversial issues. He identified the following axes on which discussants can be profiled and which govern their interventions:
7. Eidetics This system of organizational development and motivational research has been articulated by Henry Evering in the light of medical, psychological and living systems research. Systems geometric models are used to guide the application of the methodology (Evering et al., 1990). Organizations use eidetics information to increase their marketplace momentum by attuning collective motivations throughout the organization. Information exchange is seen as a key variable of organizational growth. Satisfying emotional, perceptual and other psychological needs are often as important as rational needs in achieving this goal. Evering uses the 8 surfaces (colour-coded) of an octahedron to portray the integration of human motivations in 3-D, and to relate these to strategic core essentials, to corporate culture and to the corresponding marketing mixes
Thus the reviewer of a successful management text, Strategy of the Dolphin, by Dudley Lynch and Paul Kordis (1988) comments: "A welcome respite from other management books that urge us to think like samurais, Attila the Hun or members of the Prussian General Staff...A blend of the latest findings in psychology, physics, sociology and business strategy" (Executive Challenge). The book contrasts the subtleties of thinking/acting like a dolphin with that of carps (prey) and of sharks (predators).
There is a classical Japanese text on the art of swordsmanship by Miyamoto Musashi (ca 1600) entitled The Book of Five Rings. A recent English translation, bearing the subtitle The Real Art of Japanese Management (1982), claims that the book is required reading in all Japanese management schools. It makes very extensive use of metaphor to develop understanding of subtle strategies for coping with an opponent under different conditions. The strategy metaphors are in five clusters: earth, water, fire, wind, and void. In a recent compilation from Chinese thought, 36 "strategems" are identified through which to deal with political, business or human relationships (Gao Yuan, 1991). All are expressed through metaphors such as "Cross the sea by fooling the sky". In both cases the metaphors used contrast with the simplistic military, ball game, and sexual metaphors most frequently used in Western management dialogue concerning strategic threats and opportunities.
An interesting effort to describe different philosophies of management and organization through a set of mythical Greek gods has been made by Charles Handy (1979), himself a professor of management. He distinguishes between management strategies in terms of: Zeus (club culture), Apollo (role culture), Athena (task culture), Dionysus (existential culture). Of special interest is his description of the limitations of each approach. A related approach has been made by Gareth Morgan who uses appropriate metaphors to describe eight images of organization (1986, 1988), each with its particular repertoire of coping strategies.
Many attempts have been made to characterize, if not caricature, coping behaviours of members of organizations using sets of metaphors. These include Michael Maccoby's: jungle fighter, company man, gamesman, and craftsman (1978); and Harold Morowitz's ego niches involving 14 animals (1977).
Key examples are:
1. Astrology: Historically this is one of the oldest, and most universal, guides to coping with an apparently unpredictable future. There is currently much anecdotal evidence of the use of astrology in management situations, even in the West. Some astrologers even advertise their special skills in this respect. It was the media publicity concerning the influence of astrology on Ronald Regan's decision-making (via his wife Nancy), and despite his fundamentalist leanings, which high-lighted its role even in a technocratic society replete with advisors of the highest repute. It could be argued that for the client, astrology not only takes account of the characteristic coping skills associated with a particularly detailed personality profile, but also clarifies how which of those skills can best be deployed in response to a particular configuration of circumstances. It is also perceived as especially adapted to concern with business cycles and timing (Langham, 1979).
2. I Ching: Otherwise known as The Book of Changes, this classic text has been a major influence on Chinese thinking for over 3000 years. As noted by R G H Siu (1974): "For centuries, the I Ching has served as a practical guide in China on how to govern a country, organize an enterprise, deal with people, conduct oneself under difficult conditions and contemplate the future. It has been studied carefully by philosophers, like Confucius, and men of the world, like Mao Tse-Tung". It has been adapted to business and decision-making in the West (Guy Damian-Knight, 1986). The Federal Reserve Bank of America, in its exploration of intuitive forecasting models, published a research paper on the use of the I Ching (Schulz and Cunningham, 1988). It has been experimentally adapted to apply to networking (UIA, 1986) and to sustainable policy cycles (UIA, 1991).
3. Tarot: Like astrology, the tarot continues to be used as a guide to the identification of appropriate coping strategies (Jayanti, 1988). It is one of the favoured tools of certain high-priced consultants on business decisions. It has been perceived as the Western cultural equivalent of the I Ching. One of its intriguing features is the number of aesthetically distinct versions now produced.
4. Enneagram: This traditional symbolic device from Central Asia provides a map with which nine basic personality types, or coping strategies, may be associated and interrelated -- both in terms of their strengths and weaknesses (Riso, 1990). It is claimed to be especially helpful in understanding developmental pathways and patterns of human activity and projects. It is used to determine whether developmental processes are sustainable, or what is required to make them so. Interestingly, and despite its Sufi origins, the leaders of Catholic spiritual retreats are the authors of one of the standard texts (Beesing, et al, 1984)
2. Magic: It would be a mistake to ignore the continuing importance of magic as offering a traditional repertoire of coping strategies, especially in the event of the collapse of "civilized" structures. Many texts attest to the increasing importance of magic, even in the most civilized technocratic societies. Its association with the recovery of a more grounded understanding of the role of women (Jade, 1991), or of indigenous cultures (O'Keefe, 1982), are well-known examples. The increasing incidence of ritual abuse and "black magic" is another. The importance of "white magic" to New Age communities is yet another. Magic is claimed to be a set of methods for arranging awareness according to patterns, controlling and developing the imagination so as to cause changes in the environment. Very extensive use is made of metaphor. Appropriately used these methods then lead to transformation. It is this transformation which is considered of value, not the methods themselves (R J Stewart, 1987).
3. Confidential management know-how: Strategic repertoires and packages are part of the service offered by the major management consultancy groups. Access to such information, and its reproduction, is severely restricted to clients paying large fees. Their key strategic insights (on the "4 S's", the 5 Q's", etc) tend to be summarized in well-crafted diagrams which are individually copyrighted. Ironically such consultants are often expected to perform "magic". Furthermore, because of the menemonic constraints on the structure of such diagrams, they tend to bear a remarkable resemblance to some of the symmetric symbols produced by secret societies or in "secret" books of magic (cf. Gettings, 1981).
The deliberate use of metaphor to communicate coping strategies is well illustrated by Edward de Bono through two books: Six Thinking Hats (1987) and Six Action Shoes (1991). These books deal with what he has called "operacy". This is the skill of action, of getting things done and making things happen -- which he equates with literacy and numeracy. They build on a well-publicized series of his earlier books dealing with creative approaches to problem-solving, notably in corporate policy-making environments.
According to de Bono (1991), the metaphoric framework of six thinking hats has been adopted by many major corporations around the world. It is also used increasingly in education. As de Bono points out: "The six hat method has been widely accepted because it is simple, it is practical, and it works. It actually changes how thinking takes place in meetings and elsewhere: instead of the usual to and fro arguments it makes it possible for people to have constructive discussions." (1991, p. 4). The six pairs of action shoes develop the action dimension of the thinking associated with the six hats.
The method in both cases is simple. Using the hat metaphor, in a meeting there is an imaginary repertoire of six thinking strategies associated with six hats of different colours. A discussant may choose to put on one of the hats, or be challenged to take off a hat of a particular colour. Alternatively all participants may agree to make use of a hat of a particular colour to clarify a particular dimension response to the issue under discussion.
De Bono's hats involve participants in a discussion in a type of mental role playing:
Many efforts at team building are based on the identification of individuals with particular skills (eg as the "black hat" thinker) for the group (Belbin). By contrast, and somewhat optimistically, de Bono assumes that "everyone should be able to put on or take off any one of the hats at a moment's notice. The six modes were not six different categories or types of people."
Inspired by the success of the hat metaphor as a framework for thinking in a group, de Bono perceived an equal need for a framework for action. "Situations require diffrent styles of action. The delicate action needed to paint an eggshell is different from the action needed in a boxing match." (1991, p. 13). Furthermore, in considering how to train the "perfect person" it would be simpler to train six people, "each of whom would be perfect for just one type of situation....Of course, these six people would all live under one skin....The need for perfectly appropriate action suggested a need for breaking down action into six different styles, each of which could be developed." (1991, pp. 13- 14).
The six pairs of shoes are as follows:
Those coping strategies identified, using academic language alone, have least chance of becoming of wider significance to those who might employ them. Those disseminated most rapidly use visual imagery through which the individual or group can "take on" the strategy more readily. In dealing with complexity, strategic skills may be rapidly grasped through a powerful metaphor which augments capacity to grasp the dynamics and opportunities of a situation. As clarified by George Lakoff (1987) and colleagues, metaphors are unique in offering cognitive leverage where models are dangerously simplistic (Schon, 1979; Judge, 1992).
Ideally what is required is a visual metaphor which can take understandably "healthy" or "unhealthy" forms. The challenge for the individual then becomes to reframe coping behaviours through the set of healthy forms (Bandler, et al, 1982; Gordon, 1976). At the same time there is a need to develop the lifestyle art of consciously caring for the "ecology" of active metaphors in the coping repertoire. A healthy balance may be of greater value than maximizing the health of particular coping behaviours. Furthermore, to enhance both overall strategic integrity and the ability to manoeuvre, there is value in giving metaphoric expression to the ecology of possible coping strategies as a whole.
De Bono has taken a further step in this direction by producing an Atlas of Management Thinking (1981). He argues that verbal description of complex management situations are necessarily lodged in the left side of the brain (logical thinking, etc). In order to be able to take advantage of the right side of the brain (intuition, etc) a repertoire of non-verbal images is required. His atlas provides 200 images to enrich the perceptual map of the executive, enabling him to recognize situations in a flash instead of having to build them up piecemeal.
Each of the examples offers strong points whilst at the same time ignoring strategic strengths implicit in others. But in terms of how to use metaphors in collective discourse to shift between strategies, it is de Bono who is perhaps the most explicitly helpful in giving a feel for the process. Most of the others are locked into the limitations of categorizing and fail to address the challenge of changing how thinking or action actually takes place -- namely how to "get into" a possibly unfamiliar coping strategy and how to avoid being inappropriately trapped therein. In the more traditional systems, for example, this difficulty is deliberate, because stress is placed on word of mouth communication to ensure a shift in insight. As always, experts survive by creating dependence.
Irrespective of the merit of any repertoire of strategies, it is those which are widely disseminated which will tend to be most widely used. Given the way that the delivery system works in the emerging information society, it is those sets of strategies which are taken up by media (and paperback sales) that have the greatest diffusion. The media are hypersensitive to whatever is liable to capture the imagination of audiences, thus bypassing much that is produced in an academic mode.
Even in an article of this kind, and despite judicious paraphrasing, it is a pertinent question as to what can be communicated about particular coping strategies without infringing copyright. Reproduction of any diagram illustrating the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument discussed above, would clearly constitute an infringement. It is probable that little more could be said on de Bono's hats and shoes without moving beyond the realm of legitimate comment as a "reviewer". Strict interpretation of the standard clause "No part of this publication may be reproduced...without the prior permission of the publishers" precludes even any listing of the coping strategies he identifies. Basically, if someone wants to know about the hats and shoes, and how to make use of them, the books must be purchased at whatever price the publisher sets. More than that, an addendum indicates that to become "a certified licensed trainer based on Dr. de Bono's Six Thinking Hats and Six Action Shoes concept", one is required to write to the International Center for Creative Thinking. To what extent is one free to present his approach in a training session without having been licensed to do so? (Bandler and Grinder, 1982)
The future development of the tertiary sector must necessarily focus on the opportunities of intellectual and cultural property. Copyright has been a major issue in the world of computer software. The development of new "metaphors" is explicitly recognized as a key to software development. Major legal proceedings in the USA continue around software based on the windows metaphor and first marketed by Apple. The legal case now turns on the "look-and-feel" of the software interface. Xerox is now marketing software based on a rooms metaphor. Copyrighting software in the future may well focus specifically on the design metaphor and its isomorphs, since coding and functionality have proved so difficult to protect. These issues will become especially problematic with virtual reality software (now coming on the market) given the many ways it will use visual imagery and expand the possibilities of visual metaphors.
Reference should also be made to the skills of certain consultants in organizational development. Whether or not these are reflected in any package of copyrighted text and diagrams, bodies who could benefit from these skills are deprived of them because of the high cost of such consultancy. Access to such insights is reserved exclusively for those who can afford them. They and their consultants thus effectively share in the evolution of proprietary languages.
Another variant on the problem is that resulting from the "classification" of documents in the interests of national security or to secure some advantage over potential competitors. American fusion scientists have, for example, long been placed at a disadvantage because most of their work has been classified. In comparison, their colleagues elsewhere have been free to publish. In 1992, continuing such secrecy was recognized as stifling the exchange of ideas, inhibiting progress and limiting international cooperation (International Herald Tribune, 29 September 1992).
In the case of religions, "proprietary" may be understood in a different sense. Religions are steeped in metaphor (Van Noppen, 1983). Such metaphoric frameworks tend to specify particular coping strategies. The proprietary hold becomes clear when each makes mutually exclusive claims to be able to articulate an appropriate understanding of man's relationship to his spatio-temporal environment. Because of the subtlety of spiritual insights, such claims often have to articulated through specific metaphors, honed and valued by the religious culture in question. Particular metaphors are the jealously guarded property of particular religions. The cross is effectively trademarked by Christianity. Attachment to particular metaphors may then prevent spiritual development (McFague, 1983) or any effective dialogue between faiths. This continues to lead to violence on a large scale.
Another striking example of what amounts to proprietary metaphors is that dedicated from a radical feminist perspective on male-dominated language. Much of contemporary discourse can be presented as dominated by implicit gender- biased metaphors selected by males. The implications for coping strategies, planning and decision-making have been identified by Janis Birkeland (1991).
The process whereby certain professions are officially recognized, highlights another approach to proprietary metaphors. In the case of professions (eg medicine, architecture, etc) with statutory functions recognized by law, some uses of language may come under the control of those professions. This then precludes other interpretations, as might be the case with healing professions not accepted by the medical establishment.
But perhaps the most insidious example of proprietary metaphors is that relating to cultural or linguistic imperialism, of which the most obvious is the North-South situation, with its many micro-reflections amongst the marginalized in industrialized countries. Many have noted the insensitivity with which English-speakers within the international community readily assume that their are no significant language or cultural problems associated with the use of English. Others have noted the vicious consequences of Euro- centric thinking. In both cases, part of the issue is the range of metaphors which then dominate (often as part of the idiom), excluding the metaphors natural to other languages and cultures. This then conditions cognitive response to the environment in the light of the culture of industrialized countries.
In this light, the scope of de Bono's repertoire might be usefully challenged by confrontation with strategies highlighting the importance of the affective dimension as stressed by the Frydenberg coping checklist. Perhaps he should produce a book on Six Emotional Cloaks to complement the thinking hats and the action shoes. In each of his cases, to what extent do the developmental issues around the six different people "all living under one skin" relate to those of identifying and integrating the "subpersonalities" that are a prime concern of psychoanalysis and psychosythesis (Rowan, 1990)? Frydendberg's 18 strategies could then usefully be compared with de Bono's three groups of 6.
Are there no useful relationships to be found between the Frydenberg coping checklist and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? Can the Hermann Brain Dominance system not be seen as a two-dimensional projection of Myers-Briggs? Would all three not become of wider significance if their categories could be captured in a visual image to excite the imagination? There is a lesson to be learnt from the fact that many people, whether of western or eastern cultures, know their astrological "sign".
In his stress on shifting between strategies, de Bono points to the weakness of the straitjacket of personality typing. A richer perspective would focus on the repertoire of personality or coping modes which an individual could taken on under different circumstances. In the Myers-Briggs case, for example, the probability of each of the 16 coping modes being used would then be defined by a probability function that characterizes an individual or strategic dynamic. This recognizes that all modes are accessible to the individual (or organization), but not equally. Enneagram studies are helpful in explicitly recognizing flexible access to all modes as a developmental goal (Riso, 1990). Individual or corporate identity is tehn associated with an integrative image of such a constrained dance between coping modes. It is only the richer metaphors, like dance, that can facilitate comprehension of that strategic posture.
In this transition period, a policy-maker feels relatively free to formulate coping proposals whether in speech or on paper. The vast quantity generated annually in this way has become quite indigestible (Marien, 1990). With the increasing need for imagery to ensure comprehensibility by overloaded audiences, the issue becomes what images? It is even possible to envisage an alternative meeting design in which factional leaders would dialogue only through images. Participants would use support staff to locate appropriate images (from a prepared image data base) to enlighten, confound or seduce their adversaries -- pacing the meeting somewhat as in a chess tournament, with considerable time for reflection between "moves". The conceptually sharpest images relevant to such a dialogue are those carefully pre- crafted by cartoonists, especially political cartoonists. Such cartoons are of course copyrighted -- as are the best photographs and videoclips. Expressed through the resultant configuration of images, the "proceedings" and conclusion of any such meeting would therefore raise major copyright problems.
The problem of the transfer of patented technology from the North to those who need it in the South was a major issue during the recent UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992). Certain technologies are needed by poorer countries to improve their environmental and development strategies. The issue for the future is when does the dissemination of copyrighted coping know-how become restricted in an analogous manner -- inhibiting collective ability to respond to the crises of the times. The question is whether copyright will evolve to the point that strategic wisdom can effectively be copyrighted? Even now, certain valued aphorisms are technically subject to copyright, as inspection of any published collection will show. In the case of technology, governments have responded to this dilemma by invoking "national security" clauses. The case for a "global security" clause with respect to intellectual property remains to be articulated.
This line of thinking evokes the spectre of the world being held to ransom by some strategic genius capable of copyrighting his or her insights -- if only in terms of the set of metaphors through which they are most adequately expressed. Could a strategic Einstein copyright a "special theory of strategic coping"? Have the handful of major multinational management consultancy groups, capable of ensuring exclusive access to such genius, already developed an effective stranglehold on strategic coping know-how? Coping repertoires in the the public domain may effectively be second-rate.
Where comprehension and the ability to empower initiatives are the key to coping, such genius may to a large extent lie in the choice of an appropriate metaphor (as advertisers so frequently demonstrate). De Bono, whatever the inadequacies of his approach, has moved some way down this track. His CoRT Thinking Programme (of which the hats and shoes are modules) is arguably the best available package, as demonstrated by its world-wide success in educational systems. UNESCO, currently seeking insights into education for the 21st century, is as yet unable to recommend a package of equivalent sophistication. What are the options if de Bono's price is unacceptable? Clearly such consultant fantasies are unlikely to be fulfilled because institutions are obliged for political reasons to reject any form of "metaphoric imperialism" -- whatever the longer-term costs in strategic ineptness.
The possibility of such constraints on the formulation and integration of coping strategies, whether for the individual or at the global level, raises a key question. Is the issue the dissemination of strategic repertories, or rather is it empowering the generation of strategic repertoires? De Bono is selling a single repertoire packaged in a metaphor. As with IBM, he is endeavouring to capture a market -- effectively disempowering higher order creativity, creating dependence and "locking" customers into a particular approach. He is not selling the capacity to generate such a package (the last module of which he chose to emphasize was written on a plane journey between London and Auckland). And the need is precisely to empower people and groups to generate such repertoires. This would enable them to act through their own insights according to those metaphors that they identify as enhancing their flexibility in coping with their environment, especially within their own sub-cultures.
Transcending metaphoric constraints means acquiring the ability to shift
or dance between metaphors that offer integrative strategic insights. It
is a case of being able to swing through metaphoric trees, rather than
being confined to the epistemological branches of one of them. Expressed
differently, although some consultants offer a strategic regime or diet,
de Bono offers a menu for his restaurant. But the issue for individuals
(or organizations) is to be empowered to design and cook whatever meal
corresponds to their needs and opportunities -- whether it is on a particular
menu or not.
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