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Metaphoric Entrapment

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Annex 1 of Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement (2002)

Metaphoric Entrapment (Annex 1)
** Possibilities of entrapment
** Detachment from embodiment within traps
Clues to Movement and Attitude Control (Annex 2)
Combining Clues to Movement and Attitude Control (Annex 3)
Clues to 'Ascent' and 'Escape' (Annex 4)
Combining Clues to 'Ascent' and 'Escape' (Annex 5)

Possibilities of entrapment

It may first be useful to distinguish the following situations in which metaphoric entrapment occurs:

Entrapping others: In this mode, individuals or groups, whether intentionally or inadvertently, set up a dynamic that entraps others within a particular metaphoric framework. This is most clearly seen in modern advertising campaigns, whether for commercial, political, or other purposes. It might be considered an important skill of leaders and intimately related to any charisma they may possess -- notably in the case of leaders of religious movements, and especially cults. In all these forms, the process may be described as "manipulative" -- as exemplified by the current visibility of political "spin-doctors". In interpersonal situations, it may be described as "doing a number" on someone, or using "a line". Much sales training is concerned with developing this facility. But any effort to "market" a perspective, including that of a particular academic school of thought, is a variant of this form -- including many aspects of courtship processes. Consultants may be considered successful to the extent that they can entrain clients into use of their favourite model. Of course there is also the form of entrapment associated over the centuries with witchcraft and sorcery, if only in folk tales. In this case it is named as spell-casting, and it continues to be practiced both within groups in western society as well as in traditional societies. But storytelling and spinning tales are also appreciated for the pleasures, insights and nourishment they bring.

Entrapping oneself: In this mode, a person cultivates a pattern of belief or enthusiasm by which he or she effectively become entrapped. Unlike the previous case, it is not necessary that the person become subject to some pattern deployed by others. Rather, through their own life experience and proclivities, a belief pattern takes form and acquires increasing coherence. In its pathological forms this would be labelled as delusion, and can acquire cumulative power so that the person is "sucked into" it, as with a whirlpool or blackhole. However, the process of developing a romantic attachment, or falling in love, might also be seen in this light. But so would the inordinate desire for a particular experience -- an addictive habit. Clearly entrapping oneself can be facilitated by interaction with others in which case the entrapment process is reinforced by such interaction -- possibly through a form of co-dependency.

Being entrapped by others: This is the counterpart to the first form, and some measure of the second. In this case one is subject to an entrapment process, or "buys into it" in some way. At a material level, this is perhaps most clearly seen in the case of a design produced by others that one finds pleasing or appropriate, or at least tolerable. In contemporary society product branding ensures that consumers are entrapped with little freedom to escape -- as in the environments created by restaurant and hotel chains. People are conditioned to accept the aesthetics of such designs. Expressed in the language of folk tales, one becomes entranced through appropriate enchantment. Legitimacy is occasionally given to it by mainstream preoccupation with "de-programming", or even "exorcism". Again, however, the courtship response to a suitor may be seen in this light.

Developing a framework: Without seeking to question the merits of the previous forms, there is a sense in which each of them depends on a measure of lack of awareness, whether on the part of the entrapper or the entrapped. In this form, however, although a kind entrapment takes place, it is consciously accepted as a necessary behavioural constraint -- a platform or base from which other concerns can be explored. This is most clearly seen in the construction of a shelter, a house, or a base camp. It is necessary for protection against the 'elements', or possibly against theft or attack. One may have privileged access to it, in the form of a key, a password, or qualifications. But inhabiting it is a form of entrapment by choice. Another example is a monastic rule that provides a discipline within which people choose to function, and which may be the basis for the construction of a closed monastery within which people live out their lives -- although for particular individuals this example may be tainted by the previous forms. In this form the "entrapped" have the key to the framework by which they are entrapped. They are not imprisoned or incarcerated by it. It has been consciously chosen. At best this is the nature of an explanatory model. However, the owners or inhabitants may develop a degree of attachment to the model such that they effectively lose the key, or the ability to use it. They are then unable to leave the framework and reframe themselves, notably into the second form.

Detachment from embodiment within traps

The previous section endeavoured to show the ambiguity of entrapment in practice. People may indeed be entrapped in a manner that can only be described as incarceration, even though they may not be aware of it. But, as with story telling, the entrapment may be a gentle, instructive form of enchantment. Or it may imply all the learnings of romantic attachment, or embodiment of a profoundly held belief. And it may be a provisional model of reality, a stepping stone to further understanding.

In this light, "freedom" from any form of entrapment could easily be understood as simply another form of entrapment -- an entrapment in trap avoidance. A subtler form of freedom would be the freedom to choose to be entrapped, knowing that one could escape from the trap at any time. This implies an attitude that resonates with the Buddhist understanding of detachment. Such detachment is tolerant of being entrapped for a while -- until it is time to move on. This offers the larger freedom of entering into the experiences associated with different traps, experiencing them from within.

There is therefore a sense in which reality can only be experienced through embodiment in the framework offered by a trap. However it is the attitude to such entrapment that is the key to being able to switch into experience through other frameworks -- through other traps. Each trap is effectively a kind of discipline. The attitude to that discipline determines whether it can be set aside to escape that trap. But such escape is seldom an escape into "traplessness", rather it is an escape into another form of entrapment. This is perhaps most charmingly illustrated by Konrad Lorentz's experiment with ducklings which, on escaping from their eggs, "imprinted" themselves on the first moving object they thereafter encountered -- namely his boots, subsequently followed as their mother. There are many situations, whether political, romantic, academic, or spiritual, where the escape from one trap into a larger reality is accompanied by some analogue of such imprinting. It throws a harsh light on "conversion" and other forms of 'breakthrough'.

The "meta-discipline" that governs the attitude, and the skill (required to set aside any discipline) has no name. Detachment is one of its qualities. It may perhaps be understood through metaphor. A good example might be a person's attitude to choice of clothing. Equipped with a varied wardrobe, a person may choose to wear one garment rather than another, to wear a particular combination of garments, or to change any one of them. In this sense each garment is a trap and wearing any combination is a form of entrapment that may be appropriate to the challenge of the environment or the occasion. The person has no need to feel entrapped in any permanent way, but a choice has to be made to wear some combination of garments -- or none at all. Of course, if the person has an absolutely minimal wardrobe, the choice is extremely limited and the lack of choice may be experienced as a much more permanent trap. But even with a more extensive wardrobe, the person may also get into the habit of wearing one combination of clothes and be unable to act otherwise -- as with grey-suited officials, and others working in uniform.

With respect to behavior and beliefs, people seldom have the same detachment that they do with respect to clothing. Some form of "uniform" is the rule -- as is evident in the enthusiasm of academics and consultants for particular models. Switching attitudes would appear to be a mark of inconsistency. It is very challenging for a scientist to switch between models -- despite the archetypal complementarity between the wave and particle theories of light. Some understanding of the skill is offered by the way in which people gifted in interpersonal relations adjust their behaviour when encountering others, notably parents or children. For then the dynamics required may in each case be understood as a trap -- possibly to be avoided on occasion.

One situation explored by a number of writers is however of relevance to comprehending the complexity of multiple realities. That is the problem of piloting or navigating a spacecraft through "hyperspace" or "sub-space", as imagined in the light of recent advances in theoretical physics and mathematics. Because of the inherent complexity of such environments, several writers have explored the possibility that pilots and navigators might choose appropriate metaphors through which to perceive and order their task in relation to that complexity - for example, flying like a bird, windsurfing, swimming like a fish, tunnelling like a mole, etc (see discussion below on animal movement). The mass of data input, otherwise completely unmanageable is then channelled to the pilot in the form of appropriate sensory inputs to the nerve synapses corresponding to his "wings" or his "fins". The perceptions through the chosen metaphor are assisted by artificial intelligence software. The pilot switches between metaphors according to the nature of the hyperspace terrain. It may prove to be the case that insights into the variety and combinations of such complex 'terrains' have been richly mapped by the Chinese classic, the I Ching [more]. Such speculations do at least stimulate imagination concerning a possible marriage between metaphor and artificial intelligence in relation to governance.

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