Human Dynamics offers a new paradigm for understanding both individual and collective human functioning. It involves identifying fundamental distinctions in the way people function as whole systems - distinctions in how people innately process information, learn, communicate, problem-solve, contribute to teams, become stressed, maintain health, and advance along their path of development.
Human Dynamics findings are the result of an ongoing investigation launched in 1979 that has so far involved more than 40,000 people from over 25 cultures. We've focused on exploring how three universal principles - the mental, the emotional or relational, and the physical or practical - combine in a dynamic interplay to form each person's distinct way of functioning, which we term "personality dynamics."
We have found that some people function as "mentally centered" systems, some are "emotionally centered," and others are "physically centered." There are three variations on each of these major themes, making nine personality dynamics in all, which we term "mental-mental," "mental-emotional," and "mental-physical," "emotional-mental," "emotional-emotional". . .and so on.
Of these nine possible combinations, we have found that five predominate in Western cultures, and two of these five predominate in the Far East.
These are the five major groups, with the proportions that we have found to be consistent in Western cultures:
Mentally Centered 5%
We have found that these distinct systems of functioning are not determined by culture, race, age, or gender. We observe that they exist globally; they characterize males and females equally; and we can identify them at every age level - even in infancy!
Tracking babies on videotape from 2 1/2 weeks of age for more than 12 years, and we've seen in each case that the personality dynamic that we identified at the beginning constituted a fundamental system of functioning that remained consistent over time.
These are discoveries of the utmost significance for parents and educators, since invaluable information can be gleaned almost from the beginning of life regarding the specific educational and developmental needs of any child and the specific approaches that will best foster learning and development.
Human Dynamics is a developmental system. Each of the five personality dynamics has a unique path of development. Therefore, we can prescribe tools and practices to assist adults and children in their personal growth.
A further distinctive feature of the Human Dynamics approach is that it isn't necessary to administer a test to identify someone's personality dynamic. In our training programs, people identify their own personality dynamic through a process of self-discovery, and they learn to recognize the personality dynamics of others through training in sensitive observation and participation, not through tests.
It's also important to note that each personality dynamic is of equal value. No way of being is "better" than another. Anyone of any personality dynamic may be more or less intelligent, compassionate, skilled, or gifted. It's the way in which each personality dynamic functions that's entirely distinct.
Indeed, not only is no personality dynamic "better" than another, but each can be said to "need" the others. Each offers gifts and processes that complement the others, bringing an important set of perceptions, ways of thinking and functioning, and natural capabilities that are of value to the whole.
Implications for Learning
To show how Human Dynamics and understandings can be applied to classroom situations, we've chosen to look at the physical-emotional learner.
In schools in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Israel where we've worked, we've found 50 to 60 percent of the children identified as having learning problems to be physical-emotional, though they represent only 5 to 10 percent of the population. Often they're labeled "slow learners." To date, we've found few of these children to be actually learning disabled.
Rather, the problem is that their natural process of learning has simply not been understood. (Similarly, we find a preponderance of students labeled A.D.D. to be emotional-subjective. Understanding this personality dynamic also permits us in many cases to abandon a label that implies dysfunction in favor of an approach that's based on understanding the natural attributes and processes of the emotional-subjective personality dynamic.)
Generally speaking, physical-emotional individuals need two crucial elements - physical involvement in the learning process and time for individual exploration, absorption, and digestion. To help the physical-emotional learner, educators need to present extremely clear instructions, preferably presented as a series of steps. These learners must understand the practical purpose and utility of the material and how they will be expected to use it.
If possible, educators should provide an initial learning experience that allows students to be immersed in a total informational and experiential learning environment, with time to move organically from item to item and opportunities for hands-on experiences.
For example, if the subject was Japan, a room could be set up with photographs of the Japanese environment, books on the Japanese culture and history, examples of Japanese art, audio tapes of Japanese music, and samples of traditional and modern artifacts of Japanese life. Origami, brushes and inks, bonsai trees, and other materials that can be handled could fill another corner of the room.
For physical-emotional learners, the process of assimilation seems to have a distinctively somatic element, as if the cells of the whole body are engaged in absorbing information.
Sometimes it appears that the interior processes of learning or problem-solving for a physical-emotional person take place independent of the individual's will or conscious effort. We've seen this phenomenon in some physical-emotional children with regard to learning to read. Janine, as related in the beginning of this article, was such a child. Clearly, an organic learning process had been taking place over time, but did not result in an expressed skill until suddenly everything seemed to "come together" when she hit age 10.
Sometimes physical-emotional children are interpreted as not learning because they appear to be "doing nothing." Often, we have found, much is happening internally. Many physical-emotional adults have described to us their experiences of this process and its misinterpretation by spouses, colleagues, and teachers. It's as if the body of the physically centered individual needs time to absorb, process, and digest - and then knows exactly what to do.
Time is the crucial factor for the physical-emotional learner. Educators must allow sufficient time for these students to collect, absorb, sort, and organize material. These students also need time to link old and new data into a new, whole system.
Educators must also allow time in the flow of a lesson for oral responses to be formulated and expressed. Too often, the process of physical-emotional individuals is interrupted by instructors or classmates who, unaware of the methodical internal process that is underway, don't wait long enough for an answer.
It's helpful for these learners to have advance notice of questions or assignments requiring considered responses so they can begin to prepare ahead of time. This group requires a pacing that encompasses their natural timing and a rhythm that provides space and silence.
Physical-emotional learners experience words as real things or real events and tend to be understood literally. Presentations need to be factual, well-organized, concrete, and detailed-with as little verbal redundancy or superfluous emotion as possible.
Real-life examples, visual illustrations, and practical demonstrations help these learners move from the concrete to the abstract. In addition, this group learns well from the written word, so (if the learner is able to read) clear printed materials and time for absorbing them should be provided.
Generally speaking, this group has a mechanical and technological aptitude. For most, computer-based learning will work well, if students are allowed to work at their own pace.
Educators can take advantage of another typical attribute of the physical-emotional - their appreciation of nature and its processes and their view of themselves as part of the greater, natural whole.
Because physical-emotional people experience themselves as organically connected to whatever they're engaged in, change can be difficult for them. This is especially true for children. It's better for physical-emotional students to be allowed to complete a few tasks than to be required to move quickly from one activity to another. This accommodates their natural rhythm and allows the learning cycle to be completed.
Contributing to both their strengths and difficulties in school, the physical-emotional group seem to be both blessed and burdened with the special gift of spatial intelligence, including a capacity to see three-dimensionally. While this gift is not exclusive to physical-emotional people, in our experience it seems to be a common characteristic of this group as a whole.
As with many special or unusual skills, the gift of three-dimensional perception is not always an advantage. For example, when some physical-emotional children are first shown a two-dimensional letter of the alphabet on the chalkboard, they often perceive the written letter from a three-dimensional perspective.
As a result, they can confuse letters of a similar configuration, but different spatial orientation, such as b, d, p and q. This confusion can contribute to problems in learning to read and write. Gaining a kinesthetic experience of three-dimensional letters and numbers can be helpful.
Physical-emotional people have a natural identification with the collective - with the group or team. Their primary identity is usually as a group member. Parents and teachers can facilitate the child's process of self-awareness and individuation by helping bring to light the link between what the child has done or produced and who the child is.
For example, such observations as: "You are clearly a methodical worker," "You seem very interested in collecting lots of information," and "You really pay attention to details" can be helpful. Parents and teachers need to encourage the child's use of "I" and "my" to balance the identification with the group.
If they are provided with an appropriate learning environment and a teaching approach that matches their gifts and learning process, physical-emotional children can thrive and succeed as well as any others. Indeed, unlike some other learners, whatever they absorb is likely to be retained forever.
The End Result
As our work becomes more broadly disseminated, we hope the learning environment for these children in Western cultures will improve, and the numbers of students inappropriately evaluated and labeled will decrease.
One of the most sadly neglected aspects of the curriculum is probably the most important of all - a student's sense of self. Students customarily leave school with a certain amount of academic information but lack the kind of understanding of themselves and others that can truly be life-enhancing.
Our deepest aspiration is to enable students to have a language for themselves. Teachers who have been trained can help children of any age level to know and articulate their own learning processes, to know their own needs for maintaining health and balance, to be able to perceive others with more understanding and less judgment, to have information that would help them to create more successful relationships and foster their own development.
Education that includes these elements constitutes true empowerment, with applications in every area of an individual's life.
In short, our purpose is to offer a basic tool not only to enable teachers and students to be more successful in terms of teaching and learning, but also for the development of more conscious, loving, and cooperative generations across all cultures.