Last blog a little boy who was hungry was fed by his Mom, confirming his experience and enhancing his I-M. But what happens if a child goes to a parent and says “I’m hungry”, and the parent says, “No you’re not.”  Now development takes a different track.  The child begins to think, “I’m not? Then what is this?  I thought I was hungry, but my Mom is saying I’m not hungry?  What’s going on?”      

In this example the biological experience of hunger has been correctly identified by the child, confirmed by his Ic domain, but now invalidated by his mother in the home environment.  What is his Ic meant to do?

There is an enormous impact between the home environment and the Ic domain.   His parent has just denied he is hungry.  If the boy thought it was hunger he was feeling, but his parent says it isn’t, and his parent sees him differently than he perceives himself, then his Ic domain moves his I-M from one of certainty and validation, to one of uncertainty and invalidation.  And further, if the boy convinces himself that he has, indeed, correctly interpreted his hunger, then why isn’t his parent feeding him?  Do they see him as not worthy of being fed, of not being valuable?  “And if I am not valuable, then will no one respect me?” he may wonder to himself.  And then he may wonder, “Who can I trust?” Respect leads to value and value leads to trust.  Being respected and valued are inseparable functions of each other. Being devalued makes one feel disrespected and makes it difficult to trust. When we deny the validity of someone’s I-M they may feel diminished. In the case of the hungry little boy, his home domain has become one where he sees himself as viewed in a way that diminished his Ic domain.  

While one instance of such dismissal is unlikely to have long-term repercussions, the pattern of dismissal can certainly result in complications.  As this boy enters the social environment of school, work, and play, he may bring a very different way of attaching to others, if he trusts to attach at all.  For this boy will be uncertain as to how others perceive him, and be unsure if they truly understand and value him for who he is:  hungry to be valued, but unsure if he is worthy.

This is the dark side of the Ic domain and Theory of Mind.  Human beings are indeed inherently empathic, able to appreciate the point of view, feelings, and thoughts, of another person.  And we are especially interested in what that person is thinking about us.  When we see it as positive, we begin to develop a positive self-image.  But when it is negative several other things may occur.

First, we may begin to believe what other people think about us, and apply it to our self-concept.  If seen as inadequate, we may begin to feel inadequate.  If seen as unlovable, we may begin to feel unlovable.  If seen as a bad person we may begin to feel like a bad person. 

When this pattern of being seen as inadequate is relentless we may then begin to arrest our own Ic domain.  We may begin to stop using our own Theory of Mind.  Why should we care or be interested in what someone else is thinking or feeling, or thinking or feeling about us, when it is always malevolent?  Why should we want to know what someone else is thinking?  I suspect that this is happening in many individuals right now. 

In our country it seems that more people are angry, scared, blame others for their stress, and are proclaiming that the other is less-than, wrong, and should be doing better.  If you are not with me then you are against me.  If you don’t take my point of view then I am not interested in yours.  With each step we take, marching into our separate camps, we further invalidate the Ic of that other person. We dismiss their hunger, their fear, their perspective.  We miss an opportunity to talk with each other, choosing instead to shout at each other, perpetuating a conflict that may be much easier to resolve than we recognize. We retreat into the safety of those who agree with our point of view, forming larger and larger groups.  And each of these groups has an I-M.

Trumping Fear

The I-M Approach is not just about an individual.

Systems also have an I-M. 

The USA is our Home domain, the social domain is how we interact with the rest of the global community. The United States has an Ic domain: we see ourselves a certain way and are seen by other countries a certain way.  This seems to have changed dramatically since November 8th, 2016.  And the Biological domain are all our resources, the people, and each of them has an I-M.

The recent election has exposed the anger, fear, sadness, and stress in our amazing USA.  Even this is an I-M.  It is the best our country can do right now.  But we don’t have to like it, we don’t have to condone it.  An I-M is not a free ride: just because it’s an I-M doesn’t mean we are not going to be held responsible for it.  But rather than judge it, which will only lead to more fear of being devalued, let’s try to look at it again, to understand it, to explore the influences of the four domains on who we are, how we got here, and where we are going.  We are one country in one world of one group: humanity.  We can remind each other of our value, or just as easily devalue.  You get to choose.  You get to decide.  We all do, and each decision will be an I-M: our current maximum potential with the potential to change in the very next second to another I-M.

It’s an I-M thing.

Joseph Shrand The I-M Approach
Source: Joseph Shrand The I-M Approach


Shrand, J. with Devine, L. (2013) Outsmarting Anger. Josey-Bass Press

Shrand, J. with Devine, L. (2014) The Fear Reflex. Hazelden Press.

Shrand, J. with Devine, L. (2015) Do You Really Get Me? Hazelden Press.

About the Author

Joe Shrand, M.D.

Joe Shrand, M.D., is an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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