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Race and Ethnicity

Mattering and Morphing

The hidden influences on your thoughts and feelings revealed.

In today’s blog, I want to extend and elaborate upon a model that I introduced in an earlier blog and which you can revisit (June 14, 2015), namely the model of the Mattering Map. The Mattering Map is a simple, yet revolutionary, way to think about psychology and psychotherapy in context. Contextual approaches, such as mine, open the field of vision for the therapist and the client to include the many and real influences on emotions, thoughts and behavior, serving as an antidote and a replacement for the narrow focus of the Cyclopean, or one-eyed therapies that narrow the focus of human experience. For example, classical behaviorism does this very narrowing and flattening of the field, as does the psychiatric predilection to reduce human pain to illnesses that can be medicated away (or at least controlled by the right combination of chemicals).

By introducing the Mattering Map, I am also moving past the important, but incomplete, notion of inter-sectionality, which allows for some contextual variables, most importantly gender, ethnicity and class, but at the very same time flattens their myriad of influences to a two dimensional and occasional meeting at the intersections.

I propose instead that we open our eyes to the many influences on human psychology and notice how they morph and change at various speeds at various times. You can practice this yourself by noticing or maintaining mindfulness in various situations, including that of the psychotherapy office. Also notice in psychotherapy, or any other situation, how frequently your own Mattering Map shifts and morphs multi-dimensionally.

As my second introduction to this model, I will provide here the list of contextual influences that my students and I have developed. They include the following and they are always open-ended, as some of you may think of important areas of influence that we did not. No one pair of eyes can see everything, so I invite additions.

The Mattering Map

  1. Gender
  2. Race
  3. Ethnicity
  4. Culture, Language
  5. Class
  6. Ecology
  7. Physical Health, Biology, Neurology
  8. Family
  9. Interpersonal other than family (e.g., peers, friends, teachers)
  10. Religion, spirituality
  11. Written and Electronic Media. Level of literacy
  12. Other Institutions, e.g., school, work
  13. Age, Life cycle
  14. Political Beliefs
  15. Group Memberships
  16. Sexual Orientation
  17. Substance-Use and Abuse
  18. Violence
  19. Power
  20. Experience with other cultural contexts such as travel
  21. Other

Using the Mattering Map is a practice and, therefore, must be practiced. To become familiar with the areas of influence, you can practice it regularly as part of psychotherapy or you can just pause once in a while and bring out the list to see how many of the areas apply to what you are thinking, feeling or doing at that very moment. It can also be used as an outline for journaling, but should be practiced frequently to become what I might call “second nature.” Right now, most of us do not think of mattering as a morphing, changing and ongoing multi-dimensional process I would be pleased to hear the experiences of those of you who decide to undertake this practice. It will open your eyes, ears and other senses. It will open your mind.


[1] Kaschak, E. (2013) The Mattering Map: Confluence and Influence, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37:4.

[2] Edelman, G.M. and Tononi, G., (2000) A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, Basic Books: New York.

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