Complex Equivalence

Complex Equivalence involves talking about two or more experiences as if they are the same, or 'equivalent'. Complex equivalences are distantly related to criterial equivalences, but are quite distinct from them. Criterial equivalences are established in the form of sensory based evidences for a particular value or criteria. They involve 'chunking down' to specific indicators of some value or core criterion. A complex equivalence is more of a 'definition' than an 'evidence procedure'. It tends to be more of a lateral chunking process. A complex equivalence for a particular value or criterion, for instance, may be in the form of some other generalization or nominalization.

In the statement, "He is in poor health, he must really hate himself," for example, the speaker is implying that "poor health" is in some way equivalent to "self hatred." These two experiences are somehow the "same thing" in the speaker's map of the world (although they may have no connection at all in reality). Some other examples of'complex equivalences' would be statements such as, "Thinking or acting outside of the social norms means that you are mentally unstable;" "Safety means having the power to fight unfriendly forces;" "If you don't say much, then it must mean you don't have much to say."

Each statement establishes a kind of'equivalence' between two terms. Perhaps more accurately defined as "simplistic equivalence," the danger of such statements is that a complex relationship on a deep structure level is oversimplified at the level of surface structure. As Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."

Our 'interpretations' of events and experiences come from the establishment and application of clusters of complex equivalences. On the positive side, the connections established by some interpretations may help to either simplify or explicate complex relationships. On the problematic side, however, complex equivalences may distort or oversimplify systemic relationships. Patients (and the families of patients), for example, often interpret their symptoms in a very negative way, or in a way that continues to maintain the symptom.

From the perspective of Sleight of Mouth, the issue is not so much whether one has found the "correct" complex equivalence, but rather whether one is able to find interpretations which offer a new perspective, a wider map or a way of thinking which is different than the type of thinking which is creating the problem to begin with.

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