Rita: Lucas, can you please define the Social Panorama model in three words?
Lucas: For me it means: Representing Social Relationships.
Rita: the Social Panorama model is still an unknown concept for many people. What is it about? Can you describe it in a larger perspective?
Lucas: When you love a person, you are aware of your feelings most. However, the visual imagery you use to “love” has particular qualities: You must represent that loved person in a LOVE- LOCATION in your mental space. That means that you put the image of that loved person – in an unconscious right hemisphere manner –
probably quite close to you. The social panorama is the invention that we create a landscape of images of people around us. Where these people are located in that panorama governs the emotional quality of the relationship.
With the help of this invention a coach or therapist can analyze and improve the social life of a client.
Rita: When, how and why is this idea born?
Lucas: I was originally educated as a social psychologist. When I became involved with NLP from 1977 onwards, I wondered whether this could be a way to work with human social relationships. In 1994 I recognized that the “submodality” location was crucial in social experience. Then the Social Panorama was born. After several years of fierce experimentation it became more structured. In 2002 it reached its present form, although it continuously has been developed since then.
Rita: Is there a connection with the so called “family constellations” from Hellinger?
Lucas: Luckily, I found out about family constellations several years after the core of the social panorama. I saw that it made use of the same spatial principles. But for family constellators the spatial aspect was not so much in the foreground: they tend to use other explanatory models, like the system, systems soul or the field. Their reference is the constellation, and not the spatial social imagery in the mind of the client.
Family constellation people say: ‘Ah… the social panorama is about constellations in the mind”. My answer to that is: “No, a constellation is making someone’s social panorama visible with representatives as the symbols for the elements”.
There are people who can combine the strength of both models and others who get stuck with the different background philosophies. Some people love to play with constellations and the collective spiritual experiences that occur that way. Others see the limitations of that model and prefer the more pragmatic approach of the social panorama. The confrontation between these two models was very inspiring to me.
Rita: Is the Social Panorama model either empiric or spiritual?
Lucas: The Social Panorama is a psychological phenomenon: it is how people create their model of the social world. Part of that social world is the spiritual panorama, that deals with Gods, spirits and the dead.
The research within the social panorama is partly empirical. However, for many scientists and psychologists it is far beyond their comprehension.
Rita: What about science and Social Panorama?
Lucas: I have always considered myself a scientist: I am very positive about the Social Panorama. In cognitive psychology, there is an area called ‘spatial cognition’. These scientists are on the verge of discovering many things that are included in the social panorama. For them it will currently be “proto-science”, that is where new hypotheses are formulated that do not fit in the present paradigms.
For a scientist it is not very peculiar to operate in “proto-science” because your colleagues tend to be afraid of you: proto-science creates uncertainty.
Rita: How can we use the Social Panorama model in our daily life?
Lucas: The range of applications of the social panorama is as wide as people have social relationships. Thus, where people live and work together they create their own social landscapes. Furthermore, they may have all kinds of issues with other people, like jealousy, conflictuous or unanswered love, mistrust in business, power struggles, etc. For a person educated in the social panorama, it opens the possibility to change his or her social panorama intentionally, which may mean that their life will be free of certain tensions and conflicts with others.
Rita: What changes will we experience in our lives using Social Panorama? Is it possible to recreate our own world?
Lucas: The Social Panorama is not only about others, but also about ourselves. Part of the work is directed at improving our unconscious self-representations. Thus we may improve of how we look at ourselves. Working with self-images is often very critical for people.
But indeed, we can use the Social Panorama in a broader sense. Our place in society results largely from how we create our own position amongst others. The whole of this landscape can be improved significantly, which of course can make a tremendous difference for a person.
Rita: Can we suggest that the mental location is the key for each successful relation in our life?
Lucas: During the last couple of years I am working on a broader concept around the same phenomenon, called Mental Space Psychology. This starts with the recognition that the spatial structure is not only based in our social model of the world, but is the core of everything we think. This idea is supported by researchers like Barbara Tversky, who already explores spatial cognition since 1991.
Before an embryo uses language, it uses space to organize its knowledge. On top of that, in the next development phase, comes the linguistic structure. However, much information in the brain remains spatial and will remain unspoken of, and it is probably largely processed in the right hemisphere of the brain in the background of our consciousness.
Thus when we see the importance of location in this general way, as it is WHERE we think many thoughts that makes or breaks our happiness.
Rita: Are you saying that we are living in a world that is not real, and that this world is a reality in our mind and that is why this world is easily changeable?
Lucas: Exactly. That is what the main idea of Korszybski was. It is also the base of NLP and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. We create a model of the world, that is only what we know. We are the prisoners of the prison that we have created ourselves. When we think that we know our partner… wait until she or he betrays us with someone else!
That can show how little we know. We love and marry our own mental model of our partner, not a real human being.
Rita: At what age can the Social Panorama model be used?
Lucas: It depends on the communicative skills of the therapist. Probably small children already have spatial concepts of their relationships, with which the therapist can work. If you know how to make good contact with a child, you can work with these images at the age of about 3 years and up.
Rita: Who can work successfully with this model?
Lucas: Master practitioners in NLP are suited best for this work. People with only a constellation background are often too compulsory, because they tend to do the work for the client. NLP therapists are lazy enough to let the client do the work. That works best.
Rita: Is there a risk in working with this model?
When you let the client find his or her own solutions, there is actually nothing that can go seriously wrong. Of course you always need to test the ecology very thoroughly, as the changes may have huge implications for peoples lives.
Rita: What is the position of Social Panorama regarding to NLP?
Lucas: For me, the social panorama is a NLP-tool for working with social issues. It expands what the existing NLP can do here; but the social panorama makes use of the same presuppositions and many techniques have NLP-techniques as their roots.
Rita: Are this methods comprehensive or can they be used separately?
For many NLP-practitioners and master practitioners the social panorama offers additional possibilities. Some say that they apply it with more than half of their clients.
Rita: Can Social Panorama personifications help to create a general common identity in today’s world with so many conflicts between countries and their populations?
Lucas. Absolutely. But as most people in charge like to speak rather than listening, they tend to be excluded by themselves from useful knowledge like this. Politicians could do a lot of great work when they would realize how they and others create the social world. Good mediators and peacemakers use similar ideas. Peaceful ideologies like Buddhism have many concepts in common with the social panorama model.
Rita: My final question: is there enough space for development of Mental Space Psychology and Social Panorama?
Lucas: The Social Panorama will eventually find its place within social spatial cognition. It will mean a total paradigm shift when Mental Space Psychology becomes recognized in the academic world. I am working on a PhD to help make that happen. But things tend to go slowly, although the whole idea of embodied cognitions, that is becoming dominant at the moment, fits with Mental Space Psychology. That is logical, since where that came from (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) was one of my mayor sources.
Thus in my fantasy, academic psychology will meet NLP over the sub-modality of location. Before that, the social panorama will be used on all continents. I hope that in due time there will be Social Panorama centers all over the globe, like PNL-Portugal.