Opportunities, prospects, broad horizons! Motivational speakers claim that all this is literally following us around, chasing us at every step. Just reach out—and life will change for the better. Then why do we fail to notice these hidden reserves so often? Are we able to go beyond our beliefs and look at others (easy to do), the situation (more difficult), and ourselves (quite difficult) from the outside? How can we develop flexible thinking to learn how to extend the boundaries of visible scope of opportunities?
What is liminal or “borderline” thinking?
The word “liminal” (Latin “limen”—”threshold”) means “to be on the borderline” of two parts, two entities, while not being part of either the first or the second. Liminal thinking is always based on opportunities, and there is a threshold before them that must be overcome. Most people are fixed on other things because of their life circumstances and tend to ignore the opportunities around them. And it is liminal thinking that helps you see potential for growth where others will only notice obstacles.
Liminal thinking—the art of creating change by recognizing, reshaping, and rethinking beliefs
To understand what we are talking about, it is worth looking at pre-established borderline roles—there are plenty of them in our lives. For example, a coach of a junior football team who is both part of it and not. Or a personal psychologist who gets into your mind, but is not someone close to you. They have one thing in common: their borderline role is directly related to liminal thinking. In other words, with opportunities for growth and development.
Principles of liminal thinking
Principle 1. Beliefs—models of reality
One blind person will touch the side of an elephant and say that the elephant is like a wall; another will touch the head and imagine a teapot, but none of the characteristics will be fully correct. Each of the blind men has limited information and can’t see the whole picture, although perhaps if they talked to each other, they could make a more complete portrait of the elephant.
It is the same in real life: the beliefs we follow create a picture of the world for us, but this does not mean that it is absolutely correct. Liminal thinking is the ability to see a great many obvious facts and agree that their evidence depends on personal experience, worldview, and opinion.
Principle 2. We create our own beliefs
We all have our own belief pyramid, which grows slowly but surely throughout our lives. The pyramid is based on experience, which is formed through attention. Attention allows us to get carried away with one side of life, but not notice the other. When we unwittingly master only one part of objective reality, we form a hypothesis, then a judgment, and then a belief.
This is how we narrow reality down to a convenient scale, and there is nothing wrong with this: everyone needs a simplified format of objective reality, otherwise we will be surprised at any event.
Principle 3. We create the world based on our beliefs
Beliefs form a model of the world that we begin to adhere to. We act on the basis of beliefs when we find ourselves in a familiar or near-familiar environment: we “pull” a suitable behavior model from our set and use it. However, sometimes, for example, when we are collaborating, our beliefs collide with others, often provoking conflict, and we need to learn to live with this.
Our beliefs and those of others are the modelling clay, from which we shape a shared world, correct it depending on the situation, requests and the desired result.
Principle 4. Beliefs create “blind spots”
Beliefs help us structure and organize our lives, but they also have a negative side—invisible zones that are created when we are afraid to go beyond the usual.
Blind spots are artificial barriers that make our lives safer, but they also make us miss opportunities for a better and more interesting life.
Principle 5. Beliefs protect themselves
We unwittingly and unconsciously protect what we believe in, even if some doubts creep in. Sometimes this idea works for an entire group of people (hello, collective consciousness!), so beliefs are supported and strengthened. Like-minded people give confidence.
Liminal thinking allows you to be open to new, even absurd and crazy information, because there is always a chance that this is exactly what you need.
Principle 6. Beliefs are related to the individual
There are guiding beliefs and superficial beliefs. The former are directly related to self-esteem and sense of self-importance, and rooted somewhere deep in the foundation of the individual. They determine how we will build relationships with the world and people around us. Put your guiding belief in question, and you will radically change your personality. A superficial belief is more flexible and does not significantly affect the person as a whole.
If you are facing a fundamental problem, then the deeper you dig inside yourself, the more promising and large-scale changes you may expect.