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The Iceberg Effect

A brief introduction to Logical Levels

Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg shows in fiction: your reader will see only what is above the water, but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg and that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.

But we are not going to talk about writing today...

Today we're going to talk about another kind of #icebergeffect or #icebergtheory.

Freud used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the three levels of the mind.

Freud described the conscious mind, which consists of all the mental processes of which we are aware, as the tip of the iceberg. For example, you may be feeling thirsty at this moment and decide to get a drink.

The preconscious then contains thoughts and feelings that a person is not currently aware of, but which can easily be brought to consciousness; it exists just below the level of consciousness, before the unconscious mind; the preconscious is like a mental waiting room, in which thoughts remain until they "succeed in attracting the eye of the conscious" (Freud, 1924, p. 306). For example, you are presently not thinking about your mobile telephone number, but now it is mentioned you can recall it with ease. Mild emotional experiences may be in the preconscious, but sometimes traumatic and powerful negative emotions are repressed and hence not available in the preconscious.

Finally, the unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgments, feelings, or behavior. According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see. Our feelings, motives and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and stored in the unconscious.

Freud applied these three systems to his structure of the personality, or psyche: the Id, Ego and Superego.

Similarly, in coaching we sometimes use the iceberg metaphore to explain the "logical levels model", also known as "Dilts' neuro-logical levels of change", developed in the 1970's by international expert in leadership and change management Robert Dilts and based on the work of scientist and philosopher Gregory Bateson.

The logical levels are a helpful pyramidal structure for looking at what’s happening in any individual, group or organisation.

They define six levels of thinking or situation - environment, behaviour, capability or competence, beliefs, values, identity and spirituality or purpose - and are usually visualised as a hierarchy. The basic idea behind the logical levels is that each level directly affects those lower in the hierarchy. A lower level may, but will not necessarily, change those above.

So, seeing our iceberg as an upside down pyramid, we will find environment and behaviour on the tip of it, capability or competence at the surface and belifs, values, identity and spirituality or purpose below the surface.

You can tell on what level someone is operating by the language they use to discuss a problem or situation. A coach can help their coachee to change the level on which they are operating by changing the language to another level. This will change the problem and bring a new perspective.

This makes them easy to use on a day-to-day basis, to change the way you think and, perhaps, the way you feel about something.

As always, if you change the way you think or talk you can change the way you feel and, ultimately, you can change the perception of the world around you.


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