My belief is not reality. My constructed contractor Pete is not the real contractor Pete. Seems very straightforward and even obvious. The challenge emerges when trying to apply this to practice. To begin thinking liminally, if I understand Gray correctly, is to understand how my belief about contractor Pete is formed. To help understand this process Gray introduces the Pyramid of Belief (based on the Ladder of Inference) in which Reality forms the base and The Obvious sits on top.
Reality: As mentioned in Is Contractor Pete Really an Assshole?, it begins with acknowledging reality as unknowable. It is not possible to know everything about everything. I can’t know the contractor Pete that exists in reality because I can’t know everything he does and thinks.
Experiences: My experiences of reality through my senses form the basis of my beliefs. This includes everything I perceive from reality whether I can recall it or not. How I perceived contractor Pete through my senses generates my experiences of him including the things I noticed and the things I didn’t.
Attention: Because our experiences of reality are so vast, our brains need a means of prioritizing the information we encounter. This means we pay attention to some pieces of information and disregard others. When I’m craving a salty snack my attention is drawn towards the Old Dutch chips rather than the M&Ms, pasta, or canned beans in the pantry. When I first encountered contractor Pete to do the installation in the kitchen I noticed his walk, his dress, the way he talked, the way he treated his assistant, the way he treated his tools, and the way he treated the materials he was installing.
Theories and Judgments: Based on what I noticed about contractor Pete, I began to form theories about what to expect. Can I expect a quality installation based on how he treats the materials and his tools? What can I expect from him if I have a problem in the future, based on how he treats his assistant and how he chooses to answer my questions?
Beliefs: Experiences, attention, theories and judgements are ways to make reality manageable by molding it into beliefs I use to navigate its complexity. My belief that contractor Pete is an unprofessional asshole allows me to simplify our interaction. It also simplifies what I can expect from him in the future making it easier for me to ‘never use his business again”. “Beliefs are the foundational model that you use to navigate the world” (p.18, Liminal Thinking)
The Obvious: My pyramid shapes the contours of my ‘obvious’ otherwise known as my version of reality. “Learning how to navigate this ‘below the obvious’ construction zone is one of the core skills of liminal thinking” (p.19, Liminal Thinking)
You’ll notice I did not go into a tediously biased narrative about what contractor Pete did to earn his moniker (unprofessional asshole). This was intentional. My goal is not to have you simply agree or disagree with my obvious. Instead my goal is to think liminally about what happened so I don’t have a repeated experience with another ‘contractor Pete’ in the future.
“Liminal thinking requires you to become more conscious of that invisible belief construction process, in yourself and others” (p.19, Liminal Thinking)
Liminial Thinking Principle 2: “Beliefs are created. Beliefs are constructed hierarchically, using theories and judgements, which are based on selected facts and personal, subjective experience ” (p.21, Liminal Thinking)