Integrative Theory: A Plurality of Perspective
In 1977 American philosopher Ken Wilber came up with the integrated theory framework to understand the complex experiences an individual encounters when perceiving reality:
Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”1 – Ken Wilber[i]
According to this approach, everything can be understood from two fundamental distinctions: 1) an inside and an outside perspective and 2) from a singular and plural perspective. These primary perspectives represent aspects of the world that are always present in each moment. For example, all individuals have subjective experiences and intentionality, or interiors, as well as various observable behaviours and physiological components, or exteriors.
Similarly to aboriginal health belief systems, individuals are never considered alone but as members of groups or collectives, which establish social and cultural components that a person usually integrates. As Sean Esbjörn-Hargens explains:
“For example, what’s more important in human behaviour? The psychology of the mind (upper left), or the cultural conditioning of the individual (lower left)? Integral Theory answers, again: BOTH. What is more critical in social development? The habits, customs, and norms of a culture (lower left), or the products it produces (like gun and steel – lower right). Integral Theory answers: BOTH. The more we can consciously include the 4 quadrants in our perspective, the more whole, balanced, healthy, comprehensive, and effective our actions will be.”[ii]
These dimensions of reality are represented in a quadrant matrix that is often referred to as the AQAL model. This model embraces the complexity of reality by considering each quadrant as simultaneously arising and equality important.
Figure 1 The Integral (AQAL) Model
A specific analytical tool from this theory, the quadrivia approach, can be used to understand sensory experiences from a plurality of perspectives. The term “quadrivia” refers to four ways of seeing (quadrivium is singular) comes into play in a sensory experience.
Figure 2 Quadrivia Model
With this approach, sensory experiences can be discerned in a more nuanced way by encompassing a broad array of sensory health aspects. These include exploring the emotions, self-identities, and beliefs of the individual, the family and the community through psychological and experiential inquiry; exploring the empirical, chemical, and biological factors contributing to the sensory overload through behavioural and physiological analysis; exploring the philosophical, ethical, and religious viewpoints of the community around the child through cultural and worldview investigations; and exploring the environmental, political, educational, legal, and economic factors of the situation through ecological and social assessments. It becomes possible to distinguish between subjective and “objectives” sensorial experiences and to potentially comprehend at which point in the sensorial experience a child’s subjective experience trumps the objective rules of his/her culture and social groups.
Through out this chapter, the AQAL model will be used to examine these questions. First, let’s articulate what a sensory health framework should aim to accomplish for a highly sensitive child.
[ii] Esbjorn-Hargens, Sean (2009). “An All-Inclusive Framework for the 21st Century. An Overview of Integral Theory”. Integral Post. Integral life. March 12th, 2009. https://www.integrallife.com/integral-post/overview-integral-theory