Complacency and The Wayward Mind

Complacency and The Wayward Mind

imageThe issue of complacency is a preoccupation of the risk and safety industry yet one can find little research in the sector beyond the excessive use of the label.

It seems once we have declared something as ‘complacency’ we somehow know what has occurred. Usually complacency is interpreted as laziness, inattention or negligence:

(;;; ).

Amazing that Safety loves to talk so much about complacency but doesn’t know what it is. It has nothing to due with laziness, inattention or negligence.

It’s so entertaining observing these organisations guaranteeing to reduce complacency and never defining what it is. A great way to make dollars out of dumb-down safety. No wonder nothing changes.

Unfortunately, the behaviourist-cognitvist focus of the risk and safety industry means that it knows so little about The Wayward Mind. The Wayward Mind is of course another name for lucid dreaming or semi-unconsciousness and such a state has nothing to do with the pejorative attributions the risk and safety industry gives to it. It’s a bit like the generic expression of ‘human error’ that offers so little definition to what is means beyond Reason’s binary behaviourist attributions ( ).

In my training on Risk Intelligence ( I often ask participants if they have ever had the following experience and every hand goes up. Here is the scenario:

You have a busy day approaching and so don’t want a late night. You have been at a friend’s house and you haven’t been drinking. You decided to go home early and you’re not tired. So you set out for your 40 minute trip across the city. When you pull up in the driveway and turn off the key your realize – I don’t remember one part of the trip I just did!

Everyone in the room identifies with the scenario and so I ask. Were you negligent, inattentive or lazy? Of course, this is a silly question, lucid dreaming and semi-consciousness are foundational to fallible, mortal living. Wouldn’t you thin Safety would want to know more about it?

Just do a search for ‘safety and the unconscious’ and see what you find? Nothing except the top five hits from the this website. Have a look for The Wayward Mind and you will only find results in the educations sector and of Claxton’s wonderful book of the same name. I’m sure school educators would also like to know what The Wayward Mind is. It is interesting that those most published on The Wayward mind are educators like Robinson (Out of Our Minds) and Claxton (Intelligence in the Flesh). And for god sake, don’t confuse the Mind with the brain. The Wayward Mind is not about some neuopsych-behaviourist brain fart.

One of the fascinating things about the pill testing debacle in NSW ( that many miss the point of why people take drugs. People take substances to get into the Wayward Mind state, they want to be in lucid-dreaming and semi-consciousness.

The attraction to turning on the unconscious states threads human history. Nearly every civilization has a history of using plants and substances to turn on The Wayward Mind. We know this from rock music industry, poetics, art, religion, movies, theatre, painting, fashion and tv industries. When people want to trigger the creative mind, imagination and discovery there is nothing like a snort of opium or cocaine.

The work of Coleridge (  ) is well known for poetics under the influence of opium ( ). What brilliant poetics in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Kahn. Indeed, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Now my point her is not that we should all go off and experience psychedelics but rather that the dearth of interest in risk and safety in the unconscious is deafening. How readily is the safety and risk industry to punish complacency? Ah, those lazy negligent workers who were intentionally inattentive. Just do a search for ‘safety and complacency as the enemy’, what do you find? Safety demonsises The Wayward Mind, yet doesn’t know what it is. It doesn’t even research or publish on it and knows all about it. Yet it knows it must ‘fight it’. Astounding.

The Wayward Mind is not the enemy of safety just as risk is not the enemy of safety. One thing I do know, the more the industry demonsises both risk and The Wayward Mind the less it will know why people do what they do and know what to do about it.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

3 Replies to “Complacency and The Wayward Mind”

  1. Dear Rob,

    Aldous Huxley, who appeared on the front cover of the Sgt Pepper album and also wrote the Doors of Perception could not have explained it better.

    The cover also contains photos of Carl Jung, H G Wells, Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde and Dylan Thomas who offered a fabulous definition of an alcoholic as …….Someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.

    Nonetheless safety with its solipsistic superiority and myopic focus on positivism, structuralism, objectivism and scientism summarily disregards or ignores such influential literature.

  2. Excellent post Rob. When I present “1 Brain 3 Minds/WHG/Open Questioning” at my company and others, I always use that example of driving home or to work without having any notion of how you got there. Every person can relate and it is an easy transition to that same mindset being present for our employees in the field. I also hear the term the term “situational awareness” used to lump a perceived explanation to explain human error. The fun part is asking them to define what that is; inevitably they have to use examples of what it is, all of which can be attributed to living and working in mind 3.

  3. Even such simple language as ‘be csreful’ Is meaningless in most cases and is undefined. Same for lots of other expressions that safety used to blame people fir ‘inartention’

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