Find your zone of proximal development and change your life
The term “zone of proximal development” Vygotsky described the relationship between learning and the mental development of the child. A child at each stage of life can solve some problems independently, and some so far only with the help of an adult, in joint affairs. According to this theory, development processes follow educational processes.
“The zone of proximal development defines functions that have not yet matured, but are in the process of ripening, which will mature tomorrow, and now are still in their infancy; functions that can be called not the fruits of development, but its buds, flowers, that is, what only ripens, ”wrote Vygotsky.
Many believe that this concept can only be applied to child development. They will be right, but only if we assume that after growing up a person stops in his development or loses his previously acquired skills. But we do not remain in place and continue to receive new knowledge – someone purposefully and consciously, someone intuitively and without even thinking. Just in such a zone we can ripen for a new level, it is in it that we rise to a new step.
Intermediate stations on the way to the goal
“At some point, I noticed that the definition of this zone and the work in it determines the beginning of the client’s real progress towards his request,” says Tatyana Efremova, psychologist, gestalt therapist. – A client comes to me with a request “about relationships”. She is very afraid of losing her husband. Fear of loss pushes her to actions that destroy this relationship. And it turns out a vicious circle. In the work, it turns out that the husband is the only close person, all needs are tied to him, the rest of his life is a cold desert. ”
The psychologist began the work by helping the woman to see and add to life those little things that fill and delight. At the same time, work was underway to listen to oneself and feel oneself, one’s desires and needs, and not just “direction-finding” the husband’s needs.
In the process, children’s traumatic situations surfaced. Gradually, the client began to react more calmly to the separation of people from herself, and this allowed her to let into her life new friends, girlfriends, like-minded people. Her husband is no longer the only source of contact and interest. And only after her ability to maintain distance “matured”, her husband suddenly began to miss her, realized the importance of his wife in his life. From this began his movement towards her.
This case is a good example of the fact that it is impossible to achieve the ultimate goal (to find stable warm relations between spouses) if you do not go through the intermediate zones of proximal development.
Goals may be good, but without relying on reality, they are practically unattainable, and if they are achievable, the result will be unstable.
“This happens very often: a person comes to psychotherapy, voices a specific request, and we begin work. I clarify the purpose and context of the client’s life, explains Tatyana Efremova. – After that, I can quite accurately determine the zone of proximal development, and leave the request a beacon – after the start of real progress it often changes. Sustainable, not “quick” results, which are sold by some psychologists, require time, effort, a qualified look from the outside. ”
The work of a psychologist lies entirely in this zone of proximal development. And if we draw an analogy with a child and an adult, then the client is to some extent a “child” who can learn to do something with his life himself, but with the help of another psychologist.
He wants to create a happy relationship, but cannot concentrate on anyone except himself. He wants to find his calling, but he hates his life, and yet he does not have at all relatives and friends who could be his support in this. He wants universal love and acceptance, although he is shy even in a whisper to express his opinion.
“All these goals can be good, but without relying on reality, they are practically unattainable, and if they are achievable, the result will be unstable and will not bring real satisfaction,” said Tatyana Efremova. “And work on them risks turning into a sense of their own insignificance and further reinforcing negative thoughts about themselves.”
The theory of paradoxical changes by Arnold Beigsser states that changes occur when “a person becomes what he is, and not when he tries to be what he is not.” Therefore, the buildup of oneself towards such goals can paradoxically remove both from them and from development as such. And vice versa – by defining a goal, relying on a reality that is “here and now”, and passing through intermediate “stations”, you can reach the end point.
How to determine your zone of proximal development?
The zone of proximal development is, by definition, better visible through the professionally tuned optics of someone who helps people develop. If it is difficult for you to answer the last question from the list below or if work in your chosen field does not bring results, you should contact a specialist. In the meantime, you can try to determine your development zone yourself by doing five steps.
- Start from the most painful and urgent issues that are currently present in your life.
- Analyze the situation you are currently in.
- Assess the level of your psychological health (psychological questionnaires can be used for this).
- Based on the information received, find out what your internal skill (skill, living feeling, coping ability) will allow you to advance one step towards the desired state of affairs.
- Find the means to master this skill.
The criterion for a correctly selected zone of proximal development will be the acquisition of qualitatively new experiences and experience.
It seems to us that this five-step path is complicated. But in reality, the zone of proximal development is always very simple things.
“Call a friend and don’t reach for a glass of wine. To cease to heat the situation in an already crisisful marital relationship. Do not hope that your desires are “considered” telepathically, speak aloud about them. Just start dressing warmer in winter and notice how cold or comfortable your body is. Do not break into anger from a half-turn, but give yourself a couple of seconds to breathe out and realize what is happening, ”the psychologist explains. “The criterion for a correctly selected zone of proximal development will be the receipt of qualitatively new experiences and experience.”
Maybe in these small steps there is no narcissistic greatness, they will not cause delight from others. But at this point in time and space you are working exclusively for yourself, and not on the idea of others about how, in their opinion, “cool” and what you need to be. This is up to you.
About the expert
Tatyana Efremova – psychologist, psychotherapist, leading groups, workshops and trainings. Works in approaches: gestalt therapy, transactional analysis, coaching, cognitive-behavioral therapy. Advises and leads groups in Russian and English. Member of the Professional Guild of Psychologists and the European Association of Transactional Analysis. Her.