The New Johari Window #7: Complexity and the Postmodern Condition
Apparently, these stable point attractor systems are not common in most contemporary groups (or relationships). Rather, we find that most groups and relationships are better represented by what Arrow, McGrath and Berdahl identify as alternative equilibrium attracter systems. These systems involve multiple attractors that create highly complex, volatile dynamics in a group or relationship. In some instances these alternative equilibrium attractor systems are based in dilemmas. Each attractor pulls people back and forth between conflicting or contradictory attractions (for example, between intimacy and independence). Neither attractor is strong enough to pull the group or relationship completely to its side. In the case of a second type of alternative equilibrium system—called the reversible or switching attracter system—both attractors are very successful in pulling in the group or interpersonal relationship. According to Arrow and her colleagues, this system moves groups and relationships back and forth between two contrasting points (for example, between a state of normal functioning and a state of crisis).
Arrow and her two colleagues don’t stop here. They identify yet another type of attractor system, this being the sequential or developmental system. The group or relationship moves through a predictable sequence of steps, each step being based on a single attractor or cluster of compelling attractors. The Interpersonal Needs system offered by Will Schutz is descriptive of this type of system. At one stage in a relationship, the need for inclusion operates as an attractor, while at a later stage the need for control is prominent and at a third stage, openness is the primary attractor. Finally, these theorists describe a fourth type of alternative equilibrium attractor system that is periodic or cyclical in nature. A group or relationship has a series of “seasons” through which it moves in a regular and predictable manner. Each “season” has its own primary attractor. Thus, two people who have been married for many years may go through periodic phases of growing distant from one another, this leading to a crisis and ultimately to a change in some dimension of the relationship and, finally, to a renewed commitment to the relationship (a “remarriage”).