Elaborations on the Elements

In How to Change the World we went over the basic mindsets that people need in order to deal with challenges. Here, we’ll explore them in more detail. These mindsets, or “Elements” as I style them, are not boxes to put people in. With very few exceptions, all people can use all Elements if they know how to practice them, and they should.

What the Elements are is a vocabulary to describe how people think. You can think of them as the primary colors with which to paint a picture of a person (along with other concepts like motivations; more about that later). Like primary colors of light or pigment, they have infinite blends between them and can be used to form endless shapes and pictures, with an infinite variety of meanings. Also like primary colors, each one that is missing takes away a huge range of colors you can make. (Just for the sake of art, each basic Element has a color motif, though they can’t all be actual primary colors.) Every mindset has strengths and weaknesses that are complemented by other mindsets.

The Elements you see here represent archetypal mindsets in their purest, most characteristic form, so that they are easy to understand. Most importantly, they are here to help you learn to think differently to better deal with different situations. The more Elements you are skilled with, the more types of situations you can deal with, especially when you can combine basic Elements together into more advanced ones (more about those later).

If you pay attention to the people around you, you may notice which sorts of problems they like to work on and which ones stymie them. You may pick up on themes what aspects of situations they talk about, and what sorts of phrases they like to use. These clues hint at what mindsets they tend to use, and which ones they might not be well-versed in. As you read, you may identified which ones you prefer and which ones you need to develop.

Without further ado, here are the eight basic Elements of consciousness.

The Primary Elements

Ice Element


Ice Element (analysis; assesses concepts): Analysis is about exploring order, differentiating ideas, seeing patterns, and lowering “mental temperature,” which means that a situation doesn’t have to deviate very much from an expected pattern before you decide that the pattern is incomplete or wrong. An analysis user can observe facts and see patterns in them, from which they can infer causal connections or underlying principles. In short, analysis is about taking concepts that you’re aware of and attempting to fit them together and onto the world around you, to expand your awareness of the world’s order.

With analysis, you can also affect the world in new ways based on the order you’re aware of. For example, let’s say you live in a world where sections of air become hard and solid and then revert back to intangible gas seemingly at random, which is very inconvenient for people. However, if you figure out the pattern behind it (maybe some sort of special material, sound, or light pattern, for example, or a combination thereof), and infer a causal relationship, you might discover that you can predict where and when it happens, allowing you to run without fear of colliding with an invisible wall. Not only that, but you can walk on solid air, use it as a tool, and even build devices that generate solid air in whatever shape you want. That’s the sort of thing that analysis lets you do.

Analysis is has an ice theme because ice represents the formation of hard, solid structures (order) and the reduction of energy (chaos). Order is simply what we know (or think we do), what “must” or “cannot” happen. Chaos is what we don’t know, what may or may not happen. Analysis pushes back the unknown and imposes certainty. The metaphor of solidity representing order and rationality, versus energy representing chaos and creativity, has been around for a long time, because it is a very good metaphor. Solid structures represent limitations, and they can therefore immobilize things, join them together, cut them apart, slide between equivalent things, et cetera. The important thing isn’t that the patterns are perfectly representative of reality, but that they’re right most of the time, so you can make use of them if you’re aware. The “ice” that forms isn’t altering the world directly; it’s forming in your head and allowing you to be aware and make use of consistency in the world.

Ice Element is represented by the color blue.

Fire Element


Fire Element (synthesis; generates concepts): Synthesis is about exploring chaos, blending ideas, seeing possibilities, divergent thinking, free association, imagination, and raising mental temperature, which means that a situation must deviate a great deal from a pattern before your brain stops trying to superimpose the pattern on the situation. In short, synthesis is about taking concepts you’re aware of and attempting to alter or combine different aspects of them to form new ideas, to expand your awareness of the world’s possibilities.

This mindset is often used for creating elaborate and original art or fiction, but it can also be used to help refine abstract concepts by imagining a more pure example of a phenomenon than what you’ve seen in real life. For example, you may have experienced emotions like joy, despair, anger, or fear, but only at relatively small, manageable levels. Synthesis would allow you to imagine a situation that would evoke those emotions (in you or others) to a much greater degree. That alone would be helpful both in promoting emotions in others or in practicing how to deal with them yourself, but there is more depth to synthesis than just the above.

Because synthesis is the aspect of conscious thought that allows us to imagine new concepts, it is responsible for our ability to create new paradigms through which to experience the world and decide what to do. It lets us become aware in detail of the different possibilities in the world and in what we may be capable of. These possibilities are usually not obvious based on our prior experiences, but with this mindset a person can create a paradigm shift that few others would predict. Nobody would work to invent a new technology or overthrow a corrupt regime if they thought that it couldn’t be done, or if they couldn’t picture in their mind the happiness that they would bring to people by doing so. Synthesis is what allows you to imagine a possible future that validates your efforts by its mere existence as a possibility. Moreover, say you have an accident and learn that you’ll never be able to play the violin again, as the cliché goes. If everything you’ve been working towards becomes virtually impossible, synthesis is how you can visualize a new goal (like composing or teaching music, or something completely different) to work towards so that you can move on. A signature strength of this mindset is the ability to create hope and meaning. With it, you can reforge your life.*

Synthesis is has a fire theme because fire represents the release of energy (chaos) and the transmutation of substances, and yes, the breakdown of solid structures (order). Again, order is simply what we know (or think we do), what must or cannot happen, while chaos is what we don’t know, what may or may not happen. Synthesis explores the unknown and brings back possibilities that threaten certainty. Fire has long been a metaphor for creative energy, hope, a driving force, a spark of inspiration, a forge of creation, a cauldron of concoction, a crucible of refinement, or a dramatic change that brings a place to an end, but which eventually results in something new emerging from the ruins. With Fire Element, you feed experiences and present ideas into the fire as fuel and ingredients, and they are mixed around to release possibilities and generate variations on them that can be slightly different or incredibly divergent.

Fire Element is represented by the color red.

Synthesis is the opposing mindset to analysis, and when combined they form the mindset of perception. More about perception mindset later.

*Synthesis is not the same as growth mindset, which is the process of deciding to risk pursuing the goals that synthesis allows us to envision. More about growth mindset later.

Electricity Element


Electricity Element (organization; optimizes navigation): Organization is about keeping track of details, balancing priorities, managing resources, and making decisions. In life, there are many tradeoffs that people need to make based on what they want and the limited resources they possess. With organization mindset, people can figure out how to allocate their resources most effectively, to get the most of what they want. Resources are frequently used to generate other resources, which in turn can be managed with organization mindset.

As an agricultural example of organization in use, Person A has a pig. Person B is willing to trade their cow for the pig. Person A must use organization to choose whether they want the pig or the cow more, based on the various future options they would have with either animal. Person A also has 50 chickens. Person C is willing to trade 100 chicks for Person A’s chickens. Person A must think to ask themselves whether it is worth spending their own time and effort raising those chicks in order to double their number of chickens. This decision is based on how easy it is for Person A to raise chicks as well as what other useful activities Person A could be doing instead (opportunity cost). It is also based on whether Person A wants to have money from chickens now, or (in theory) twice as much money from chickens later. Keeping all of these factors in working memory in order to weigh them against each other is what organization is about. Organization will also be used in deciding how and when to transport the animals (train or truck?), and when (can you combine the errand with another one to save a trip?). Zeroing in on the specific logistical details of how to implement a decision is part of organization.

The mindset of organization is not the one that covers calculating the most efficient use of resources where there is a demonstrably right answer that can be calculated with an algorithm. Mathematics and algorithms fall under the domain of semantics mindset. Organization is about being aware of all the paths you can take and judging them against each other based on your priorities, not calculating the unit price of a juice container (although such knowledge does make it easier to make optimized decisions, which is an example of why mindsets are even more useful when they work together).

Organization applies order and chaos in the distinct part of a person’s mind. A person must be aware of the possibilities available to them (chaos) and judge the consequences of their choices and how well they will achieve what they want (order).

Organization mindset has an electricity theme because electricity represents a surplus of charge moving to correct a deficit, just as resources move to meet demands. The surplus electrons in a direct electric current respond to attractive forces that can originate far away, just as organization users must consider goals that are not immediately in front of them when they make their decisions. Furthermore, electric current takes the path of least resistance, the most efficient path available. It may split into several paths with varying currents if that is a more efficient route to its destination, as in parallel circuits, just as the best choice is likely a combination of options. However, electricity is also capable of forming an ionized path to arc through the air as a unified group; it could not traverse air gaps otherwise. This phenomenon represents decisiveness: sometimes committing to a path is more important than spending extra effort choosing the best one (see also Buridan’s Ass, a hypothetical donkey that starves because it cannot choose between two equal piles of hay to eat). Finally, electricity is itself a resource that can be allocated and used to power things, and the better we manage it, the more we can do with it.

Electricity Element is represented by the color yellow.

Water Element


Water Element (operation; internalizes navigation): Operation is about using intuitions developed through practice in order to assess what is happening, make decisions, and gracefully enact them. Similarly to organization, which balances the awareness and influence of order and chaos in the distinct part of the mind, operation balances these aspects of thought in the subliminal part of the mind, where they can generate possibilities and predict their consequences in the immediate situation while leaving hardly a trace of their process. In contrast with organization, which allows a person to deal with a constantly shifting inventory of assets, and array of goals, operation requires practice, feedback, and repetition with consistent situations and tools. It is usually best learned by focusing attention on basic techniques, which build on each other and lead to intuitive understanding of more complex situations. Eventually it’s possible to think about other things while using operation, at least for simple tasks.

The reward for spending so much time calibrating your intuition is a much more graceful and efficient implementation of your chosen course of action. Operation increases reliability and decreases the effort required. Once you have chosen the best use of your resources using organization and other mindsets, operation is how you carry out your plan. (Operation can inform your sense of the situation as well, especially when combined with other mindsets.)

Whether it is driving a vehicle, throwing a projectile, wielding a tool or weapon, crafting an object, singing, dancing, walking along streets you know by heart, or simply meditating, operation is about becoming one with the moment. The moment may be larger than the literal immediate present and vicinity, and it may involve doing any of the above in coordination with a team. The key idea is intuition: unifying experience with knowledge and decision with control, and sometimes even unifying knowledge and decision.

The mindset of operation has a water theme, unsurprisingly. Water has long been used to represent the mental state of performing at one’s peak by allowing intuition to take over, appropriately enough called the “flow”. When it moves, it is very similar to electricity, being an equalization of potential differences through the motion of fluid particles through the most efficient channels. However, while electricity powers components over large distances, water keeps momentum and pushes the environment out of the way. While water does respond to the attraction of gravity, it pays little heed to any other remote forces—only the materials that touch a volume of water can govern the motion of the water, reflecting how operation deals with an immediate situation, even when in pursuit of an ultimate goal. Water also changes its environment over time, just as repeated actions form channels in our minds which make them easier to continue. Although all mindsets build habits and need calibration, operation is the one that most relies on these principles.

Water Element is represented by the color green.

Operation is the opposing mindset to organization, and when combined they form the mindset of action. More about action mindset later.

The Secondary Elements

The Secondary Elements are distinct enough in character from the Primary Elements, and are used frequently enough by people who do not use the corresponding Primary Elements, that I put them at nearly the same level of prominence as the Primary Elements.

Earth Element


Earth Element (strategy; fortifies paths; combination of analysis and organization): Strategy is about using foresight to assess the logical implications of possible choices, to determine not only their efficiency but also their outcomes and vulnerabilities. Thus one can take steps to close down unwanted possibilities, expending extra resources to make an endeavor more robust. The paradigm of strategy is that decisions have long-term consequences and implications beyond the immediate and obvious, such as side-effects, risks, and hidden requirements. With strategy you can predict those implications, keep track of them as details, weigh them against priorities, and make good decisions as to how best to succeed in the long-term based on the limiting factors in play. Then you can choose whether to pay the price for increasing the durability of your system. Related mindsets are standardization: prioritizing cost-efficiency, and security: prioritizing guarantees. See below for those.

The mindset of strategy is comprised of organization and analysis. It keeps track of details in situations, and any properties of those details that confer benefits or detriments. Strategy can map various conventional paths from the present to desired futures based on current resources, and evaluate the relative merits of those paths. It might consolidate its resources into versatile tools, to make it easier to change direction if necessary. Strategy deals with resources that cannot be easily shifted, so it often chooses the least permanent option, or generates contingency plans in case the option taken turns out badly. Reconfiguring these resources is costly, whether in time or some other type of resource, so decisions cannot easily be reversed, but that also means durable and grand works can be created from them. However, all the intermediate steps must be durable enough to withstand the construction process. Users of strategy can see the safest order in which to move resources by identifying the possible paths and their vulnerabilities.

Unlike analysis, strategy manages the details of real resources, but doesn’t deal with the differentiation of abstract concepts in and of themselves. Unlike organization, strategy deals with possible threats and unintended consequences based on looking at all the properties of a system and its environment, not just the ones immediately related to the goal. Strategy does not deal with maximizing the efficiency and output of a system in the present moment so much as balancing efficiency with the long-term stability of the system.

One illustration of strategy is a person setting up a farm such that the vulnerable animals are closest to the center, away from predators. The predators are not part of the business paradigm, but are a reality of the natural world that must be acknowledged. Another example is the standard team-building exercise of creating as tall a tower as possible out of marshmallows and toothpicks. The standard organization approach might be to maximize height by building a straight line up. However, robust design would sacrifice height for stability, building a wider structure so that environmental factors not explicitly acknowledged (accidental table-bumps, drafts) would not hurt the structure. On a more immediate time-scale, examples include deciding to take the time to back up your computer or bringing a book to read at the dentist’s office in case you don’t like any of the magazines there.

Strategy has an earth theme because physical earth is thematically associated with solidity, stability, and slowness. When dealing with earth, mistakes have long-term consequences, because earth is heavy, hard to shape, and can collapse above or below people. Shaping the earth can close possibilities by making some options very difficult, and it is important to pay attention and consider consequences, to ensure that the options one closes are the ones one wants to close. However, shifting earth over the long term can change the terrain and accomplish great things, shrinking the odds of failure. Done properly, a strategy user can reduce the possibility that their own structures will be damaged, or eliminate the possibility of another person taking a dangerous path. Earth is a resource, limited by time and space and not simply appearing spontaneously, similar to electricity. However, it is also solid and forms structures that are bound to each other, similar to ice.

Earth Element is represented by the color purple.

Wind Element


Wind Element (tactics; repurposes paths; combination of synthesis and organization): Tactics is about applying resources in creative ways to open up possibilities and accomplish tasks that would not be possible if the resources were used in the more obvious ways. The paradigm of tactics is that in any given situation, the resources and factors in play have properties that are not in play, and by reconfiguring the resources at hand into a system that uses these unused properties, you can accomplish more than is apparent at first. To use tactics is to be clever.

Tactics can successfully apply resources to tasks other than the one they are most suited for currently. However, there are usually tradeoffs; it is likely that the resources will not be as efficient at performing the new task compared to if they were specifically designed for that purpose. The strength of this mindset is that it can make the resources perform the task at all. It’s a very useful skill when you don’t have the resources you’d prefer. It should be noted that the mindset of tactics is not necessarily a short-term mindset, used only in a pinch. A tactician can think up clever ways to apply resources at leisure, and call on such ideas when an appropriate situation arises. It is also possible to use tactics to open up possibilities far into the future. However, when a tactics user opens up new possibilities, many of those possibilities are fascinating new ways to fail. The more resources are involved, the greater the risk. Just as strategy uses resources to impose stability, tactics uses resources to unleash possibility, which is unstable on its own. Therefore, the bigger the tactic, the more important it is to use strategy to fortify it.

Examples of tactics are quite common in fiction because a) they take much less time to explain and implement compared to strategy; b) they are opportunities to show the audience something new and spectacular, rather than repetitive techniques using operation or events that were prevented by strategy; and c) they allow protagonists to beat the odds and get out of seemingly impossible situations, allowing the author to build up large amounts of suspense. Tactics can be as simple as using a chair or other furniture item as a weapon or using a random object as a step-stool, or as inspired as (minor spoiler for the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) Henry Jones Sr. destroying a WWII-era fighter plane bearing down on him by startling a flock of birds and causing them to fly into the propellers.

Like organization, tactics uses resources and pays attention to their properties and interactions. Like synthesis, tactics involves combining existing ideas in order to create new ones. However, tactics is slightly more specialized than either. Unlike synthesis, tactics must abide by the limitations of existing resources to come up with viable plans, but also unlike synthesis, it can abide by these limitations. Unlike organization, tactics is more concerned with exploring the different effects that it can get out of a set of resources than with maximizing the output, but again, unlike organization, it can achieve more effects than just the known ones.

Tactics has a wind theme because physical wind, the movement of air, is thematically associated with transience and changeability, the existence of prevailing winds notwithstanding. Similarly, triumphs of tactics tend to be somewhat short-lived: once a tactic is used, it can become a standard procedure that people are taught to use, and is less likely to fall under the category of “tactics mindset” unless someone invents it independently. Also, tactics on its own can be unreliable because while it opens up new possibilities for success, it also opens up new possibilities for failure. Furthermore, physical wind can change direction quickly, pass through very small spaces and, if strong enough, rearrange objects in its wake, thematically evoking playfulness and matching the trickster antics which the mindset of tactics naturally lends itself to. However, both physical wind and the mindset of tactics can unleash devastation if they have access to the right (or wrong) combination of resources. Despite both air and water being fluids, the much lower inertia of air and its ability to apparently “flow uphill” make it appropriate as a theme for a mindset that opens possibilities.

Wind Element is represented by the color orange.

Tactics is the opposing mindset to strategy, and when combined they form the mindset of facilitation. More about facilitation mindset later.

Light Element


Light Element (semantics; simplifies interactions; combination of analysis and operation): Semantics is about interfacing with reality using labels, rules, and algorithms which approximately describe the situation at hand. These tools are matched to the situation through both intuition and analysis. The power of semantics to simplify interactions is particularly useful for dealing with complex systems as well as pinning down unstable ones, where a specific quantity represents the threshold between failure and success.

Semantics mindset combines analysis and operation to smoothly classify things according to a preconceived system (generated by another mindset, or by a more abstract layer of semantics). It deals in judging by appearances, an important skill. To do this, it creates symbols and labels, syntax and languages, lexicons and vocabularies, and rules and algorithms in order to quickly derive conclusions based on input and a practiced system of interpretation. These tools allow people to contextualize their experiences within a known paradigm (a set of assumptions about how the situation works), and then allow them to move within that paradigm rapidly to reach the implications of their experiences.

The overarching paradigm of semantics is that you can learn an approximate model for a given type of situation. You can use this model to formulate a question or describe a problem, and the model will help you calculate an answer or verify a possible solution. To do so, you figure out what labels to put on something and choose the appropriate algorithm to feed the labels into. By practicing applying the model, you can become skilled at navigating within its paradigm. Practice lets you develop an intuition for what approaches and algorithms will lead to the most effective solutions. The model makes assumptions to simplify the situation, making it easier to deal with and enabling the model to be used on other similar situations. Ideally, the model is still accurate enough to be effective despite its assumptions. The more complex and sophisticated the model, the more difficult it is to use, but the more accurate it can be if necessary.

Unlike analysis, the mindset of semantics cannot create new tools or concepts to analyze systems that haven’t yet been modeled symbolically in some way, but semantics is capable of fluidly moving within those models and paradigms in order to more quickly compute the answers to problems. For semantics, problems contain their own answers. Unlike operation, semantics can generalize a model to deal with a range of similar situations instead of having to practice with each individual situation. However, semantics needs the model framework to start with, while operation goes purely by feel. For example, figuring out how much fuel is necessary to go a longer distance is simply a matter of plugging a different number into the formula. Rather than having to practice with every individual situation, semantics. Moreover, unlike operation, semantics can provide a record of its decision process in the form of proofs or explanations.

(A good way to illustrate the continuum between analysis and operation is with chains of reasoning. Analysis says, “X implies Y implies Z, based on observations of the world. I know X is true, therefore I know Z is true.” Semantics says, “X implies Z according to this formula. I know X is true, therefore I know Z is true.” Operation says, “I’ve got a feeling Z is true. I’ve been around a while and developed a sense for this sort of thing.” All of these approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses.)

A person might user semantics in their everyday life by using the paradigm of accurate odometers and gas gauges to calculate their gas mileage, by using shadows to calculate the height of a building through the paradigm of trigonometry, or by applying the paradigm of Newtonian physics to calculate how long it takes a ball to roll down a slope. Semantics is also important for transmitting information, simplifying situations so you can use words, like “chair” or “bird”, instead of drawing or miming an object or animal in detail every time you want to describe it. Mathematics, physics, law, programming, and language are all built on semantics, to name some prominent fields.

Semantics has a light theme because physical light is extremely fast, and it forms images which give people convenient superficial information about situations. This information is incomplete but often comprehensive enough to effectively represent the entire situation instantly. Similarly, the ability of semantics to simplify interactions makes it very fast to draw conclusions, make decisions, and transmit information. However, though it can be used to quickly take stock of a situation, it still does not have all the information, and must be used appropriately. Just as light can fool the eyes, so can semantics fool a person into drawing a conclusion that is not actually true. Furthermore, it is also possible to overload oneself with data, analogous to temporarily blinding oneself with a bright light. The metaphor of Light Element can be viewed as a sort of holographic augmented reality, with luminous labels and diagrams superimposed over a situation to highlight the important aspects and allow them to be fed into algorithms or transmitted as information.

Light Element is represented by the color white.

Darkness Element


Darkness Element (empathy; individualizes interactions; combination of synthesis and operation): Empathy is about forming a more nuanced and dynamic impression of a complex system which cannot be fully described, often a person, and using that impression to more effectively and harmoniously interact with that system.

The mindset of empathy probes entities and situations and explores their responses to get an intuitive feel for their paradigms, allowing you to shift at least partially into their paradigm. You can then interact with the entities and situations on their own terms. The paradigm of empathy is that other entities have nuanced personalities and moods. It is thus unwise to make assumption about how their experiences will affect their behavior. However, it is possible to learn about an entity by observing its behavior and interacting with it. You can develop an intuition about the entity based on what you learn about it, using your imagination and your intuition of yourself to fill in the inevitable gaps, and doing more passive and active learning when you are not sure of a situation. As the entity grows and changes from day to day, or moment to moment, you will have to be constantly updating your impression of it.

With empathy, you can enter the paradigms of people, animals, and even temperamental inanimate objects you interact with. You can also explore other possible paradigms for yourself, which is important for being aware of and managing your own emotions. Not only this, but by interacting with the entities, you can influence their experiences, and therefore their behavior. You can even draw them into other paradigms.

Empathy is the gestalt of synthesis and operation. Unlike synthesis, empathy uses imagination to more effectively shift into existing paradigms in use by other entities, rather than blending up new paradigms from scratch. Unlike operation, empathy specializes in dealing with handling complex and shifting entities that have agency and personalities of their own (or at least it treats them as if they do). It spends more time on them in order to get to know them and form more effective relationships.

As the opposite of semantics, empathy requires the user to ignore or temporarily forget labels and rules. The assumptions and impressions you have can be worse than useless when attempting to shift paradigms and individualize interactions. Empathy allows you to move between paradigms easily, and can help you deal with people from those different paradigms as if they were naturally from your own paradigm. Furthermore, with empathy you can lead an entity to behave in ways that under normal circumstances it wouldn’t (like being patient or doing you a favor), due to the high degree of harmony you have with that particular entity. The drawback of empathy is that the relationships it forms are not generalizable, unlike semantics.

Empathy works best on entities and situations which undergo many changes often, especially subtle changes and especially in response to hidden environmental changes. People are excellent examples of such entities, so empathy users are especially good with people, though they may specialize in what impressions they want to leave on people (e.g. encouragement, persuasion, intimidation, or stealth). However, empathy users can often form bonds with other such entities such as animals. You can even bond with temperamental inanimate systems, such as vehicles, to better care for them and work together to produce better results.

A person might use empathy in order to determine the best angle to sell a product: what will interest people most about it? To sell a refrigerator, one might figure out what the person’s favorite food or drink is, either by inferring it based on the region or by directly asking, and describing it being preserved for convenience, leading the person to associate positive feelings with the refrigerator. Empathy can also be used to avert culture shock. Each person has their own culture, and a person using empathy might notice that despite not appearing very friendly, a stranger might be looking for a friend and simply not know how to go about it. They may be from a big city and may not be used to greeting random people on the street. An empathy user can explore this possibility through a simple conversation, with their experience in each moment helping them to decide an appropriate thing to say or do in the next one.

As another example, an athletic student might want to establish friendly interactions with drama students, so the athlete must forget preconceptions about them, or labels such as “uncool,” and actively look for qualities to appreciate about them, which would have been overlooked before due to cognitive dissonance with the “uncool” label.

Conveying appreciation, addressing people’s concerns, and in general demonstrating behavior that puts people at ease are all important empathy techniques.

Empathy has a darkness theme because darkness means having to navigate without the simple, easy information provided by appearances, just as empathy forgets labels and explores each situation individually. You must feel your way forward, encountering more of the true nature of what you face rather than being able to judge by what you see.

Moreover, the darkness theme references Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which depicts all people as being chained inside a cave, able to discern the outside (“real”) world only by shadows that outside objects cast on the cave wall by obstructing the light from the entrance. This allegory is meant to show how what we experience of the world is but a single aspect of what the world actually is. Empathy users recognize that what they see of others is only a shadow of what those others actually are, so they imagine what possible shapes could cast those shadows, explore those possibilities with their interactions, and build an intuition about each person from the feedback they receive. Because empathy uses operation, it is the most useful mindset for dealing entities that change shape based on interactions (that is, probing them causes them to change in response), so the user can develop a dynamic, evolving intuition.

The metaphor can even be extended to depict each person with a unique individual cave, seeing very different subjective shadows of the same objective events due to the way the caves are positioned, the different angle of the object, the shadow of the cave wall, et cetera, representing the intuitions that people have built up over their histories which shape the impression that each new experience makes on a person. In order to interact with each other, we must pay attention to the shadows that we and events around us cast on other people. We can then learn to cast different shadows, to change the impressions people get from their experiences.

Darkness Element is represented by the color black.

Empathy is the opposing mindset to semantics, and when combined they form the mindset of communication. More about communication mindset later.


Learning to understand each other’s perspectives and recognizing the limitations of our own ways of thinking are the first steps towards creating a more harmonious society and becoming more mature people.

These Elements represent a way to make those first steps much easier for those who haven’t yet taken them. In order to accomplish great things, we must learn and practice all of these basic mindsets, if only to form the foundation for mindsets greater still. I hope this article and the ones that follow will prove useful to every reader who intends to change the world for the better.

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