Have you ever noticed the way a charismatic person can light up a room? Or how the air gets heavy when a difficult roommate walks in?
Each of us produces what I call a “psychosocial field” that affects those around us.
The New Age community made popular the language of “energies” and “vibrations,” “auras” and “vortexes.” I believe what they—and previous eras of magical thinkers—were picking up on were real psychosocial phenomenon that our minds usually sense on a subconscious level.
These fields have nothing to do with physical or metaphysical energies. They are based entirely in psychological and sociological dynamics. “Energy” in this context means psychological and emotional energy.
Why does all this matter?
If you pay attention, you’ll notice these psychosocial fields at work all around us. Other peoples’ fields constantly affect us. They push and pull us. Direct our lives without us realizing it.
People with stable fields are seen as confident, grounded, charismatic, and exude a certain power. They aren’t blown about like candles in the wind; they live in line with their values and are able to influence those around them—sometimes merely by their presence.
When in the presence of someone that exudes a field of authority, judgement, or aggression, we may notice the tone and volume of our voice change, our body posture unconsciously contracts, our breathing becomes shallow and quick, and we have a hard time look around the room or meeting others’ gaze.
We might feel these limits to our own field as a kind of invisible “pressure,” or “force.” It may make us feel uneasy or downright uncomfortable. And these constrictions may even limit the range of emotions and thoughts we are capable of experiencing, and even the roles we play in the different social arenas—friend groups, family gatherings, workplace environments, etc.
Conversely, when we’re around someone who “lights us up,” a good friend or beloved person, be feel ourselves (and our field) “expand” and brighten. We talk louder, are more expressive, and can feel and think more freely.
When we strengthen our psycho-social field we are no longer pushed and pulled by the opinions or expectations of others. We gain solid inner stability.
A strong psycho-social field is not always about being the biggest and toughest presence in the room. (A strategy most typically used by men, consciously or not.) This leads to emotional rigidity. And worse, while exuding a dominant display of power, we are implicitly expressing our own weakness—a truly powerful person doesn’t try to seem powerful.
So how do we strengthen our field if not by “trying?”
A strong psychosocial field primarily comes from deep and unshakable rootedness in the essence of who you are. It is a powerful and consistent out-flowing of your own psychological presence.
This out-flowing is experienced as a kind of “energy” that an individual has. It may be joyous, gracious, confident, playful, or it may be hostile, agitated, fearful, paranoid, etc. A person’s psychosocial field can be thought of as the “space” they take up, these emotional energies are like the “colors” that field takes on, and their power is like the “loudness” of these colors and the “firmness” of their space.
Unless we pay attention, we are usually not aware of how our field affects others, or how others’ fields affect us. But as soon as we start to notice these dynamics, we realize the invisible influence these dynamics have on social interactions.
A leader’s charisma depends on their psychosocial field. Group chemistry depends on how well peoples’ fields work with one another. Romantic partnership is often based on “how a person makes us feel,” which arises from the unique interplay of two peoples’ psychosocial fields.
But what exactly are we talking about? What are psychosocial fields, really?
A psychosocial field is the way a person, place, or thing appears in and affects our consciousness.
When we approach the grave of someone we loved, the “field” of that place, the tombstone, the remains of our loved one, generates a strong field — but only for us. A stranger walking by that same headstone may feel little or nothing. Psychosocial fields are the products of our own consciousness. They are the result of consciousness acting upon itself or upon one another.
According to the seminal psychologist Carl Jung, for millennia, human beings intuitively sensed the invisible forces of the conscious, and subconscious, psyche and attributed them to external entities. Witches and miracle workers, demons and angels, haunted lands and sacred waters.
Modern secular thought tried to dispel these “forces” as nonsense. But these forces are very real. Not magical but psychosocial in nature. The scope of modern psychology isn’t large enough to encompass the full range of these fields—they spill over across sociology, anthropology, mythology, religious studies, history, and beyond. They are intrinsic to our consciousness and we cannot get rid of them. But we can learn to understand and wield them with greater wisdom.
What I hope is that we begin to take seriously the power and influence of these “unseen forces” in our lives. They are wondrous, they are ancient, and they are powerful. These fields can exist between two people or in massive aggregates between two civilizations. They combine to form the occult “egregore,” the “deities” of human religions, and the zeitgeists of historical eras.
These psychosocial fields are the invisible fabric of our human reality. The “matrix” we live within but rarely see. Ultimately, the mystery that remains in all of this is the mystery of consciousness itself. Whether it is just an emergent phenomenon of our human psyche and body, a property of sophisticated neural networks, or a more fundamental characteristic of the universe itself.
Wherever you are, look around yourself. Blink a few times.
What do you see?
The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.
SNS strives to include diverse voices within the spectrum of naturalistic spirituality. Authors will vary in their opinions, terms, and outlook. The views of no single author therefore necessarily reflect those of all Spiritual Naturalists or of SNS.
Read more of Daniel’s writing on his website daniellevshkolnik.com