” indicates that something (especially instinctual human emotions or behaviour)
makes use of the principle of graceful degradation
— if more sophisticated modes (love, cooperation, playfulness) do not work (due to e.g. the person having insufficient skills or resources to meet demands), the person downgrades into more brutal modes (lust, violence, self-suppression). We know that it is possible to develop sufficient skills in specific areas to never downgrade, e.g. some people have shown remarkable compassion, tenderness, and generosity in even the most excruciating and drawn-out of conditions.
- polyvagal theory — the body/mind downgrades into fight/flight, then into freeze mode
- love — people can be monogamous and oriented towards the long-term view of future generations (the “elf” mode of reproduction), others haphazardly beget relatively miserable and weak descendants (the “orc” mode)
- cooperation — some people take responsibility for outcomes and managing diverse goals (either within themselves or between people), others resort to blame and anger (at themselves or others)
In general, robust systems (such as humans) have many redundant failsafe systems that take over if the preferred modes do not work. The preferred modes have better outcomes, but if the system is damaged (or fails to properly grow) then the crude systems (which are easier to work, but inferior in results) take over. It is particularly difficult for the genes to manage human behaviour, since the most sophisticated modes actually rely on skills learnt from others in your group (and can't be encoded in genes). (You see this in other tribal animals, such as elephants — those without good parents fall back on anger and so on.) Thus, biological/genetic systems have evolved to take advantage of sophisticated cultural teachings when available, but also include crude ways of getting things done that can work even without the benefit of social/parental teachings (such as greed and anger).
The polydigmal perspective is helpful for education and self-management because it helps us view the failsafe systems with a functional eye. It allows us to recognise the symptoms of failsafe functioning (such as greed or anger), and instead of undervaluing it as useless or overvaluing it as always useful, recognise it as a sign that failsafe functioning is occurring (which, if we have the resources to do so, we can climb out of into the next higher mode of functioning — or teach the child how to do the next higher mode, etc etc).
Prodigmal and Misdigmal
approach supports elevated functioning (to higher levels). An excellent teacher or parent is prodigmal: they empower.
approach pushes people into lower levels of functioning. For example, a fascist regime encourages fear and anger in their constituents so as to more easily control their thoughts or to misdirect their fustration towards scapegoats.
These ideas can also be used to evaluate the safety of societies and communities: for example, a misdigmal
political party (i.e. one that seeks to suppress people or inflame and benefit from intergroup tensions)
should be a cause for concern, and a society that wishes to survive should have strong safeguards to protect its children, students, and citizens from misdigmal (abusive) parents, misdigmal (harmful) teachers, misdigmal infowars (propaganda/thinktanks etc undermining social values or seeking to erode people's wellbeing so they tumble down into more helpless modes of behaviour), and misdigmal businesses (seeking to cause a demand for their services/products by undermining people or society).
Likewise, we can refine education by comparing the relative prodigmality of different approaches — how well do different skills or perspectives (or ways of learning them) help students reach higher modes of functioning and reduce the chances they will fall into dysfunctional behaviour?
(Verb form: “Please prodigm me” = Please elevate my current mode of functioning (in a particular domain) to a higher level.
(The word “polydigm” comes from “polyvagal theory” [which takes a polydigmal view of behaviour as organised by the vagus nerve] and the word “paradigm,” since different modes of behaviour often represent incompatible padagims/worldviews which can nevertheless be hierarchically arranged in “higher” or “lower” modes, thus, “poly” [“many”] being a better descriptor than “para” [“beside”].)