Earlier this summer I climbed Scafell Pike, a mountain in the Lake District of Northern England. Like the rest of our wet summer this was a damp and cloudy day. Before we were half way up the mountain we were swallowed up in cloud and fog.
Fortunately I had a map and a compass and I know how to navigate by them.
The Ordinance Survey (OS) map I had was very detailed, the contours, streams, cliffs and paths were all clearly marked in fine lines. With this map and the compass I was able to get us to the top of Scafell Pike in the mist without difficulty.
In such a situation having a good map is a blessing. What made the OS map useful was its level of detail and the closeness of the representation to the ground being mapped. Being able to accurately match up what is on the map with what is on the ground allowed me to navigate confidently.
But just imagine for a moment that those fine lines of paths and contours were drawn by a child using a thick crayon. The detail would be lost, the map would still be sort of right in a vague, general way, but it would be much less useful for navigating in the hills, it might even be dangerous.
Most of us are navigating through our lives with maps drawn in crayon by our younger selves. The outlines are generally right but often miss out details and nuances in our inner and outer landscapes.
We all have mental maps, our own inner guide to the world. To make sense of our experience and manage our lives we create internal representations of the outer world.