Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Change – a pair of dimes

The other night I was wandering around the blogosphere and ended up at Sheria’s Place. One of her posts got me thinking about paradigms, perceptions, and change. I’ve rambled and ranted about the need for systemic and cultural change in various places so I won’t do that here. However, Sherrie’s post made me take a hard look at my own resistance to certain kinds of change and delve a bit into where that resistance comes from. Rather than bare my soul I’ll attempt to share my findings and thoughts.

First, a story to illustrate a point.

I grew up in the desert southwest. Snakes were an everyday part of life. Some of them were deadly, and they were everywhere. Medical help was always far away and other human habitation was often far away as well. The result of this is an unconscious awareness of snakes, snake like shapes, noises, movements, and locations where snakes were likely to be. The world was scanned for these things before I put a foot down, reached a hand in, or moved in general. This didn’t result in paralysis, and mostly occurred at the subconscious level. When we moved to New Zealand I took this perceptual screen with me. There are no snakes in New Zealand, and I knew this at a conscious level, but when we hiked every foot or hand was placed with caution. Our Kiwi friends laughed at my jumping away from sticks or sudden sounds. I explained but they didn’t really understand at a gut level. Snake awareness will always be part of my world view.

So, when we work for change, particularly in how people live day to day, we have to be aware of the underlying paradigms or belief systems that shape every little decision or action people make. It is exceptionally difficult to change peoples unconscious beliefs about how the world works and the actions that come from those beliefs. No amount of intelligent conversation will get us there. People will probably have to get bitten by a few snakes before they can really change.

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