So, as you likely know, I sort of leave my head open for inspiration, and see what pops in. The other day, I was just climbing into the shower, and George Bush was suddenly playing in my head. Notoriously, the scene was his recent difficulty leaving a room. If you missed it, click here. Quicktime required .
This lead me to think about paradigms, and also how much I like Lush's "Chai Shower Gel" (I was in the shower, remember?) A paradigm is defined as:
a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated;
broadly : a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind
In shorthand, a paradigm is a world view . It's a belief I hold to be true in all situations , and inviolate in application.
In the case of neo-cons in the U.S. , we all have viewed the results, for example, with the justification for war in Iraq , and how the reasons shifted for the war when the WMDs were not found. The reason is simple. A feature of the neo-con paradigm is that of "evil empires." There is no provision for a benign evil empire, and there is a countervailing belief that democracy is the goal of the entire world. So, to crush and evil empire and bring forth another democracy, the facts are irrelevant.
But Into the Centre is not a political journalI was using the above to demonstrate that, unless one is willing to question the base line paradigm, all that one is capable of is providing evidence for the paradigm held.
Where I'm going with this is that we each, individually and collectively, have paradigms. Discovering them is crucial to make any progress at all in making better life choices. I dedicated my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits, to this idea.
In terms of relationships, the paradigms are, in a sense, stacked. First of all, I have a base line belief about who (in my case) my ideal woman is.
Our free booklet, The List of 50, addresses examining this paradigm and making shifts in it. No matter whether you possess a basic pattern or an altered one, this paradigm dictates the filters you have in placedictates who you notice . In other words, remember, a paradigm's purpose is to establish a belief, and to disregard or discount or ignore or not even notice contrary data.
Moving along, we meet someone and start dating. As soon as the relationship moves past "casual," another pattern starts to emerge. The paradigm is: "this is who my lover is ." Now, the reason this is such a paradigm is so powerful is that it is hormone implanted. Hormones drive the early stages of all intimate relationshipsthey are there to get us to breed. The hormones make the early data "stick"we grok the person's smell, taste, tone of voice, and behaviour.
Now, of course, what we see from the other person in the early stages of relationship are what are called "dating behaviours." Most people don't trot out the whole packagethey trot out what they think will get their partner to stick around. In one of my booklets, I mentioned a couple who came in for therapy. She was mad that he just sat around watching hockey. She remembered that when they were dating, he was affectionate, and loved sex. Now, he barely touched her, and sex was monthly. He replied, with startling honesty, "I knew you wanted sex and affection. I gave you what you wanted. Now that we're married, I'm going back to normal. You should be glad I bring in a good paycheque."
The paradigm filtering works, for a while. "Bad" behaviours are ignored, or a little voice says, "I hate that about him, but he loves me, so he'll change." We thus end up with the base (what I want in a (wo)man) paradigm, and one called, say, "Susie, in all her perfection."
Then, the novelty wears off.
No telling what causes this, but it happens to all of us. We wake up one day, and clearly see behaviour from "Susie" that we really, really hate. Initially, we blow it off. Then, we try changing Susie. Then we start to blame Susie. Then we start to notice other hateful behaviours. One day, a switch clicks. We, holus bolus, discover "Susie, the devil's spawn ." New paradigm.
From this point on, all we'll see are the behaviours we hate, even if a "hateful" behaviour is 1 in a 100 . And, because we shifted paradigms, we say with a straight face, "She lied to me!! Now I know the truth." Well, no she didn't. All we have is new information, and we don't know what to do with it.
The reason all of this happens is that we hate change, as change reminds us of our greatest feardeath. We want consistency (of life, primarily) and will take this over truth, any time. It's why people often say, "I love you!! Don't ever change!! I love you just the way you are!!"
What we teach at The Phoenix Centre is what I'll describe as containerization . A paradigm has rigid boundaries and beliefs. It is, remember, inviolate. A container , on the other hand, simply contains. And, a container can be replaced with a bigger container, and the contents transferred easily. In truth, a container cannot be exhausted.
Thus, if instead of having a paradigm called "Susie, in all her perfection," I have a container called " Susie, as she is, " it should be obvious that such a container can hold the whole package of my understanding of Susiegood, bad, and indifferent.
Once I get this, I can deal with Susie today . I can make a clean decision as to whether to hang around with her or not. This will be based upon my perception of everything I know about Susie, not just the part that matches some artificial preconceived notion.
As we noted last issue, the container idea is a part of an actiona way of relating. If I am wise, I realize that people are as they are (not what they tell us, but rather how they actually live their lives) and who they are is a dynamic process, not a static paradigm.
More on this as we carry on!