Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Life is not as it is. Life is as you are. Part 3

Our topic continues.

What follows is taken from a new book I'm working on. We'll look at some beliefs that we could well do without over the next few weeks. This is a bit of  the introductory stuff.

A myth is defined as "a theme or character type embodying an idea." In other words, a story that conveniently explains how some aspect of the world works. For example, virtually all cultures have a creation myth, and a myth about how people came to be. And even myths about how people are blessed by God or the gods, and have dominion  over the earth. We have created political myths, hero myths, myths about wealth creation (typically called "economic theories,") and assuredly scientific myths. Those of you born in the early 50's will remember being taught, in grade school, the solar system model for the atom. Big nucleus, little electrons circling in orbits. Then, in High School, we got to learn how many electrons could occupy each orbit.

Now, we know that there are no such things as orbits, that sub atomic particles make up the atom, that they are actually waves, that we cannot know both their speed and their location, making them sort of not there, and then, we find out that atoms are 99.9999999 per cent nothing. At least, that's this decade's myth. We seem to need someone in authority to tell us what is real, as opposed to understanding that nothing and everything is real. When asked what is real, a good, truthful scientist (the shamans of our age) will say, "That depends."

Let's explore a couple of our cultural myths.

The Myth of the Threat of Change

Many people see change as threatening. John Savage, trainer in conflict resolution, presents various "neuro-sorting" techniques to help us see how our minds are set up. One he calls the "Sameness - Difference Sort."

  • 10% of the population are "sameness types." They literally will not change. Real life change at the paradigm level comes once every 25 years. 
  • 40% are Sameness/Difference types. They prefer to stay the same, but will change if strongly convinced. The make a profound change once in 10 years.
  •  40% are Difference/Sameness types. They prefer change, but like it to be gradual and non-threatening. They make profound changes once every 5 years, and delete from their minds what is "the same," in favour of newness. Savage equates them with people who shop at the same mall, because there are 100 stores.
  • 10% are Difference types. (I’m in here. Surprised????) They thrive on change and stagnate if things get too predictable. They embrace change as a friend. They change profoundly almost yearly. Savage calls them "channel surfers."

It doesn’t take Einstein to see that 90% of the population resists, at some level, the idea of change. Profound, earth-shaking change? Leave me out. To move to a wholeness model is to change the entire paradigm you are operating under. Rules, behaviours, standards, ethics, all become conditional, situations and self-determined. Scary stuff.

So 90% of the population will, at some level, resist. The level of resistance tells us where on the bell curve the person is. There is 10% of the population that will never change. There is 80% that will change if persuaded, coerced or convinced that it is in their best interest to do so. As we move more to the right on the bell curve, the more likely it is that the person will see the need for change. At the 85% and above stage, the person may even seek help in changing. For the top 5%, change is relatively effortless.

Now we begin to see why change terrifies the vast majority of people. This is why politicians seldom change things overnight. People can be herded anywhere, as long as each step is small. Make a profound change, and they’ll be out in the streets, protesting. Incremental change, and anything can happen. Look at the population of Germany in the 30’s. Incremental change and a person with a message about a return to the old ways of thinking and in a few years, the whole population shifts.

Change is actually the "truth" of life. Everything is changing, all the time. This scares us, as we recognize that the direction of that change, for us as individuals, is death. Each day brings death one day closer. So we try to hold on, as opposed to flowing along in the sea of change. Because we fear change, we are stuck in denial.

Change is as threatening as we make it. We needlessly complicate our lives by fearing what is already our reality. In truth, the world is changing at a faster rate than ever before in history, and the pace of change is still accelerating. You can try to fight it, but all you are going to do is hurt yourself in the process.

Besides, being whole doesn’t require turning into a Luddite. 

The Myth of Dreamland - Past and Future

We have three locations for living out our lives - the past, the present and the future. The whole person chooses which dream to live in.

The present isn’t true. It’s simply where we are, at any given time. Being here, now (to paraphrase Ram Dass) is still subjective. This reflects back to the myth of one reality, but we need to push it further.

Present reality is as much a "dream" as is reflecting on the past or worrying about the future. We lie to ourselves about our "objectivity." The truth is every thing and every one we observe is being filtered by our prejudices.

Yes, we all have them. Just think of any sort of person you can’t stand. I’m not asking you to question the filter (yet!), just to recognize its existence. You dislike this person because of the way you filter information.

For example, I remember an article about the US finally awarding the Medal of Honour to black soldiers from World War II. A study demonstrated that none had been awarded after the war because of the racist belief that blacks couldn’t earn the highest award. All sorts of "evidence" about how blacks couldn’t fight at night and would run away backed this up. Total crap, but a lot of people in the military apparently believed it. Rather than challenge the rule, the filter, the Brass discounted the valorous acts. This is a filter, in operation.

What this tells us is that we can never say much more than, "This is my present understanding, which may change." Whoa. Scary stuff. Admitting we may not know something is a real stretch for many people. On the other hand, at least we are telling the truth.

One reason for staying in the present is that this is where life is actually happening. Now, that’s pretty obvious, right? It does not, however, keep most people from spending much of their waking time in their heads, re-examining the past and thinking about the future.

Which is not to say either activity is wrong, in and of itself. We remember the past so we can learn from it. I, for one, do not want to have to learn repeatedly not to put my hand on the glowing red coil on my stove. We remember in order to have experience, and experience helps us to sort the present and make logical choices about it.

We also need to future plan. What we want to recognize is that we do this provisionally. Things change. Just because we planned something some way does not guarantee it will turn out that way. None the less, we practice, we focus, and we head off, as prepared as possible, into an unknown future.

Contrast that to what people usually do. Most people visit the past in order to remember past failures, insults, sicknesses, distresses, and rejections. They play the tape, watch the train wreck and feel bad. Then, they flip to the future and see all sorts of grim catastrophes coming as a result of their poor past choices. Paralysed between the past and the future, nothing in the present changes.

Now, it takes some work, but I often am able to convince my clients that their recollections of the past aren’t very reliable, as they have been passed through filters. In other words, most people construct a past to fit their preconceived notions of themselves. They actually miss any contrary data.

I once worked with a client who was beaming when she began our session. She, at age 29, had just had her first complement. A guy had held open the door for her, and said, "I really like your coat." I suggested that, now that she had heard a complement, she listen some more, especially at the school she taught at. Funny thing. By the next week she had heard all sorts of complements. It was not too big a stretch to help her to see that the complements had been happening forever; she had simply filtered them out, thinking there was nothing about her worth complementing.

The truth is, there is no truth to our versions of the past. It’s why adult kids fight with their parents over past events. Two or more versions, same topic. Why? Because everyone saw it differently. How would a wise person ever figure out which version was true? All I care about is whether the view is helpful.

More next week!

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