We have been trained in Western Civilization since the period of the enlightenment to see the world in a linear, reductive way based upon Aristotelian logic of cause and effect. Only in the last part of the twentieth century have we begun to appreciate systems theory and the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In an effort to understand our experience systemically, we have developed a series of articles entitled “How things work………..and what to do about it.”
The five core psychological concerns are vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness. This article deals with our concern of vulnerability and fear. A previous article described the mind game of “It’s a dangerous world,” and in this article we will describe the mind game of “Change is dangerous.”
When reforms or changes are proposed, those in power who have a vested interest immediately defend the status quo pointing out all the ways that changes and reform may make things worse rather than better. Those defending the status quo will also argue that reformers are going too fast and that they must be patient. In our current media age, the defenders of the status quo will inject misinformation into the discussion to perplex, scare, and distract from the topic.
During the civil rights era, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters were often accused of going too fast pushing for an end to segregation. In our current age, Donald Trump states that Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers, and killers who must be walled out of our country.
With the Black Lives Matters movement and protests, supporters of BLM have been called terrorists and criminals and unpatriotic by the defenders of the status quo playing on the fears of the general public to prevent the reforms being advocated.
What is the best way to deal with the proponents of the game “change is dangerous” and spectators watching this game being played? Logic, data, reason rarely works. Psychologically reassurance can help, but this too rarely works. What works best is an appeal to sympathy and compassion made through stories of human interest about people hurt by the current policies and practices whom the defender can identify with. In other words, make the appeal personal and encourage change as a salve for the guilt the defender may feel.
This appeal is based on the UU first principle which is the affirmation and promotion of the inherent worth and dignity of every person because those being victimized and hurt by the current policies and practices are just like you. To allow those other people to be hurt is to hurt yourself and your own loved ones. Change therefore is not dangerous but ameliorative. Change is not something to be afraid of but to be embraced and proud of.
This article is based on the work of Roy Eidelson. For more click here.